Humphrey joins U epidemiology department

Justin Costley

Former state senator, attorney general and gubernatorial candidate Hubert H. “Skip” Humphrey III’s career has come full circle since he graduated from the University.
Now out of public office, Humphrey continues his 30-year career as a public servant by working as a senior fellow at the University School of Public Health’s Division of Epidemiology.
Humphrey began working part time for the division after accepting the position in early March. He expects to devote as much as 20 percent of his time to the school.
Public health is an issue that has interested Humphrey since his first days in the state Senate in 1973. His first committee assignment was the Health and Human Services committee.
Though he was asked to switch committees later, his interest in public-health issues remained firm throughout Humphrey’s career as attorney general, which included the successful 1998 tobacco settlement between Minnesota/Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and seven tobacco companies.
Humphrey will use his experience in health issues and policy-making to teach and advise researchers on how their data could be presented to decision makers.
“We’re very interested to see whether or not we can’t begin to work on developing a curriculum that will bring together the factors of the law, public-policy development and the research done by the division,” Humphrey said.
The epidemiology division uses observation, research and population-based experiments to help prevent disease.
Major areas of research, including alcohol, tobacco and genetics, often involve public policy or legal issues.
John Finnegan, University associate dean for academic affairs, said concerns over the advancement of medical sciences and privacy issues have made legal expertise important to researchers and a top priority for the School of Public Health.
“This is a guy who has just an incredible amount of knowledge about public-health policy and law,” he said. “We’re delighted to be able to tap into that.”
The teaching profession is new to Humphrey. His only experience is a four-and-a-half month stint as a teaching fellow from the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School at Harvard University, which he received following his unsuccessful bid for governor in 1998.
Humphrey said his new endeavor will give him the opportunity to create a “two-way street” between policy-makers and the epidemiology division.
“Perhaps my opportunity of working here can help decision-makers, whether they be legislators or agency individuals, understand a little bit better what the University is trying to accomplish,” Humphrey said.
University epidemiology professor Cheryl Perry said Humphrey’s decades of political and public-health experience will enhance the school’s research.
“I just think it’s terrific,” Perry said. “We have some research going on in the area of policy change and how to promote policy change around areas like tobacco and alcohol.
“In meeting with faculty that are involved with that, he can shed a lot of light on ways we should think about it and go about it,” Perry added.
While out of public office, Humphrey said he will continue functioning as a public servant. With this opportunity, Humphrey said he will try to impress upon students the need to use their talents not only for themselves and their employers, but for the public good as well.
“Citizens, organizations, Universities, researchers, others — they have to be engaged at some level,” Humphrey said. “That’s part of being a democrat with a small ‘d’ in our democracy.”
“To come back to the University is a very special privilege. I hope I serve this University, its students and faculty and, frankly, the citizens of Minnesota well in this capacity, too.”

Justin Costley covers the Medical School and welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3224.