CHBS welcomes Dr. Özlem Ersin

New Associate Dean Joins the College of Health and Behavioral Studies


SUMMARY: "I love talking to people, learning their stories, and helping remove barriers, getting the right people to shake hands and sit across the table from each other to let the magic happen."

By: Daniel Vieth '15, '17
Creative Services

Dr. Ozlem ErsinFor many professionals, changing career paths is a great way to gain insights and apply their experiences to new fields. These varied backgrounds add value, not only to themselves, but also to others in their new professions. This is certainly the case for Dr. Özlem Ersin, the newest associate dean for the College of Health and Behavioral Studies (CHBS). Ersin, who started her position this fall, began her career as an information technology (IT) specialist before becoming a health professions educator.

Ersin began her journey towards health education as a senior IT consultant in IBM’s education division, where the company sold technology to academic institutions. “That’s where I first got interested in academia, and how I started to gradually shift from the corporate world to education,” said Ersin. She then moved on to become the Director of Learning Technologies at the University of Minnesota, followed by a founding faculty role as an Associate Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the Manchester University College of Pharmacy in Indiana before coming to JMU this Fall. “I’ve always looked at myself as an interpreter or translator of sorts, facilitating conversations between individuals. For example, helping the technology and business professionals at IBM who spoke very different languages, but needed to talk to each other,” said Ersin. “I love talking to people, learning their stories, and helping remove barriers, getting the right people to shake hands and sit across the table from each other to let the magic happen.”

This passion for connecting individuals goes hand in hand with one of Ersin’s main goals for CHBS - to promote interprofessional education between the many departments and programs. “Historically in the health professions, students have been trained to become one thing; a social worker, a physician, an occupational therapist, or a dentist, and so on,” said Ersin. “And historically speaking there has been very little cross training, so students by the time they got to their first professional experience would tend to not know about each other.” As Ersin explains, this is problematic in the complex field of healthcare, where the various professions must work together effectively to achieve the common goal of health for individuals. In recent years, the field has also begun to promote preventative health goals at the community level, increasing the need for interprofessional education for providers. This has led accreditation bodies to encourage schools to begin educating and training their students about and with each other. “This is a great institution to continue coordinating our educational activity across the professions, because in one college alone you can see how many professionals are represented,” Ersin added.

With this in mind, Ersin is focused on understanding where the various education programs have common goals, activities, and ideals, and helping them connect with each other in a deliberate and strategic manner. “One of the very nice things about JMU that I’ve seen so far is that it is a very collaborative environment, and some of these interprofessional things have already been happening organically,” said Ersin. “I am working now to have a strategic plan behind it, to tap into the full potential of this collaborative environment.” To accomplish this, Ersin looks to overcome challenges like scheduling classes across the different programs, and finding appropriate physical spaces for these classes; a task hopefully supported by the new learning spaces in the HBS building completed this Fall. “I feel like a kid in a candy shop. You have all these different units that speak different languages and jargons, and with my translational role I get to learn so much every single day,” Ersin continued. “I’m just a lifelong learner, and I feel like every day is a new learning opportunity.”

Outside of academics, Ersin is looking forward to getting to know the community alongside her husband and two children. “It’s not just a transition for me, but for my entire family, especially the two young ones. This is where they’re going to grow up, so I really want them to feel like this is home and part of their community,” Ersin continued. “The community has been really welcoming, with very friendly people. This morning, my three and a half year old said ‘I like my house, don’t move again,’ so I think we’re doing something right!”

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Published: Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Last Updated: Tuesday, November 17, 2020

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