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April 17, 2013

Charles and Dale Phelps endow professorship in public health and policy

Dale and Chuck Phelps
Dale and Chuck Phelps

Charles (Chuck) Phelps, provost emeritus, and his wife, Dale Phelps, professor and former chief of the Medical Center’s neonatology division in the Department of Pediatrics, have established a $1.5 million endowment for a professorship in health care policy and public health. Theodore (Ted) Brown, professor of history, public health sciences, and medical humanities at the University, is the first to hold the honor. Brown will be installed in the new position during a public ceremony on April 24 at 4 p.m. in the Hawkins-Carlson Room of Rush Rhees Library.

“This is a deeply meaningful gift,” says President Joel Seligman. “Few other couples have been as immersed in the life of the University or have served the institution in as many capacities as have Chuck and Dale. They also have devoted their entire professional careers to the field of health care and are both recognized nationally and internationally for their scholarly achievements. This generous support for ongoing teaching about and research into our nation’s health delivery system will address an issue not only near to their hearts, but one that is also vital to the country.”

The couple endowed the Charles E. and Dale L. Phelps Professorship in Public Health and Policy to help attract and retain talented faculty and enhance the quality of teaching and scholarship. “We hope it will serve as a magnet for really bright people,” says Chuck Phelps.

The position carries a five-year term, going to the strongest candidate nominated from among Arts, Sciences & Engineering, the School of Medicine and Dentistry, and the Simon School, encouraging a multidisciplinary approach to the study of health care.

The couple joined the University in 1984. Initially a professor of political science and economics, Chuck Phelps held a variety of leadership positions in his nearly three decades at Rochester, including director of the public policy analysis program and chair of the Department of Community and Preventive Medicine (now the Department of Public Health Sciences) in the School of Medicine and Dentistry. He was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and as a fellow of the National Bureau of Economic Research, both in 1991.

In 1994, he was selected as provost, a position he held for 13 years. As provost, he gained a “greater perspective for the bigger picture” and worked to share that broader view with colleagues. To bring faculty together across disciplines, he instituted a regular series of lecture and lunch gatherings, initially known as “Lunch with the Provost,” featuring faculty from across the University speaking about their passions in research. The popular gatherings continue today as the Phelps Colloquium.

A professor of pediatrics, Dale Phelps is a recognized expert in the study of retinopathy of prematurity, a disease of the eye that affects premature babies in intensive neonatal care and, in severe cases, can cause blindness. She is the primary author on 114 research papers, a contributor to 37 other published studies, and the principal investigator on four National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants. In 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics Perinatal Section awarded her a Landmark Award for her lifetime of achievement for contributions to preventing and treating retinopathy in premature babies. Currently, Dale Phelps is the principal investigator of a large NIHfunded multicenter randomized trial studying the effects of an important compound’s ability to reduce retinopathy in premature infants.

From 1989 through 2000, Dale Phelps served as neonatology division chief in the School of Medicine and Dentistry, while continuing her research and clinical care of sick newborns. She now encourages younger colleagues to “consider moving up the ladder in terms of leadership.”

Ted Brown
Ted Brown

Brown, the first Phelps Professor, is a historian of medicine, public health, and health policy at Rochester. He joined the Rochester faculty in 1977 after completing both a master’s and a doctorate in the history and philosophy of science from Princeton University and postdoctoral training in the history of medicine and public health at Johns Hopkins University.

Brown’s research interests cover a range of 20th-century health topics, including the history of American psychosomatic medicine and stress research, and the influence of organized philanthropy in medicine and health policy.

Brown is currently editor of Rochester Studies in Medical History, a book series published by the University of Rochester Press, and he is a contributing editor for the American Journal of Public Health, where he was named “Reviewer of the Year” in 2009. His work has been supported by the NIH, and he is a visiting curator for the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Md. At Rochester, Brown has led the Department of History and the Health and Society Program.

The gift supports The Meliora Challenge: The Campaign for the University of Rochester, the University-wide fundraising campaign that runs through June 30, 2016.

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