Brody’s Department of Public Health welcomes new leader

East Carolina University is welcoming new leadership for its graduate public health programs this fall. Dr. Ronny Bell has been named chair of the Brody School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health, effective Nov. 7.

Bell earned an MED and a PhD in foods and nutrition from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and later completed a MS in Epidemiology during a post-doctoral research fellowship at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. He most recently served as a tenured professor in the Division of Public Health Sciences, Department of Epidemiology and Prevention, at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, where he also directed the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity.


Bell (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

A native of Lumberton, Bell believes there are many opportunities to collaborate across the health sciences to improve the health status of the region and state. His interests include diabetes, racial and ethnic minority health, and health disparities.

“I have long admired East Carolina’s mission – to serve the people of eastern North Carolina,” Bell said. “There is a need to train the next generation of public health professionals, to serve in the East – and in a number of venues, really.”

“After 25 years at Wake Forest, it was time for something different,” he added.

During his time at Wake Forest, Bell served as co-director for the Wake Forest School of Medicine Clinical and Population Translational Sciences master’s program and the Health Disparities in Neuroscience-Related Disorders master’s program. He has also worked as a lead instructor at Wake Forest and a guest instructor for classes at UNC Greensboro, Winston-Salem State University and Gardner-Webb University.

His research efforts include service on the editorial board of the American Journal of Health Behavior and the North Carolina Medical Journal. Most recently he was a co-primary investigator of the Coordinating Center for the SEARCH for Diabetes in Youth, and primary investigator of the P60 Center of Excellence grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, focused on addressing disparities in diabetes prevention and control. He has over 220 publications in professional journals and has served on numerous National Institutes of Health and Center for Disease Control grant review panels.

Additional professional service includes time with the North Carolina’s Eat Smart Move More University Collaborative, the North Carolina Institute of Medicine Rural Health Task Force, and chairing the North Carolina Diabetes Advisory Council and the American Indian Health Board. Nationally, he has served on the U.S. Census Bureau Race and Ethnic Advisory Committee, the Native Research Network Board of Directors, and the American Diabetes Association Health Disparities Committee. In 2009, Bell received the UNC Greensboro School of Health and Human Sciences Distinguished Alumni Award, and in 2014, he was the recipient of the Diversity Alumni Award from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Public Health is focused on strategies for groups of people,” Bell noted. “Diabetes, cancer, heart disease, stroke…if you look at eastern North Carolina versus the rest of the state, we’ve got dire conditions. We’ve got the pieces (at ECU) to make an impact.”

Bell replaces Dr. Maria Clay in the leadership post, who has served as interim chair for public health since July 2014. Clay will retain her position as chair of Brody’s Department of Bioethics and Interdisciplinary Studies.

–Kathryn Kennedy