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Celebrating 50 Years of Excellence

Posted 9:23 a.m. Monday, April 29, 2024

Gilmore earned the Regents Teaching Excellence Award in 2001 and the UWL Eagle Teaching Excellence Award in 2017. He holds a joint appointment as a tenure track professor and director of community health programs.

Professor Gary Gilmore has made a local and national impact on public health education

Professor Gary Gilmore has taught in the public health field at UW-La Crosse for fifty years. But his longevity on campus doesn’t signal an end to his service.  

“Retirement is not part of my vocabulary,” says Gilmore with a smile. “I am more energized now than decades before. I love what I do. I am here on weekends not because I have to be, but because I enjoy everything that has evolved.”

What has evolved started 50 years ago when former Vice Chancellor Carl Wimberly and Chancellor Kenneth Lindner leaned over the desk in Lindner's office in Graff Main Hall questioning Gilmore about what he’d bring to UW-La Crosse. "I was impressed with them and hoped the feeling was mutual," says Gilmore.

The two never could have predicted the immense contribution their hire would make to campus and the field of public health. Gilmore led the development of an undergraduate and master’s programs in public health, directed community health programs statewide through UW Extension, headed the process to accredit those programs, created guidelines for professional certification of public health professionals nationwide, served on the Wisconsin Public Health Council under three governors, made extensive contributions to statewide and national committees, led major research initiatives and much more.

UWL faculty, staff and students will be honoring Gilmore, professor of Public Health & Community Health Education, for his more than 50 years of dedicated services to UWL and the field of public health from 4-6 p.m. Thursday, May 2, at the Cleary Alumni & Friends Center at UWL. Please RSVP and leave a message on the Kudoboard on the event website.

“It has been my honor and privilege to be able to work with Dr. Gilmore,” says UWL College of Science and Health Dean Ju Kim. “He is an extraordinary faculty member and colleague who has done so much for the university for 50 years. Wow!”

Gary Gilmore, left, Ryan McKelley, center, and David Anderson agree that cross-discipline research brings fresh perspectives to old topics. Utilizing a unique, collaborative, cross-discipline approach, the three UWL faculty conducted first-of-its-kind research to look at the health status of practicing archaeologists.

Over five decades, Gilmore has taught and mentored thousands of students in the public health field, even earning campus and statewide recognition for his teaching with the 2001 UW Regents Teaching Excellence Award and the 2017 UWL Eagle Teaching Excellence Award.

Many students remember him fondly long after graduation as he shaped their understanding of how to improve public health challenges in communities and find success in their careers. 

Alumna Kayleigh Day

“Dr. Gilmore believed in my talents, nominated me for awards and was a mentor while I was in graduate school,” says Kayleigh Day, senior manager of Advocacy & Public Policy, Tobacco Control for the American Lung Association. “My current supervisor still talks about how he was one of the best reference calls she’s ever had for a candidate.”

While his public health career has been extraordinary, Gilmore is also an impeccable university citizen, says UWL Interim Chancellor Betsy Morgan.

“His participation in the intellectual life of the university is unparalleled,” she says.

Building community health education right here

Gilmore and departmental colleagues were instrumental in developing the first Bachelor of Science Program in Community Health Education in the UW System in 1976, followed by the first Master of Public Health (MPH) program within the UW System in 1991.

Prior to his arrival at UWL in 1974, the university had a school health education program. But this small department was looking to broaden with an emphasis in public health and specifically community health education. This area of focus and the ability to split his role between teaching and serving as director of community health programs for the UW Wisconsin Extension statewide is what attracted Gilmore to the position, despite job opportunities at a reputable R1 institution and another well-known college in the northeast.

Gilmore and departmental colleagues were instrumental in developing the first Bachelor of Science Program in Community Health Education in the UW System in 1976. After getting the undergraduate program up and running, the focus became the development of the first Master of Public Health (MPH) program within the UW System in 1991, located at UWL. It was the excellent foundational programming and strong support from the UWL administrative leadership that allowed Gilmore to convince the UW System Board of Regents of the need for the program on the UWL campus, he says.

“The question that frequently came up was ‘why UWL?’,” recalls Gilmore. “I shared it was because we were the first to initiate a realistic and viable proposal, and we also had the capacity to do so as a growing department that was maintaining stability over the years.”

While the master’s program was created in 1991, accreditation came only a year later in 1992. It was a relatively expedited process because the preparation and data collection for the program’s creation was so thorough during the 1980s, says Gilmore. Master's program accreditation was followed by undergraduate program accreditation when that process initially became available.

