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KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee has appointed Dr. Paul Erwin to be director of the Center for Public Health Policy and Research.

Paul Erwin
Paul Erwin
Erwin, 50, has been the East Tennessee regional director of the Tennessee Department of Health based in Knoxville since 1995. He will take his new post on Sept. 1.

The Center for Public Health Policy and Research’s mission is to help improve the health of Tennesseans through research and teaching. The center will accomplish that goal by coordinating academic units on campus that research public health initiatives and programs that train public health professionals.

The center has had an informal infrastructure since it was first envisioned three years ago by Dr. Jay Whelan, professor and head of Department of Nutrition in the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences. He has served temporarily as director, working with a board made up of deans, department heads and officials from local and state health departments.

“The pieces of the puzzle are on campus. The center puts the pieces together and solidifies our common projects and goals of strengthening an emphasis on health at the university,” Whelan said. “I am excited Chancellor Loren Crabtree and the university administration value this health initiative on campus. It’s an investment in the University of Tennessee and the state.”

The center will be housed in the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences, and Erwin will report to Dr. Bob Rider, dean of the college.

“Dr. Paul Erwin is eminently qualified to serve as the founding director of the Center for Public Health Policy and Research here at the University of Tennessee. Dr. Erwin’s medical credentials and experience in the public health arena will serve UT well as we engage in the important work of improving the health and well-being of Tennesseans,” Rider said.

Erwin will further develop the center’s growth and define its role on campus and in East Tennessee.

“The opportunities for exploring and understanding the relationships between public health systems performance, health outcomes and health inequities are great. The Center for Public Health Policy and Research can contribute to this by engaging students and faculty in various health-related fields through community-based participatory research,” Erwin said.

“It also is an opportune moment for being on the front end of research and evaluation for newly developing national programs such as public health accreditation,” he said.

Erwin has been an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Instructional Technology, Health and Cultural Studies in the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences since 2000. He earned his medical degree at the University of Alabama in Birmingham and his master’s in public health at The Johns Hopkins University. He is board certified in internal medicine and preventive medicine, and is a Fellow of the American College of Preventive Medicine.

For the Tennessee Department of Health, Erwin has overseen the East Tennessee regional office’s programs and health departments in 15 counties. He was responsible for programs such as community development, health assessment and planning, bioterrorism and emergency preparedness, clinical preventive services, health promotion and communicable disease control.


Elizabeth Davis, UT Media Relations, (865) 974-5179,