Dean Beth Dolan

Elizabeth A. Dolan addresses attendees after being officially installed as dean of the College of Health.

Elizabeth A. Dolan Installed as Dean of the College of Health

Although we are a small college, we have a big mission,’ the new dean says as family, friends and the Lehigh community gather in celebration.

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

Photography by

Holly Fasching

Elizabeth A. Dolan was officially installed as dean of the College of Health Monday afternoon, with family, friends and the Lehigh community gathering in the new Health, Science and Technology Building for the ceremony and celebration.

“Although we are a small college, we have a big mission—improving the health of populations, communities and individuals through research and education,” Dolan said to those gathered, after Provost Nathan Urban presented her with a Lehigh medallion and Asa Packer walking stick that symbolizes leadership.

Dolan had served as interim dean of the College of Health since 2020, a role in which she proved “incredibly effective” as she worked with colleagues to expand and develop curriculum, recruit outstanding new faculty and build internal and external partnerships, Urban said.

“Beth was trying to make something new, the College of Health was trying to make something new—to take innovative approaches to tackling health problems in communities that have reason to be skeptical … and to develop programs in ways that have not been seen before at Lehigh,” he said.

Beth Dolan and Nathan Urban

Provost Nathan Urban, right, presented Dolan with a Lehigh medallion, as well as an Asa Packer walking stick that symbolizes leadership.

He pointed to the College of Health’s commitment that 25% of the credits earned by undergraduates will be experience-based and its embracement of the Lehigh User Design for Inquiry (LUDI) as its educational model.

“In so many ways, the College of Health is still in a startup mode,” Urban said. “And all the members of the College of Health, from the students to the faculty to the staff, must be entrepreneurial at this stage in its existence. They have to be willing to take risks, at times to fail and pivot, and Beth is the right person to lead the college as it enters this growth phase.”

Since its opening in Fall 2020, the College of Health has grown from four to eight staff members, and five to 27 faculty members. Its student body has increased from 64 to 250 undergraduates and from zero to 30 graduate students. While the college opened with one undergraduate major and no graduate programs, by year's end it will offer four majors, nine minors, two intercollegiate programs for undergraduates, two masters programs and one Ph.D. program.

Although we are a small college, we have a big mission—improving the health of populations, communities and individuals through research and education.

Elizabeth A. Dolan

Lehigh President Joseph J. Helble ’82, who welcomed attendees, noted the college’s growth.

“This is a dual celebration,” he said, reflecting on both the dean’s installation and the college itself. He asked attendees to take “just a moment to recognize the impact that the College of Health is already making by improving health outcomes both in local communities and, of course, much more broadly.”

Helble said Dolan is “absolutely the right person” to lead the College of Health. A good administrator, he said, not only brings expertise but also brings out the best in others.

dolan and helble

Dean Elizabeth A. Dolan with Lehigh President Joseph J. Helble '82

“And I will say that I think the new dean of the College of Health is absolutely extraordinary in this regard, in bringing out the best in others,” Helble said. “...I have seen Beth gather people together, pose questions that get the group to think, add her own ideas and genuinely listen—not just hear but genuinely listen—to the conversation, and draw out the best of those ideas to build consensus, both within and outside.”

Dolan thanked Lehigh administrators, fellow deans and her colleagues for their support and their contributions to the college. To fulfill its mission to improve the health of populations, communities and individuals, Dolan said, the college will need strong internal and external partnerships, as well as real data from partners, to investigate the health of populations.

“We are able to improve the well-being of communities only if we collaborate with members of those communities,” she said. “And we must learn firsthand about individual lives in order to impact those lives ethically and effectively. With our partners, we are able to conduct life-changing research with the potential to reduce human suffering.”

Dolan noted the growth of the college’s students, faculty, staff and programs. In addition, she pointed to the accomplishments of the college’s faculty, whom, she said, have published books and articles, won prestigious awards and fellowships, garnered funding to support their research and contributed to the understandings of the multiple determinants of health, pediatric palliative care, the mental health of refugee populations, and the effect of green space and gardening on individual and community wellbeing.

She said the college’s faculty are sought after for their expertise in myriad areas. Among their contributions, she said, “They improve the quality of healthcare in the United States by analyzing systems of delivery; by creating innovative, high tech health education programs; and by considering the ethics of new technological developments in medicine.”

She said to applause, “If we have accomplished all that in two and a half years, just think what we can do in the next five.”

A reception followed.

Dolan has been at Lehigh since 2001. A specialist in health humanities, she studies the expression of suffering in literature and in life from the 18th century to today.

She was founding director of the Health, Medicine, and Society Program at Lehigh, the chair of the board of directors of the Pennsylvania Medical Humanities Association, and the first deputy provost for graduate education at Lehigh.

Dolan earned her M.A. and Ph.D. in literature at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, where she was also the senior fellow in literature and medicine in the Department of Social Medicine, in the School of Medicine for three years.

Story by

Mary Ellen Alu

Photography by

Holly Fasching

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