“I have a statement that I live by: ‘You don’t rush quality’,” says Gilmore. “Although the program developments in Community Health occurred rather expeditiously, they were not rushed. They were well thought out through departmental deliberations.”

Gilmore directed the Community Health Graduate programs for over 25 years and taught students in the public health field at UWL for five decades. He has shaped the field of public health through his leadership and expertise, notes Keely Rees, professor and chair, Public Health & Community Health Education.

“From urban health departments to national initiatives, his dedication has left a significant mark in the profession and with our alumni,” says Rees.

Beyond the classroom

Gary Gilmore receives the American Public Health Association 50-year Membership Award from Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of the APHA, in Philadelphia in 2019.

On nights and weekends one can find Gilmore in his Wimberly Hall office typing at the computer alongside stacks of papers related to work on the state and national committees and boards. Over his 50 years, he has taken his public health work into the community, making extensive contributions to these committees, serving on national panels, and leading major research initiatives.

He spent 13 years on the American Cancer Society's National Board of Directors, and was recipient of their St. George Medal, based on continuous leadership, commitment, and dedication to impact the ACS mission. He also has been a long-term member of the Wisconsin Public Health Association, having twice received their Distinguished Service to Public Health Award in 1986 and 2017.

One of Gilmore’s greatest achievements was taking a leadership role in the development of credentialing for health education specialists nationwide from 1998-2006. He recalls the first meeting among leaders of some 300 higher education programs across the country related to health education in Bethesda, Maryland.  

Discussions ensued regarding how there could be a more systematic and standardized training of professionals in the realm of health education and whether they should begin to offer some form of individual credentialing.  The group chose certification, and in 1998, Gilmore was selected to chair the National Health Educator Competencies Update Project (CUP) empirical research which established Health Education Specialist Areas of Responsibilities, Competencies, and Sub-competencies in use for health education professional certification across the country. Now, 19 years later the hierarchical model for the role delineation process is still in use.

Gilmore has also served on the Wisconsin Public Health Council since 2004, providing leadership and guidance on a range of health topics to three governors, the Department of Health Services, and the Legislature. He chaired the council for two years.

‘It’s about all of us’

Gary Gilmore's contributions to the public health field have been multifaceted, from chairing national initiatives, to leading credit and non-credit programming for health, human service, and community-based professionals, to serving as the first Fulbright Scholar teaching and conducting research in public health practice at the All-India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health. Here he is pictured during his Fulbright experience.

Gilmore’s community-focused orientation was discovered early on in his career. After graduating from Hope College in Michigan, he held a community-based position in Richmond, Virginia, where a colleague mentioned he should explore the field of public health. Because public health was a relatively newer area of study through Schools of Public Health, Gilmore hadn’t heard about it as an undergraduate.

He began researching schools and found the University of Minnesota where Gaylord Anderson was founder and director of the School of Public Health and an internationally-recognized public health authority. The program was research-oriented, reputable, yet personable. Gilmore was accepted into the U of M as part of a cohort of 12.  Gilmore gained additional experience chairing an interdisciplinary committee of nurses, epidemiologists, environmentalists, public health educators and others who were returning to school to earn professional degrees. They rolled up their sleeves and planned projected community health initiatives.

Dr. Gilmore and his wife, Elizabeth Gilmore pictured with Dr. Lawrence Green, of the University of California-San Francsico. Gilmore says he is most proud of his family. He has three adult children.

He also spent two years working at the St. Paul Department of Public Health while taking courses at U of M.
His quality training wasn't something he forgot. Today, Gilmore doesn’t lecture behind a podium or with lecture notes. Instead, he is moving among his students, engaging them in the facilitation of discovery. They work on collaborative teams as they consider a project about how healthy habits can form with the right reinforcement, and how they play a role in helping others make informed decisions. They are encouraged to join cross-cultural and international experiences, and to broaden their experience in making real world community connections.

And, much like Gilmore’s mentor, Gaylord Anderson, Gilmore takes delight in seeing his students begin to understand and transform into the future’s public health professionals. They will likely be the ones to step up and serve their communities because they understand that is what public health is all about.
“It is not about an individual. It is about all of us,” says Gilmore. “It’s about the well-being of the people and that is where I get my greatest joy.”

If you go —

What: Celebration of Gary Gilmore’s 50 years of service. Mingle and reconnect with UWL colleagues, alumni, members of the Wisconsin Public Health Association, Graduate & Extended Learning, the Department of Public Health & Community Health Education, and the College of Science & Health.

When: Thursday, May 2, 2024 

Where: Cleary Alumni & Friends Center, UWL, 615 East Ave. N., La Crosse

RSVP to Attend on the event website.

Information regarding parking and disability accommodations is available on the event website.


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