After an extensive global search, Lehigh has appointed Whitney Witt, currently the director of the Center for Maternal and Child Health Research at IBM Watson Health in North Carolina, as the inaugural dean of the university’s new College of Health. She will assume her new role on Jan. 31.
In this key leadership position, Witt will oversee the continued development and eventual launch of this new College, which is both a critical element of Lehigh’s Path to Prominence strategic plan and a core funding initiative for GO: The Campaign for Lehigh. Upon her arrival on campus and in the months to come, Witt will lead critically important efforts to recruit top faculty, procure industry partnerships, develop curriculum and prepare for the formal opening of the college in the Fall of 2020.
“We simply could have not asked for a finer individual to lead this new College than Whitney Witt,” said Lehigh President John Simon ’19P. “She is a brilliant academic with a keen understanding of the many dynamics shaping and reshaping the world of health care, and she has an entrepreneurial mindset that will undoubtedly serve her well here at Lehigh. We knew we needed a special kind of leader for this role, and we’ve found precisely that in Whitney.”
“Throughout this search John and I were consistently impressed with the many accomplished candidates we met with,” said Provost Pat Farrell. “But even amid this really special group, Whitney stood out. She has the vision, drive and knowledge to take on this challenge, and we are certain her leadership will play a substantial role in making this college an important contributor to the world of health and health care for years to come.”
Witt said she fully believes in Lehigh’s ambitious vision for the College of Health and is confident the College will emerge as a unique and important player in the fast-changing health care industry. She noted that Lehigh’s College will be just the second undergraduate college focused on population health in the nation, which will place it in a unique position to help meet the fast-growing employment needs in the health care sector. Additionally, she said College of Health faculty, working in conjunction with colleagues across Lehigh’s four existing colleges, will contribute key research to solve both existing and emerging health care challenges.
“There is an opportunity here for Lehigh to do something very innovative and very different, and by extension become a real leader in developing new approaches in health education, research and service to the community,” Witt said. “I could not be more proud to be joining Lehigh at this exciting time, and I look forward to working with my new colleagues to build a college that will develop tomorrow's leaders in health and health care and ultimately change population health for the better.”
A widely respected leader in public health, Witt will bring to Lehigh 25 years of experience in both academia and industry. She currently serves as director for the Center for Maternal and Child Health Research at IBM Watson Health, the division of IBM that leverages advanced technology to help improve health outcomes and systems for hospitals and patients, as well as providers, insurers and researchers.
In her role at IBM Watson Health, Witt leads a diverse team of academics and researchers—with interests including health economics, epidemiology and biostatistics, among others—that works to find creative solutions to a variety of health problems. Their recent initiatives include work focused on value-based payment reform, improving the quality of care, and promoting health equity. She has for the past four years also held an adjunct faculty appointment at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.
Previously, she held faculty positions at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and the Northwestern University School of Medicine. She earned both her Masters of Public Health and her Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and later completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Harvard University School of Medicine. She has a B.A. from Hampshire College.