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SHP Past Deans

Robert Bing, OT, PhD


Robert Bing

In 1966, Robert K. Bing agreed to reorganize the Department of Occupational Therapy in the hospitals of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Here he established the first school of allied health in the Southwest. In 1968, he was named dean of the School of Health Professions, the first occupational therapist to receive such an appointment.

Dr. Bing contributed to education, research, administration, recruitment, and public relations for occupational therapy. In 1981, the AOTA awarded him its highest honor, the Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lectureship. While holder of the lectureship, Dr. Bing wrote "Occupational Therapy Revisited," a thorough, thoughtful, and inspiring history of occupational therapy, from its philosophical origins in seventeenth-century England forward.

As professor emeritus, Dr. Bing maintained active involvement with the School of Health Professions, where he was a frequent lecturer for the Department of Occupational Therapy and a mentor to faculty members and students alike.

John G. Bruhn, PhD


John Bruhn

Dr. Bruhn earned both his B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Nebraska, and his Ph.D. in Medical Sociology from Yale University. At Yale, Dr. Bruhn was a Commonwealth Fund-Yale Fellow and a U.S. Public Health Service Fellow. After graduation he received a U.S. Fulbright Fellowship to the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. He has also been a John E. Fogarty Health Science Fellow to Poland and a World Health Organization Fellow to Australia and New Zealand.

Dr. Bruhn has served as professor, Dean, Vice President and Provost at several universities including UTMB, The University of Oklahoma, and The University of Texas - El Paso. He most recently served as Provost and Dean and Professor of Sociology at Penn State University-Harrisburg.

Dr. Bruhn is known for his outstanding contributions in the areas of leadership, and management of complex organizations during periods of growth, downsizing, and reframing. He has well-honed skills in strategic planning, development of partnerships and networks among organizations, and business ethics. Dr. Bruhn is an expert in assisting organizations in the use of trust as a tool to maintain healthy and productive organizations through teamwork, delegation, unified efforts and streamlined decision-making.

Dr. Bruhn is the author of many articles and books and has served as an expert advisor and consultant to many state, national, and international organizations in the areas of medicine, public health and organizational performance and effectiveness.

Charles H. Christiansen, OT, EdD


Charles Christiansen

Charles Christiansen was Dean and George T. Bryan Distinguished Professor in the School of Health Professions from 1993-2006. Prior to his roles at UTMB, he was Professor and Director of the School of Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.

Dr. Christiansen was born in Panama and schooled in the United States and abroad. During his youth, he spent many summers on his grandfather's farm in South Dakota where he learned the value of hard work and a respect for nature. He attended high school in West Linn, Oregon and in Wiesbaden, Germany. He returned to the US to earn an undergraduate degree in Occupational Therapy from the School of Medicine, University of North Dakota. He was a commissioned officer during the Viet Nam era serving in the USAF Biomedical Sciences Corps. He earned a master's degree in Counseling Psychology from Ball State University and a doctorate in Educational Administration from the University of Houston. He completed a postdoctoral administrative residency through Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, focusing on education in the health professions.

He is the recipient of numerous awards, including selection as Occupational Therapist of the Year in 1984 by the Texas Occupational Therapy Association, and recipient of the Eleanor Clarke Slagle Lectureship by the AOTA in 1998, that association's highest academic honor. In 1997 he was presented with the Leone Award for Administrative Excellence at UTMB and is the inaugural holder of the first endowed distinguished professorship established in the college he leads. In 2004, Dr. Christiansen accepted appointment as an honorary (adjunct) Professor in the School of Health and Rehabilitation at The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. In September, 2005, he will be honored as an outstanding alumnus of the University of North Dakota during its Centennial homecoming celebrations.

Dr. Christiansen is the Founding Editor of the journal OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health, and is senior editor and contributor to three major textbooks: Occupational Therapy: Enabling Function and Well-Being, Ways of Living: Adaptive Strategies for Special Needs, (each in their third edition) and most recently: Introduction to Occupation: The Art and Science of Living. He has been a consulting editor or content expert for the past six editions of Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, and has published over 100 articles, chapters. editorials, and abstracts in scholarly books and journals. He is ardent in his support of sustainable development and his advocacy for social justice and the civic responsibilities of academics and professionals.

Elizabeth J. Protas, PT, PhD, FACSM, FAPTA


Elizabeth Protas

Dr. Elizabeth Protas served as the Senior Vice President, George T. Bryan Distinguished Professor, Ruby Decker Endowed Professor, Senior Fellow of the Sealy Center on Aging, and Dean in the School of Health Professions. Her research and clinical interests focused on exercise, aging and physiological responses to exercise of individuals with chronic disabilities, particularly individuals who have had a stroke or Parkinson's disease. She has published over 50 manuscripts and book chapters. She has received grant funding from the National Institute of Health, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, the Department of Veteran's Affairs and the Foundation for Physical Therapy to support her research.

She was an investigator with the Veteran's Affairs Rehabilitation Research and Development Center of Excellence on Healthy Living with Disabilities and the Parkinson's Disease Research, Education and Clinical Center. Dr. Protas has been on the American College of Sports Medicine's Board of Trustees and is a Fellow of the College. She has also served as the past president and former executive director of the Texas Regional Chapter of the American College of Sports Medicine.

In 2007, the Council of Aging and Adult Development of the American Association for Active Lifestyles and Fitness awarded Dr. Protas the Herbert H. deVries Award for Distinguished Research in the Field of Aging. The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston College of Nursing awarded the Joseph C. Valley Gerontological Professional of the Year to Dr. Protas in 2000. At Texas Woman's University, she implemented the 3rd Ph.D. program in physical therapy in the country, and the only postdoctoral fellowship program in physical therapy in the nation. She has been on the Committee for Post-doctoral and Doctoral Awards of the American Physical Therapy Association. For the Foundation for Physical Therapy, Dr. Protas has chaired the Doctoral Research Awards Committee, and has been a member of the Foundation's Advisory Committee and the Research Awards Committee. She serves as an accreditation site visit team leader for the Commission on Physical Therapy Education Accreditation and has been a member of the Cardiopulmonary Specialty Council and the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties. Dr. Protas is a Founding Fellow of the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. She received her B.S. in Physical Therapy in 1968 and her Ph.D. in Education in 1981 from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Under Dr. Protas’ leadership, SHP has significantly expanded through new programs, as well as steadily increasing student enrollment. From 2006 to 2016, enrollment increased by 77 percent, from 464 to 822. While serving as Chair, Dr. Protas worked with the Texas Higher Education Board to establish a doctor of therapy degree program at UTMB. Most recently, as Dean, she oversaw creation of the Department of Nutrition and Metabolism, as well as two new doctoral programs in the clinical laboratory sciences (DCLS) and occupational therapy (OTD).

An outstanding investigator, Dr. Protas garnered several honors including selection as a Catherine Worthingham Fellow, the most prestigious recognition by the American Physical Therapy Association. During her tenure as Dean, the SHP has also maintained competitive national standing for NIH funding; the school was ranked 9th, 10th or 12th out of 69 institutions.

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