Q & A with Dr. Scott Lephart

New Dean Envisions a Bright Future for the College of Health Sciences

Scott M. Lephart, PhD, joined the University of Kentucky College of Health Sciences as Dean March 1, 2015. He also serves as a professor and as Endowed Chair of Orthopaedic Research for the University. Dr. Lephart formerly served as a Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition and as the founding director of the Neuromuscular Research Laboratory at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the principal and senior investigator leading Department of Defense Human Performance Research initiative. His research interests include musculoskeletal sports and military injury prevention and performance optimization.

Q: You were at the University of Pittsburgh for 27 years. What was it about the University and the College of Health Sciences (CHS) that attracted you?

A: The combination of the University’s goals, as outlined in the recent strategic plan, to become a top 20 public research university, the new fiscal model, and most importantly the excellence of the faculty, staff, and students of the College presented an intriguing opportunity for the new dean. This was the first deanship I have applied for and the first position outside of Pitt that I have sought in my 27-year academic career.  

Q: What impressed you most about UK and CHS?

A: I was impressed by the sense of pride in this institution – unlike any that I had experienced. I found the enthusiasm and pride for the Commonwealth’s flagship University to be palpable. During my first interview, I took a two-hour walk around campus to observe and interact with students, who I believe are the fabric of any university. Their pride and optimism confirmed my belief that this was an environment where I wanted to be, and where I could contribute to the momentum. During my interviews, I found a similar enthusiasm displayed by University leadership and the CHS faculty and staff.  

Q: What are the main areas of opportunity at CHS?

A: The excellence I have observed in the CHS students, faculty, and staff is a solid foundation to build upon. The Board of Trustees and President Capilouto have stated goals for the University, and the College must make a concerted effort to contribute to the success of this strategic plan. While sustaining the current quality of programs offered by CHS, we must strive to expand our sponsored research portfolio in a meaningful, sustainable manner. As we move forward, our research focus will promote the growth of our graduate programs, a priority stated in UK’s new strategic plan. Our focus should always be one that seeks to achieve these goals in a diverse and inclusive environment, which ultimately commits us to the Kentucky Promise of making the Commonwealth a better place through our teaching, research and service mission.

Q: How do you view your role as dean?

A: As dean of CHS, my role is to advocate for our students, staff and faculty and to facilitate their success in meeting our mission. Leadership needs to be visionary and to position the College for future success. As such, I will work to expand opportunities for the College by bringing greater awareness to our current successes, and to broaden the breadth and scope of new opportunities by establishing meaningful, collaborative relationships across the UK and UK HealthCare community.

Q: What are the main advantages of being at a research-intensive university such as UK?

A: Research provides a vibrant intellectual environment that rewards curiosity, innovation and entrepreneurialism. Such environments stimulate students and faculty alike to think about the future and create solutions for our complex society. This is particularly true in the health sciences, and the University and UK HealthCare are taking a leadership role in promoting a healthier Commonwealth by disseminating new discoveries and therapeutic techniques at home and beyond our borders. Such a research environment also enables us to leverage our successes internationally and provides global outreach opportunities for our students and faculty.

Q: How do you envision collaborations between CHS, UK HealthCare and other colleges evolving and expanding?

A: The infrastructure of the health care colleges and UK HealthCare was an attractive aspect, when considering this career move. Solutions to our health care needs can best be achieved through interdisciplinary collaboration in support of our research, teaching and service mission. I hope to further establish these relationships with our colleagues in other colleges, both those in health care and beyond. I have already realized that the commitment of UK HealthCare is without question an asset for CHS.

Q: What do you want potential or current CHS students to know about the College?

A: CHS is an exciting environment for future health care professionals. In fact, we will be referring to many of our programs as the “Gateway to the Health Professions.” We will balance our mission of teaching, research and service to enable our students to optimize their experience by participating in all aspect of these educational endeavors. As our research enterprise expands, I foresee our students playing integral roles in the discovery and translation of new information to enhance the delivery of health care. I am particularly excited about our newly approved Undergraduate Research Certificate, which will be available starting early this summer. I hope our students take full advantage of working side-by-side with our world-class research faculty in innovative laboratories, centers and institutes with cutting-edge facilities.

Q: How would you summarize your work with the U.S. Department of Defense and the research you are bringing to the University?

A: Our injury-mitigation models for elite athletes have significant utility when applied to the elite tactical athlete, the Special Forces Operator. In early 2000, the Neuromuscular Research Laboratory was solicited by Naval Special Warfare (SEALs) to begin research, which would assist in describing preventable musculoskeletal injuries and would develop mission-specific protocols to mitigate such injuries and optimize the physical readiness of the Force. To date that work supports all branches of Special Forces (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines) under the auspices of the U.S. Special Operations Command. The Warrior Human Performance research centers are located at seven military installations, with central operations located at the University of Pittsburgh in the Neuromuscular Research Laboratory and Center of Warrior Human Performance Research. As part of the transfer of my responsibilities, UK has committed to developing the new UK Sports Science Research Institute that, among many research foci, will have a core to support our ongoing work with Special Operation Forces.

Q: What are your major plans for advancing research at CHS and at UK?

A: Working very closely with the faculty and the associate dean for research, our goals will be to advance our research enterprise with sponsored program grants. It is virtually impossible for a research intensive institution striving for prominence to achieve such aspirations without a core of sponsored research initiatives. Funded research enables the growth of our doctoral programs and increases the likelihood of sustainable research agendas of our faculty. Such achievements are also important benchmarks for top research institutions and facilitate the delivery of health care by our clinicians. In my expanded role at the University, I will be establishing linkages for interdisciplinary discovery in the core areas associated with the UK Sports Science Research Institute.

Q: What are your interests outside of your career?

A: I am a sports enthusiast, both as a participant and fan. Until about 10 years ago, I was a competitive amateur golfer. I hope to return to that on some level once settled in Lexington – of course now on the senior circuit! 


Scott Lephart

Scott M. Lephart, PhD
Dean and Professor
College of Health Sciences
Endowed Chair of Orthopaedic Research
University of Kentucky


Office of the Dean
Charles T. Wethington, Jr., Building, Room 123
900 South Limestone
Lexington, KY 40536-0200
Phone: (859) 218-0480
Fax: (859) 323-1058