SPH faculty member Dr. Kayla Fair begins exciting new public health journey

Dr Kayla FairDr. Kayla Fair, assistant professor of population and community health at The University of North Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health, is embarking on a new and exciting journey with the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service.

The U.S. Public Health Service is a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Officers advance our nation’s public health, serving in agencies across the government as physicians, nurses, dentists, veterinarians, scientists, engineers and other professionals. More than 6,000 officers in 800 locations across the U.S. and around the world work to protect, promote and advance public health and safety.

Fair, who has been with the School of Public Health for nearly five years, will serve as a scientist and Food and Drug Administration consumer safety officer. She will be stationed at the Dallas FDA district office, covering the Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas region.

Her job, in the office of regulatory affairs, will help ensure that both human and animal food is safe for consumption. Addressing outbreaks and other food concerns will be part of her role. Fair will also have an opportunity to deploy in times of public health emergencies, providing resources and support for critical situations as needed.

“We are so excited for Dr. Fair and this outstanding opportunity to serve the U.S. government in a public health capacity,” said Dr. Shafik Dharamsi, SPH dean. “It is bittersweet to say goodbye, and we will certainly miss her many contributions to the School of Public Health and all she has accomplished during her time here, but we look forward to collaborating with Dr. Fair in different ways as she takes on her new role.”

“Dr. Fair’s new position is also a great example for our students of the many facets that a public health career can take on,” he added.

Teaching, community service and university service

Since 2019, Fair has served as program director for the Master of Public Health Online Leadership degree’s 48-credit-hour program for new graduates or career changers.

She has taught courses on theoretical foundations of individual and community health; foundations of public health; participatory approaches to improving community health; health communications strategies; and has served in a faculty advisory role for the school’s student practice experience, a full-year, community internship program adding real-world applications to students’ classroom learning.

Fair is also one of the founding faculty at HSC’s new College of Nursing and helped develop a global health nursing course, serving in a co-faculty role between the School of Public Health and College of Nursing since August 2023.

Prior to pursuing a career in public health, she worked as a registered nurse in several different settings, including pediatrics, transplant and critical care. Fair holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a master’s in public health and a Doctor of Public Health.

During her tenure with HSC, she has also contributed her talents to university service in a number of ways. For nearly four years, Fair chaired the SPH Interprofessional Practice Education Committee, building cooperative student learning opportunities with other HSC schools and colleges and developing interprofessional practice activities for online MPH and MHA students. For the last two years, she served on the mentorship roundtable for Black Men in White Coats, an annual summit to inspire underrepresented minority youth and college students to consider careers in health care. She also served on the organizing committee for HSC’s fourth and fifth annual Women’s Cardiovascular & Brain Health symposiums.

Since joining HSC, Fair has continued to volunteer her time mentoring high school and elementary students in the North Texas area.

Meeting pandemic challenges

Fair joined HSC just a few months before COVID-19 hit and everything went remote.

“It was a very challenging time for everyone, but our students were so flexible and resilient. HSC and SPH faculty all across the board pulled together quickly and successfully to move courses online so our students could complete their programs,” Fair said. “Everyone at HSC should feel so proud of the hard work and determination accomplished during that time.”

HSC and the School of Public Health also provided support to Tarrant County Public Health during the pandemic, with students volunteering in various ways.

A pivotal moment, an important career step

Fair first became interested in the U.S. Public Health Corps as an MPH student, and she feels that her career in nursing, as a School of Public Health faculty member and all the community work she’s been involved in has prepared her well for this new role.

“One of my favorite things to talk with students about is the different public health careers that one can pursue. I encourage students to be open in exploring different career paths and to pursue lifelong learning, as we are all lifelong learners,” Fair said. “Now I’m taking my own advice, making this leap into something completely new and different from what I’ve done in my past work.”

While Fair says she will miss being in the classroom, she plans to stay in contact with SPH and values all the relationships she’s built and her experiences over the last four-plus years.

“I’m very grateful for my time with SPH and HSC, for all the colleagues I’ve worked with who have become friends, and for the students I’ve had the privilege of engaging with. Even though I’m leaving HSC, it’s not goodbye, as I definitely plan to stay in touch and remain connected to the university, the School of Public Health and the College of Nursing,” she said.

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