University of Washington School of Public Health

UW SPH News: New Endowed Fellowship Honors Former SPH Dean Patricia Wahl

New Endowed Fellowship Honors Former SPH Dean Patricia Wahl


New Endowed Fellowship Honors Former SPH Dean Patricia Wahl

An endowed fellowship to support outstanding graduate students in Biostatistics has been created in honor of former Dean Patricia Wahl, who retired last year and is now dean emeritus and professor emeritus of Biostatistics. The endowment was spearheaded by Professors Thomas Fleming and Bruce Weir to honor Wahl.

Patricia Wahl

Wahl served as dean from 1999 to 2010 and has been a professor of Biostatistics for 30 years. She was the School's fourth dean and only woman to have held the position.

"The Patricia Wahl Endowed Fellowship in Biostatistics, through its recognition and financial assistance for outstanding graduate students, appropriately honors Professor Wahl's career dedicated to enhancing educational opportunities. Her career exemplifies the importance of increased leadership opportunities for women in public health," Fleming said.

Fellowship funds can be used to support any aspect of a student's educational costs. Initial donations were provided by Wahl's former faculty colleagues.

Wahl says she hopes the funds will be used flexibly to meet student needs as they arise – whether to keep a student in school, for travel expenses to attend meetings, or to recruit talented students to the top-ranked Biostatistics program. Wahl knows clearly the many possibilities. She served as the department’s graduate program director for three years after stepping down as dean.

"That's one thing I really miss – working with the students," she said. "The students we get are outstanding. There's a great collegiality."

Wahl was a UW computer systems programmer when her work left an impression on Richard Kronmal, professor of Biostatistics. Kronmal encouraged her to enroll in the UW's Biostatistics graduate study program. That eventually led to teaching and a PhD. She was recruited as associate dean in 1985 by then Dean Gilbert S. Omenn and was appointed acting dean in 1997 when Omenn left for the University of Michigan.

Two of her notable accomplishments were creating a Department of Global Health with the School of Medicine in 2007, funded by a $10 million startup grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and launching the innovative Community-Oriented Public Health Practice program, which features problem-based learning focused on solving real public health problems.

Wahl said she's been fortunate to spend most of her professional career at the School. "None of my steps has been particularly planned or particularly sought after," she said in a 2008 interview. "It's just been wonderful people all along the way who have opened the doors."

For more information, or to make a donation, contact Megan Ingram, 206-616-7197 or