Former CDC marketing director named new University health communications center director

Hayden Clark

The new Center for Health Communication at the Moody College of Communication recently named its founding director, Jay Bernhardt, a former marketing director for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Bernhardt said he is enthusiastic about how the position will allow him to work closely with the new Dell Medical School.

“It’s a really exciting time at UT now with the new college of medicine coming online as well as the new Center for Health Communication,” Bernhardt said. “There’s a lot of increase, advancement and emphasis on health at UT. I fully expect for there to be very close collaboration between the new Center for Health Communication and the new [medical school].”

Bernhardt said the expanding field of health communication comes down to how information about medicine and health is shared at a personal and national level.

“Health communications is an area of practice and research that’s been around for several decades, but it’s really been growing rapidly in recent years,” Bernhardt said. “In essence, it involves everything from how doctors communicate with patients, to people looking up health information on the Internet, to developing national campaigns to help kids not smoke.”

Moody College Dean Roderick Hart said health communication is becoming an important factor in medicine, which may intrigue students.

“You can’t really talk about health and medicine anymore without featuring communication,” Hart said. “The most important thing [for students] to realize is ‘Oh my gosh, I thought I knew what the college of communication does: it’s journalism and film and all these other things…’ [But health communication] is an area that’s so important. I hope [students] turn around and say, ‘Hey, wow, I never thought of that.’”

Associate advertising professor Lee Ann Kahlor said the health communication center will help the University benefit from experts in both health and medicine who will join the program. Kahlor said communication is becoming an important factor in medicine.

“One of the key things we are gaining with the center is presence as a group of scholars and practitioners who can and will impact health care practice and health outcomes locally and nationally,” Kahlor said. “Communication has the potential to improve health care, whether it’s by helping practitioners to overcome barriers in patient communication or finding ways to harness mass communication to change harmful behaviors.”