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Applications now open for new public health leadership initiative


Applications are now open for a new initiative that will bring rising public health leaders together with community leaders to co-create sustainable collaborative solutions that advance health and well-being for all.

Supported by an investment of more than $8.5 million from The Kresge Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the de Beaumont Foundation, the PHEARLESS (Public Health Regenerative Leadership Synergy) initiative will integrate regenerative leadership education and experiential learning with innovative collaborative tools that will help public health and community leaders build the skills they need to tackle the complex issues facing their communities today.

As a holistic, strengths-based and adaptive approach, regenerative leadership focuses on creating positive change and restoring balance in complex living systems, said Monica Valdes Lupi, managing director of Kresge’s Health Program. 

“Regenerative leadership prioritizes empathy, collaboration, collaborative learning and systems thinking over traditional top-down hierarchical models of leadership,” Lupi said. “By creating positive relationships and nurturing the interconnected elements within a system, regenerative leaders aim to generate outcomes that benefit everyone.”

“New challenges that public health departments are facing require governmental public health leaders to develop and grow new skills and relationships in order to meet the needs of the people and communities they serve,” said Simbo Ige, managing director at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 

The rapid shift and scale-up of responsibilities for state and local governmental public health agencies during the COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the public health workforce.

According to a recent analysis of data from the Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey (PH WINS), conducted by the de Beaumont Foundation and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), nearly half of state and local public health employees left their jobs between 2017 and 2021, exacerbating an existing workforce shortage.

“This critical loss of public health expertise and experience puts communities at significant risk for infectious diseases and other health crises,” said Brian C. Castrucci, president and CEO of the de Beaumont Foundation. 

Let's stay in touch Sign up for our newsletters SubscribeFor the 2023-2024 cohort of the initiative, 15 teams of PHEARLESS leaders will be selected from communities around the country. Each four-person team will include two rising public health leaders and two rising community leaders. Together, the cohort will form a network that will learn from one another and help create new models for community-led efforts to improve equitable health outcomes community-wide.

Participants in the 12-month program will work through four modules and a culminating capstone activity, including both virtual sessions and an in-person component. Each team will receive a grant of $100,000 to support their activities. 

Drs. Marissa Levine and Jennifer Marshall of the University of South Florida (USF) College of Public Health (COPH) and Dr. Triparna de Vreede at the USF Muma College of Business (MCOB) will co-lead the design and implementation of the training and technical assistance. COPH will also partner with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, the Big Cities Health Coalition, and the National Association of County and City Officials as an interdisciplinary support network.

“One of the ways regenerative leadership can be achieved is through true collaboration and the effective facilitation of ideas. To be good leaders, we must be good facilitators and relentless collaborators,” said Triparna de Vreede, associate professor of instruction at the USF Muma College of Business.

“While the pandemic has definitely pushed their limits, this moment presents a truly unique opportunity for public health department leaders to reimagine their unique role in co-creating thriving community health ecosystems and delivering services that are explicitly centered in equity and racial justice,” Lupi said. “By the end of the PHEARLESS experience, leaders will develop the mindset and skillset to transform systems, structures, and policies, in partnership with the community, toward a just and equitable future.”

To learn more about the criteria and how to apply, visit  

Applications are due at 3 p.m. (EST) on July 14, 2023.