Academic Health Department


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What is an Academic Health Department?

Just as teaching hospitals partner with universities to provide education and training to medical students, academic health departments partner with universities and accredited Schools of Public Health to educate and train future public health professionals. Academic health departments also conduct research, evaluate programs for effectiveness, publish in academic journals and provide a variety of benefits to their communities.

The work conducted by our academic health department benefits everyone in the community. Collaboration with a university ensures that public health students are learning relevant, practical skills and that the health department stays current with new research.

The university partnership also enables a health department to receive grants and funding that would otherwise be unavailable. Alongside training the next generation of public health practitioners, our Academic Health Department also uses rigorous scientific methodology, data collection, and evaluation to improve programs and services of the entire community. Data is made available to the community at no charge so that hospitals, universities and community organizations can conduct their own research.

Data and research can help the healthcare industry and elected officials invest wisely and better care for residents. When the health department publishes research in academic journals and presents at professional conferences, it assists with the health department’s accreditation and raises our city’s national profile and reputation.

Louisville’s Academic Health Department

The Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness (LMPHW) became an Academic Health Department (AHD) in September 2018. LMPHW entered into a partnership with the University of Louisville School of Public Health and Information Sciences (SPHIS). This partnership involves several shared appointments, meaning that some staff are employees of both LMPHW and UofL. LMPHW’s shared appointments include:

Additionally, the Dean of SPHIS, Dr. Craig Blakely, is an Advisory Member of the Board of Health.

Our AHD is housed within the Center for Health Equity in the Research and Academic Partnerships team. Within LMPHW’s AHD are three interconnected branches:

As an AHD, LMPHW offers a variety of student experiences for public health students and others interested in public health including clinical rotations (for nursing students and community medicine residents), job shadowing, and internships. You can find more information about each of our AHD programs as you continue to explore our webpage.

In 2021, the AHD worked with LMPHW staff to develop an AHD strategic plan that would build more support into the AHD, especially in its role to formalize LMPHW’s participation in public health research and student participation.

Our vision is to see public health practitioners are equipped with health equity knowledge and expertise to ensure every community thrives, and our mission is to develop relationships and create infrastructure for students and public health professionals to learn, understand their communities, implement innovate practices, and contribute to the expansion of the field of health equity.

Download our Academic Health Department (AHD) Report (Fiscal Year: 2022 - 2023) 



Download our Fall 2023 Student Experiences Catalog

Our Student Experiences program acts to bridge the gap between academia and public health practice by providing field experience at a public-health related worksite. Students come from many universities locally and nationally though our primary relationship is with the University of Louisville. Students can join LMPHW as either a capstone or practicum student, or as an intern. The capstone program focuses primarily on undergraduates in the university public health degree program. A practicum or internship experience usually receives applicants in the master’s in public health (MPH) program as well as social work and healthcare ethics students.

All the programs overlap in their requirements for students which include developing a learning agreement in consultation with the practice site mentor and faculty mentor.

Student AHD


Visit our Student Experiences page to learn more about student experiences or apply for an internship at LMPHW.


Volunteer Clinical Services

Volunteer Clinical Services

Since 2019, LMPHW has been collaborating with UofL’s Residency Program with the Department of Family and Geriatric Medicine. Through this community medicine rotation, residents’ transition among our internal clinics (Harm Reduction, MORE Program, Tuberculosis (TB), Specialty) and external clinics (like Family Health Centers - Americana) to gain an understanding of medical care in a public health setting. The program usually brings in eight residents a year. We also have many nurses across the state complete their preceptorship by receiving one-on-one training with our Nurse Practitioner in the Specialty Clinic.

In addition, many nursing students come from across Louisville nursing schools and online programs to also spend time in our internal clinics under the guidance of our nursing staff to complete clinical rotation hours and learn to care for patients visiting public health clinics.

Our Volunteer Program coordinates with both our internal and external clinic partners for placement of residents and nurses. At LMPHW, volunteers can contribute to the health and wellbeing of the community by either working directly with clients or behind the scenes in our health services clinics. We welcome anyone with an interest in public health to apply for the program. For more information about joining our volunteer team, visit our Volunteer webpage.

