The following is the text of an email sent on March 23, 2023.
Dear School of Public Health Community,
As we celebrate Women’s History Month and honor the scientists, the teachers, and the public health advocates without whom we would not be where we are today, we also acknowledge that we still have work to do. Throughout the world, women are fighting for equal footing—fighting to have the same access to education as their male counterparts, in some cases fighting for basic safety, rights, and freedoms.
We derive inspiration from the bold and brave women who have fought for and achieved innumerable advances throughout history in science, education, and health.
In ancient Alexandria, the scientist and philosopher Hypatia took her talks on Neoplatonism to the streets, drawing crowds and pushing boundaries. We remember Hypatia as the leading mathematician and astronomer of her time—a teacher who excelled at explaining complicated topics and did not shy away from controversy.
In the 1800s, Florence Nightingale defied her parents’ wishes and pursued a career in nursing, eventually founding the Nightingale Training School for Nurses. Nightingale wrote the book that would reform the British Army’s approach to health administration. She, too, was a teacher who excelled at explaining complicated topics; in fact, her facility with data earned her a place as the first female member of the Royal Statistical Society.
Here at SPH-B, we remember and honor Anita Aldridge, Ph.D., who joined the IU School of HPER in 1964. Dr. Aldridge was professor of education, chair of Women’s Physical Education, and the first woman appointed to the Athletics Committee (1971) and later served as the school’s acting dean. Dr. Aldridge hired other distinguished women who helped level the playing field, such as IU Hall of Fame inductee Leanne Grotke-Andreas, who earned her master’s degree at IU and became the university’s first female associate athletic director.
SPH-B is proud to have on our Dean’s Alliance phenomenal, history-making women like Rita Colwell, whom the Association for Women in Science recently recognized with the Zenith Award for her lifetime of contributions to science. Dr. Colwell was the first woman to serve as director of the National Science Foundation, during which time the NSF launched the ADVANCE initiative to support the advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers.
Women within SPH-B are making history right now. Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion, is the principal investigator of the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, which has been ongoing since 2008. Priscilla Barnes, Ph.D., associate professor in Applied Health Science, is bringing healthcare services to Indiana communities in need. Misty Hawkins, Ph.D., associate professor in Health and Wellness Design and director of the REACH Lab (Research on Emotions and Cognition in Health), studies behavioral weight loss interventions and has partnered with the Cherokee Nation to examine those interventions in indigenous populations. Hannah Block, Ph.D., associate professor in Kinesiology, directs the Sensorimotor Neurophysiology Lab and is PI on an R01 entitled “Neural basis of sensory and motor learning” funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Our SPH-B staff boasts women who make history every day by supporting teachers, researchers, and students—and by developing and maintaining the infrastructure that enables the pursuit of knowledge. For example, Director of Facilities and Safety Susie Johnson, who was integral to the creation of our new Nutrition Research Lab, is a selfless servant-leader who sets the conditions for others to flourish.
And at SPH-B, we are training the history makers of the future—young women like Whitney Cordoba-Grueso, M.D., a doctoral student in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, who received the American Society of Hispanic Psychiatry’s Don Quixote Award for her academic achievements and her work with Colombian refugees. Dr. Cordoba-Grueso and her fellow students are our future, and that future looks very promising.
Happy Women’s History Month!
Jerono P. Rotich, Ph.D.
Associate Dean for Organizational Climate, Inclusion, and Belonging
David B. Allison, Ph.D.