Beth Virnig in play as associate dean for research
Beth Virnig’s 14-year-old son likens her new position as associate dean for research to a point guard.
“He’s right,” says Virnig, previously the chair of the Public Health Administration and Policy program. “Like the point guard on a basketball court, my job is to identify and distribute opportunities, anticipate where the game is going, and help the team be successful.”
Virnig wants to encourage research at SPH, not get in the way. Part of her job is to choose the best projects and match them up with the right people, creating teams where everyone is intellectually engaged in the work—her definition of collaboration. Most likely those teams will have a strong interdisciplinary bent. “A diversity of opinions and strengths leads to opportunities,” she says. This has been Virnig’s preferred way of working as she forged a career in exploring medical care outcomes, especially in cancer care, by linking massive data sources.
Her relentless curiosity and clear love of research must now be coupled with developing policies and procedures, which may not be the most fascinating part of her job, she admits. Luckily, her predecessor, Judy Garrard, laid a solid foundation for her as senior associate dean for academic affairs and research.
“There are incredible complexities in this job,” says Virnig. “Judy sorted those out and created a strong research management infrastructure. I can now build on her efforts and take this job to the next level.”
That next level includes a push to increasingly connect and form relationships with colleagues all over the globe. “John Finnegan and [University president] Eric Kaler are really seeing globalism as part of the U’s central mission,” says Virnig. “I’m not asking every single faculty member to become a global researcher, but we need to expand that aspect of our work. It’s part of a well-rounded school of public health.”