Research and Evaluation

As an Academic Health Department, LMPHW conducts research, publishes reports, and presents at professional conferences. As Louisville’s academic health department matures, it will continue to build capacity and undertake more ambitious projects.

Our health economist, Dr. Seyed Karimi, has been a lead researcher in multiple project collaborations between LMPHW and the University of Louisville.



“Trends and Outcomes Related to Sexually Transmitted Infections among Jefferson County, Kentucky, Mothers and Infants Before and After the COVID-19 Pandemic” presented by Felicia Pugh, Melissa Eggen, Caroline Jackson and Seyed Karimi. (Poster was presented at Research!Louisville and won the Excellence in Disparity research award)


Outcomes of COVID-related research (Read more in our AHD Report Fiscal Year: July 2021 - June 2022

We want to highlight one of the COVID-related research projects that utilized community feedback for building trust and partnership during the pandemic. This project was led by Leanne French in Partnerships and Community Engagement, and Deborah Payne. Their work was presented at the 2022 KPHA conference and has been submitted for the 2022 NACCHO Innovative Practice Award. We asked them to share feedback about their project to learn more about the objectives of the research, any outcomes and public health implications, and tell us about any community partners involved.

Community Partnerships for Improved COVID Response, Leanne French and Deborah Payne
Much like the rest of the United States, minority populations in Louisville, KY experienced higher rates of infection and death during the COVID-19 pandemic. While LMPHW worked hard to fight the spread of COVID, these populations ultimately did not receive information, outreach, and access to early vaccination at the same rates as other Louisville residents.

Through tracking of COVID metrics, LMPHW observed that Black and Hispanic populations in specific ZIP codes were experiencing higher rates of infections and lower rates of vaccination. Our 2017 Health Equity Report shows that populations within these ZIP codes also face higher rates of other health disparities and shorter life expectancies.

A planning team within the CHE determined that building partnerships with community organizations was critical for reaching populations that LMPHW had not reached through existing vaccination and education campaigns. Staff identified and developed partnerships with more than 25 organizations already working within Black, Brown, Hispanic, and LGBTQ communities. These organizations were contracted to promote vaccination, share information about COVID and vaccinations, and host a community listening session and a vaccination clinic.

Short-term goals for community partnerships included: increasing vaccinations among the most vulnerable and underserved populations; learning about and responding to barriers to vaccination; and identifying additional COVID-related needs. Longer-term goals were building relationships between residents, public health and health care partners and identifying opportunities for continued community engagement.

The overall public health impacts of the COVID Community Partnership program were reduced fear around the vaccine, higher rates of vaccination, lower disparities in COVID infections and deaths, and an increased trust in health partnerships.

Learning from and listening to community became a cornerstone of LMPHW’s COVID response. Community listening sessions identified how best to serve people of color, to do outreach and communication, and to rebuild after a long era of mistrust. This led to a shift in patterns of communication, as well as locations of mobile vaccination clinics. The integration of input from COVID partners and listening session participants normalized the community’s role in advising culturally competent operations. The IMT team responded to requests from partners to pivot on issues like including testing at vaccination sites and having partners host consistent mobile vaccination clinics.

Many of the issues raised and questions asked during listening session Q&A highlighted the lack of trust between communities most impacted by COVID inequities, local government and health care systems. LMPHW wants to continue to build power by engaging citizens in decision-making roles within workgroups, advisory boards, and programs.

Community partners included: Action for the People/Black Lives Matter, Black Counseling and Consulting Collective, Change Today-Change Tomorrow, CIVITAS LGBTQ+ Chamber of Commerce, Feed Louisville, Hip Hop N2Learning, Interfaith Pathways to Peace, La Casita Center, Louisville Chapter NAACP, Louisville Chapter NAACP – Youth Council, Louisville Parent Teacher Organization, Louisville Recovery Community Connection, Louisville Urban League, Louisville Youth Group, MOLO Village, Neighborhood House-Portland, Nicole 50/50 Mentoring Group, Play Cousins Collective, Queer Kentucky, Smoketown Family Wellness Center, South Louisville Community Ministries, Story Spaces Incubator, The Hope Buss, West Louisville Urban Coalition, Vision of Life, and Zora’s Cradle.

