Brave new world

National health innovation leader takes the helm of OSU Center for Health Innovation

A competitive national search this spring tapped Allison Myers, PhD, MPH to lead the Oregon State University Center for Health Innovation (OCHI).

“Allison emerged at the top of our well-qualified pool of finalists, and I couldn’t be more excited,” says CPHHS Dean Javier Nieto. “I appreciate the support from our longtime partner, PacificSource Health Plans, in making this happen. The center’s role in developing innovative health solutions, coupled with OSU’s unique set of capabilities, means we have the opportunity to make a significant impact in health here in Oregon and worldwide. Dr. Myers is the perfect person for the future of this important endeavor.”

Allison most recently served as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellow for U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). She is also co-founder and executive director of Counter Tools Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to advancing place-based public health that she launched in 2012 in the Gillings School of Global Public Health at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). Counter Tools contributes data collection and visualization technology, training and technical assistance to retail-focused tobacco prevention policy efforts in 18 states.

She had plans to return to North Carolina after her fellowship – until she learned about OCHI.

“Never before in my life had I seen a job announcement asking specifically for someone like me – with combined experience in public health research and entrepreneurship,” she says. “All of my professional career, I have talked about myself as a ‘boundary spanner’ between industry, academics, government and community, and here was an opportunity to do just those things to meet the mission of a land grant university. I couldn’t believe it.”

Allison says the Health Innovation Center is a thoughtful, brave idea that will live up to its potential of breaking new ground and collaborating to solve pressing public health problems.

“I see OCHI as an incubator – a kind of laboratory for new partnerships and projects. We’re also a connecting point for business, government, community and academics. I want the partners who have been labeled ‘non-traditional’ in public health to find a role here. My job is comparable to an orchestra conductor – maybe air traffic controller – but one who needs to see into the future and tap into the great minds in our broad community.”

She has substantial goals in mind for the center. “By Summer 2019, I’d like to have a few budding projects. Big buckets of effort could mirror the strengths of campus and pressing issues in Oregon and around the world: mental and behavioral health for families and communities, social enterprise and economic development, climate change and public health preparedness, improving value in our health care system, building community resilience and preventing chronic disease.”

Allison, who earned her MPH and PhD in health behavior from the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC, will begin her responsibilities at OSU in September 2018.

To learn more about Allison, read her question-and-answer interview.