Getting to Know You: Dr. Spencer Fox

The College of Public Health welcomed nine new faculty this fall who we want to introduce to the wider CPH community. Up this week is Spencer Fox, Ph.D., who has joined the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics as an assistant professor.

What brought you to the field of public health? 

To be honest, I’m a newcomer to the field. I was trained as a computational biologist, and for almost 10 years I’ve been using statistical models to understand emerging infectious diseases. Over time, I found that my work could assist public health officials as they responded to outbreaks, and I loved that the field provided a way to translate the science I was doing into real world impact.

What excites you or motivates you about your research?

Two main things motivate me about my research:

  1. First, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the importance of interdisciplinary work for public health responses. For example, one of my focus areas will be attempting to integrate community behavior into epidemiological models to improve our ability to forecast pandemics. I’m excited to collaborate with psychologists and behavioral scientists to do so.
  2. Second, our science has to keep up with the new infectious disease threats that continue to emerge and evolve. The ongoing monkeypox pandemic is a great example of an old virus finding new tricks. This is a fast-paced and humbling field, which seems like the right combination for keeping my interest!

How have you partnered with communities to improve health? Is there service or outreach work you’d like to do in Athens or Georgia? 

In my previous role at the University of Texas COVID-19 Modeling Consortium, we provided modeling expertise for Austin and Texas state public health officials and elected leaders as they navigated the complexities of the pandemic. The relationship really changed my view of what successful outbreak response can look like, and I hope to build similar relationships with the public health officials in Georgia to improve health outcomes and equity in the state.

What are you looking forward to this Fall semester? 

So many things! It will be great to watch UGA defend their national championship in person rather than on TV. I’m also excited to see the fall colors this year, which I’ve missed for almost a decade being in Texas. Oh… did you mean academic excitement? In that case I can’t wait to teach my first class here and meet the students. There’s a nice, contagious energy to campus, and unlike most contagions I don’t have to worry about it!

Last one – what do you do for fun?

I’m a bit of an academic cliché, as I love almost all outdoor activities. My favorites are probably hiking, camping, and backpacking and I’m also a birder (a bird-watcher). I’ve never really been to the Southeast so I’m excited to explore the nature and wildlife here!

Posted on September 1, 2022.