New Associate Chair of HOBI and New Director of Education Announced

Matt GurkaMatthew Gurka, Ph.D., is the new associate chair of the Department of Health Outcomes & Biomedical Informatics (HOBI). Gurka replaces Keith Muller, Ph.D., who stepped down from the position in mid-January 2019 to focus on his research.

Gurka joined UF in 2015 as early childhood preeminent professor with a dual appointment in HOBI and the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies. He is also the associate director for the Institute for Child Health Policy (ICHP) and served as director of education for HOBI from 2017 to January 2019.

Gurka’s current research, funded by a 5-year, $1.9 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, focuses on the development, validation and use of a metabolic syndrome severity calculator to predict which patients with the syndrome face a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease or Type 2 diabetes later in life.

Before coming to UF, Gurka was the founding chair of the Department of Biostatistics in the School of Public Health (SPH) at West Virginia University, where he also led the Clinical Research Design, Epidemiology, and Biostatistics Program of the West Virginia Clinical and Translational Science Institute (WVCTSI). In his role as founding chair, Gurka started new degree programs in biostatistics, including a master of public health (MPH) and a master of science (MS) in biostatistics.  He also led the development of an applied biostatistics online certificate program, and was part of the SPH leadership team responsible for the accreditation of the school by the Council on Education for Public Health.

“I am honored to have the opportunity to serve this diverse and growing department, particularly as we transition to our new home in the Data Science and Information Technology building,” Gurka said.

Ryan TheisRyan Theis, Ph.D., is the new director of education for HOBI. Theis joined the HOBI faculty in 2011 as an assistant professor with expertise in qualitative methods and program evaluation, making significant contributions to the department’s Medicaid evaluation work in Texas and Florida. He also lends his expertise in research and education involving implementation science and community engagement. Theis is a medical anthropologist and Fulbright scholar whose research focuses on social determinants of health in vulnerable and marginalized populations, long-term services and supports, and the use of qualitative methods in implementation and quality improvement science.

“Our department’s educational programs offer unique opportunities for faculty and students to work at the forefront of advances in the health sciences,” Theis said. “It is an honor to have the opportunity to direct these programs, and I look forward to working with our faculty and students in this role in the coming year.”