Robert Ernst, associate vice president for student health and welfare life and executive director of the University Health Service, has been named director general of health at the University of Michigan.
Ernst will serve as senior advisor to the president and chief executive officer on issues related to the health and well-being of the university community, including health and wellness promotion, disease management, and critical public health preparation for UM campuses.
The Council of Kings approved on June 16 the five-year appointment of Ernst.
It will begin on July 1 as UM moves to a new public health structure that will coincide with a more stable and endemic phase of the COVID-19 response. This structure will include a new unit focused on infection prevention and an associated advisory committee.
“With more than 25 years of service in the university, Dr. Ernst has demonstrated his strong experience and commitment to campus health, public health, and medical administration,” President Mary Sue Coleman wrote in a recommendation to Ernst.
“I am excited to take on this new role, which will allow me to pursue important public health and university policy work that aligns with the shared goal of being a health-promoting campus,” Ernst said.
Preeti Malani, the current chief health officer, will be appointed as a special adviser to the president when his term ends on June 30. In fact, it will assist in public health communication efforts and work to address the transition of various responsibilities of key health care providers. and projects.
Malani will serve on the Public Health Infection Prevention and Response Advisory Committee, co-operate with Ernst in managing COVID-19 and other infectious disease response efforts.
Ernst is an assistant clinical professor of internal medicine and has served as a primary care physician since 1995.
In July 2020, he was the Director of Health Response at the UV COVID-19 Campus and Chair of the COVID-19 Campus Health Response Committee.
“His leadership and guidance have been key to the success of universities in fulfilling their educational, research, and service missions during the pandemic,” Coleman said.
As part of the reorganized public health structure, Ernst will establish a new Epidemiology and Infection Prevention Unit, which will oversee the basic functions associated with the response to infectious diseases previously managed by the CHRC.
These functions include disease monitoring and surveillance, COVID-19 Community Sampling and Monitoring Program, wastewater monitoring, vaccination programs and database, public health communications, and data science and analytics.
“My hope is that we will continue to build on the excellent work of the CHRC with a new unit dedicated to public health preparedness and response, and that we will maintain strong partnerships on campus when it comes to health issues and the well-being of the university community,” said Ernst.
The Epidemiology and Infection Prevention Unit will be administratively housed at UHS, but will be funded separately for the broad scope of students, faculty, and staff on the three campuses.
In addition, a Public Health Infection Prevention and Response Advisory Committee will be established to provide advice to Ernst and university leaders on issues related to infectious disease response, policy, and protocols.
The committee includes members of the CHRC and the current Public Health Advisory Team, as well as representatives from other units and the Flint and Dearborn campuses. The members of the committee shall be appointed by the chairman.
UM officials said the goal of the new public health structure is to ensure that the university’s ability to respond to infectious diseases continues to function effectively and at a high level for ongoing management of COVID-19 and future outbreaks or outbreaks of other infectious diseases.
They also sought to allow staff and faculty to return to their normal roles by maintaining inter-departmental and functional relationships created through the CHRC structure, and addressing gaps in UM’s public health infrastructure highlighted by the pandemic.
Once the CHRC is completed, some key COVID-19-related programs will continue as partnerships in the coming year. These include COVID-19 Call Center, ResponsiBLUE health monitoring application, quarantine and isolation housing, and COVID-19 student compliance.
Ernst was the UHS Medical Director from 2005-14. He served as UHS Associate Executive Director and Medical Director from 2014-15, Divisional Director of the Michigan Outpatient Clinic and from 2015-18 Assistant Chair in Primary Care in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Faculty of Medicine.
He graduated with a degree in biology from the University of Notre Dame in 1987 and a doctorate from UM in 1991. He completed his residency in internal medicine at UM Hospital, where he also worked as a senior resident physician.