Publications in July 2021 – June 2022

This past year also saw many publications ranging from technical reports to peer-reviewed journals and conference abstracts. You can find the LMPHW team members and student interns names that were involved in these publications bolded below.




Abstracts/conference presentations:

  • Creating a bridge strategic plan to strengthen the public health workforce, public health improvement training (PHIT, 2022) Emily Divino, MPH; Sarah Moyer, MD, MP; T Gonzales, MSW
  • Creating a student-centered public health practice experience with your area health department (KPHA, 2022) Tammi Thomas, PhD and linda omer, PhD
  • Listening to communities for improved COVID response (KPHA, 2022) Deborah Payne, MPH and Leanne French, MS
  • Qualitative Assessment of Prenatal Care and Prenatal Care Access in Louisville / Jefferson County (KPHA, 2022) Trey Allen, PhD; Oluwatomisin A. Ogungbenle, MS; Michele Ledbetter, MPH
  • Using QI and Electronic Health Record to connect with community partners to address disparities in Infant Mortality (APA, 2022) Matt Kinney, MD; Mary J Jolly, MSW, CLC; Lindsay Bilyeu, BSN, RN, CLC
  • Factors associated to cervical cancer for women with and without disabilities in Kentucky (APHA, 2021) Carolyn Akakpo, PhD
  • Challenges to local urban and rural smoke-free laws: cigar bar exemption case study (NCTOH, 2022) Amanda J. Bucher, BA; Shannon Baker, BA; Rebecca Hollenbach, MPH; Tracy Aaron, BA, CHES; Ellen J Hahn, PhD.
  • Tobacco Industry Tactics: Cigar Bar Amendment Attempts in Kentucky (Kentucky Tobacco Control Conference, 2022) Rebecca Hollenbach, MPH; Onjewel Smith, MS; Wynona Padgett; Timothy Mullet, MD

Publications in July 2020 – June 2021

We had many publications this past fiscal year. You can find the LMPHW team members and student interns names that were involved in these publications bolded below.


Op Eds/Newsletters:

  • Hartlage, SB. “Canada’s experience is a Thanksgiving Day Warning for us.” courier journal, November 17, 2020.
  • Gousee T, Rodgers K, Allen T, Graham A, Chambers S, Baker T. “The Community Resilience Framework: A Novel Approach for Confronting Health Inequity and Building Community Resilience.” NACCHO Exchange: Winter 2021 (Health Equity), pp. 9-13. 2021.

Technical Reports:

Surveys (of Mask Use):


Abstracts/Conference Presentations:

  • Maximizing your relationship with the local health department (ASPPH, 2021). Tammi Thomas, MPH; linda omer, PhD; and Leslie Wolf, PhD.
  • LatinX mothers’ experiences giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic (KPHA, 2021). J. Richerson, MD; Trey Allen, PhD; Angela Graham, MPH; Leslie French, Monica Leslie, BS; and Jan Rogers, BA.

At the 2019 annual conference of the Kentucky Public Health Association (KPHA), LMPHW gave four oral presentations and two poster presentations. One presentation, "Louisville's Inaugural Epidemiology Project", was later broadcast as a webinar. This legal epidemiology project was a collaboration between LMPHW, Temple University Law School and the CDC. It enabled staff to develop a new skillset, which can be applied to future research analyzing the use of law and policy as a public health intervention.

Taylor Ingram Presenting


In addition, Communicable Diseases Supervisor Rui Zhao won the KPHA Epidemiologist of the Year award.

During 2018, Rui created a database to manage hepatitis A outbreak data, orchestrated the LMPHW response to a hepatitis A outbreak, mentored an intern and several medical students, instructed undergraduate students in an online course, and submitted several posters, including one which he presented at the conference.

His team is currently working on assessing HCV burden and will be presenting a poster on assessing Hepatitis B case categorization through positive IgM Anti-Hbc results.

Rui Zhao




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