Key CDC leader selected as UNMC College of Public Health dean

May 12, 2014

Image with caption: Dr. Ali S. Khan

Dr. Ali S. Khan

A senior administrator for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and former assistant surgeon general, Ali S. Khan, M.D., M.P.H., has been selected as the new dean of the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health.

The appointment, which is effective July 1 pending approval of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, was announced today by UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, M.D.

“I am thrilled that Dr. Khan will be joining the UNMC leadership team,” Dr. Gold said. “His public health skills and global leadership experience run the gamut. Among an incredibly strong field of finalists, he stood out as the individual whom we are confident will be able to lead the College of Public Health to new heights.

“With his vast experience and strong public health contacts around the world, he is someone who can make a difference and will elevate the college’s presence nationally and internationally. We couldn’t be more pleased.”

Dr. Khan has been at the CDC in Atlanta for the past 23 years. Since 2010, he has been director of the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response. In this position, he oversees the national public health security program with a $1.3 billion budget and 600 employees. The office is responsible for protecting U.S. communities from all public health threats.

The CDC Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response includes:

  • a $650 million state grant program;
  • a $5 billion Strategic National Stockpile of medicine and medical supplies; 
  • the Select Agent Program to ensure laboratory biosecurity and biosafety of the most dangerous pathogens; and
  • the national public health emergency operations center.  

“Public health is fundamentally changing due to advances in technology, shifting demographics, globalization, and new opportunities for preventive health care due to the Affordable Care Act,” Dr. Khan said. “I’m eager to be coming to an institution that is committed to excellence with a strong partnership between the colleges and health care enterprise. We are in a unique position to help define the future of public health as the primary means to improve the health of individuals and our communities.

“I’m looking forward to being involved in nurturing the next generation of public health innovators and leaders and developing the science for new public health solutions. Nebraska has an extremely engaged community. I am excited about the opportunity to pursue work with private industry, other public health entities, and the community who share a vision of transforming Nebraska into the healthiest state in the nation.”

Dr. Khan cited a number of things that attracted him to this position:

  • A chancellor who is thinking 5-10 years in the future;
  • The young and imaginative faculty and staff at the College of Public Health;
  • Tremendous collegiality between the various UNMC colleges and clinical services;
  • Passionate state and local public health practitioners; and
  • A generous community that has already built a new building for the college.

Dr. Khan received his medical degree from Downstate Medical Center in his hometown of Brooklyn, N.Y., and completed a joint residency in internal medicine and pediatrics at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor before joining CDC.

He is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Physicians. He has a master’s of public health from Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, where he holds an adjunct professor appointment and co-directs the emerging infections course.

He has more than 150 peer-reviewed publications, textbook chapters, editorials and brief communiqués. He has consulted extensively for multiple U.S. organizations including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, numerous ministries of health and the World Health Organization.

Dr. Khan achieved the status of assistant surgeon general with the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) before retiring in 2011 after 20 years of service. He received several awards from the USPHS, including Meritorious Service Medals for his public health work following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Louisiana and for establishing the U.S. domestic public health biological terrorism preparedness program.

Dr. Khan, 50, and his wife, Kris, have 21-year-old triplets (two boys and a girl).

Dr. Khan will become the third dean of the UNMC College of Public Health, which was founded in 2007. He succeeds Ayman El-Mohandes. M.B.B.Ch., M.D., M.P.H., who held the post from 2009-2013 before leaving to direct the School of Public Health at the City University of New York.

Jane Meza, Ph.D., chair of the department of biostatistics in the College of Public Health, has been serving as interim dean since September. “I really want to recognize and thank Dr. Meza for doing a stellar job as interim dean,” Dr. Gold said. “The college hasn’t missed a beat since Jane took over. She has been outstanding. We look forward to her continued leadership. ”

Dr. Gold also had special praise for the 17-person search committee headed by James Turpen, Ph.D., professor of genetics, cell biology and anatomy, and associate vice chancellor of academic affairs, for their work in reviewing a broad field of highly qualified candidates and bringing forth four top-notch candidates.

Credited with numerous public health innovations and scientific advances, Dr. Khan said his career can be characterized as “creative disruption.” Click here for an in-depth bio sketch.

Through world-class research and patient care, UNMC generates breakthroughs that make life better for people throughout Nebraska and beyond. Its education programs train more health professionals than any other institution in the state. Learn more at and follow us on social media.

Twitter  |  Facebook  |  Pinterest  |  YouTube