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Addition of students from Health & Kinesiology will make School of Public Health one of the largest in the nation
Adam E. Barry, PhD, FAAHB, has been named head of the newly formed Department of Health Behavior at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health. Barry, professor and Presidential Impact Fellow will officially assume his new role on Sept. 1.
Barry currently serves as the interim department head for the Department of Health & Kinesiology (HLKN), a unit consisting of more than 100 full-time faculty, more than 20 full-time staff, more than 330 graduate students and approximately 3,400 undergraduate students.
As part of Texas A&M President Katherine Banks’ Path Forward, an ambitious and strategic plan that provides guidance for carrying out the university’s mission and vision, the Health Education faculty and programs in HLKN are merging with the School of Public Health’s Department of Health Promotion and Community Health Sciences, and the combined unit will be renamed the Department of Health Behavior.
“I am excited to have the opportunity to bring together two really strong groups,” Barry said. “I am fortunate in that I feel like I know these people and we have worked together on campus for many years. To get a chance to lead them, I feel extremely blessed and I am very excited.
“It is a great opportunity, and it is wonderful that I get to do it with people who I respect and who challenge me professionally and who have helped me grow as a leader. We are bringing a very well-known historic health education program with a rich history into the School of Public Health. This is really going to strengthen us collectively,” he said.
Health Behavior seeks to eliminate health disparities and improve quality of life for persons and communities through individual behavior change, environmental interventions and policy changes. The unit prepares students to identify the role of biological, behavioral, environmental and social forces on population health. Students leverage these elements when planning and evaluating programs, services and policies designed to improve the health of individuals and communities.
“It was important to recognize that this is the coming together of a department and a division,” said Shawn Gibbs, PhD, MBA, and dean of the School of Public Health. “It was important that the new department would have a new identity, and an identity that reflects the future while honoring the past.”
The combining of the two departments will bring approximately 1,400 additional students to the School of Public Health, making it one of the largest schools of public health in the nation.
“It will help increase our visibility as well as our national profile,” Gibbs said. “Not only that, but the sheer volume we are going to have will increase what we can offer to those students.”
“The pandemic certainly highlighted the need for more public health professionals,” added Mark E. Benden, PhD, CPE, interim head of the department. “This transition sets Texas A&M up to be able to supply the individuals to fill those roles.”
Barry is a health behavior social scientist with specific training and expertise in alcohol use, alcohol-induced impairment and intoxication. His research spans a variety of content areas associated with the assessment and measurement of alcohol-related behaviors such as impaired driving and intoxication, protective behavioral strategies to minimize intoxication, and measurement of alcohol-related behaviors.
Barry earned his bachelor’s degree in school health and his master’s degree in community health, both from Florida State University. He earned his doctorate in health education in 2007 from Texas A&M. He joined the faculty at Texas A&M in 2014 after serving on the faculty at Purdue University and the University of Florida.
During his career, Barry has provided successful leadership to academic units ranging from 20 to 100 faculty members and managed budgets ranging from $3 to $14 million. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Health Behavior and was named a Presidential Impact Fellow at Texas A&M in 2019, one of the most prestigious awards presented by the university.
Barry has received early career distinctions, such as the Society for Public Health Education’s Horizon Award, as well as faculty research awards from his academic departments at the University of Florida and Texas A&M.
“He is no stranger to the School of Public Health, and he is putting forward a robust vision for what he wants the Department of Health Behavior to be,” Gibbs said. “During the search his name kept coming up, not just from the health division, but also from those in the School of Public Health. That speaks to his reputation.”
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