Matthew J. Gurka, PhD, Appointed to Chair the Department of Public Health Sciences

October 18, 2023 by

Matthew Gurka

Matthew Gurka, PhD

I am excited to announce the appointment of Matthew J. Gurka, PhD, a distinguished national leader in child health research, as Chair, Department of Public Health Sciences, effective February 12, 2024.

Dr. Gurka brings with him a wealth of experience and a sterling reputation, having previously served as the Vice Chair of Health Outcomes and Translational Research, as well as the Director of the Pediatric Research Hub in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Florida. Before that, he held the position of the founding Chair of the Department of Biostatistics at West Virginia University’s School of Public Health.

Dr. Gurka began his academic journey in 2004 right here at the University of Virginia in the Department of Public Health Sciences, where he rose to the role of Associate Professor in the Division of Biostatistics and Epidemiology. Dr. Gurka is not only a highly regarded researcher but brings extensive experience as both an educator and academic leader. We are excited to bring him back to where he began his career to lead the esteemed Department of Public Health Sciences.

During his tenure at West Virginia University, Dr. Gurka co-led the development of the School of Public Health, played a pivotal role in obtaining accreditation, and contributed to the formation of the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute, earning recognition from the National Institutes of Health.

His impressive career trajectory led him to the University of Florida, where he was recruited as part of their preeminence initiative. He assumed leadership roles overseeing education programs in the Department of Health Outcomes and Biomedical Informatics and later research programs in the Department of Pediatrics. He has been an integral part of research teams that secured over $50 million in funding and has had continuous NIH funding as PI or MPI since 2008. He has received prestigious accolades from professional organizations, including election into the Society for Pediatric Research and named a fellow of the American Statistical Association. Dr. Gurka has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, Series A, Pediatrics, and currently the Journal of Pediatrics.

Dr. Gurka has led research into the effect of chronic illnesses on childhood behavior and development, and has worked with UVA Health’s Mark DeBoer, MD, to develop a measure of metabolic syndrome severity that can predict patients’ likelihood of developing diseases as they get older.

An important part of our 10-year strategic plan is continuing to expand our scholarship in the field of public health sciences. Dr. Gurka’s experience and comfort working across departments and institutions, as well as his knowledge of UVA, makes him uniquely well-positioned to lead and advance the department’s commitment to improving clinical care, patient outcomes, and population health.

Dr. Gurka will succeed Ruth Gaare Bernheim, JD, MPH, who has served as chair since 2010. We greatly appreciate Dr. Bernheim’s significant contributions to our department and University, including founding our Master of Public Health program and spearheading the establishment of the global public health minor and major programs for undergraduates.

In addition, Kelly K. Gurka, MPH, PhD, an accomplished epidemiologist who also began her career at UVA, will join the Department of Pediatrics as an Associate Professor.

We look forward to Dr. Gurka’s leadership and the exciting advancements that await our Department of Public Health Sciences under his guidance. Please join me in welcoming him back to UVA!


Melina R. Kibbe, MD
Dean, UVA School of Medicine
James Carroll Flippin Professor of Medical Science Chief Health Affairs Officer, UVA Health
Professor, Departments of Surgery and Biomedical Engineering Editor in Chief, JAMA Surgery

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