A conversation with Richard Doolittle

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A. Sue Weisler

Richard Doolittle, vice dean of the College of Health Sciences and Technology, has a plan to help the college define itself and move its programs forward.

Richard Doolittle, vice dean of the College of Health Sciences and Technology, talks with University News Senior Communication Specialist Susan Gawlowicz about how RIT’s ninth college has defined itself since its inception in 2011 as the educational prong of the Institute of Health Sciences and Technology, an offshoot of the RIT-Rochester General Health System Alliance.

Question: The College of Health Sciences and Technology is not a medical school. What is 
its mission? 

Doolittle: The College of Health Sciences and Technology is about wellness and progressive, preventive approaches 
to keeping people healthy. We are directing our efforts 
toward health and introducing technologies as new 
approaches to helping people maintain their health 
instead of reacting to disease.

Behavioral/mental health is an area we want to grow in. We’re looking at a Ph.D. in forensic clinical psychology. We brought forensic psychologist Caroline Easton ’90 (biotechnology) here, in part, to create that degree program. It’s in keeping with the RIT brand. Our students will be mentored by people who are out in the community. There is a desperate and growing need for people who understand the legal system and a holistic approach to treating all people affected by those with substance abuse and aggressive behavioral histories toward their family or partners.

Q: In what other ways will the college define itself?

Doolittle: We will continue to grow other new and existing degree programs (ultrasound, physician assistant, nutrition, medical illustration, health systems, etc.). Also, I sat on a commission through the National Technical Institute for the Deaf to look at creating a pipeline for deaf and hard-of-hearing students to come into health-care programs and careers. Many deaf students who want to go into health-care programs have a difficult time getting into them.

There have been some pretty awful cases where kids have been granted interviews for medical school and they go to the interview and are told, ‘Oh, you’re deaf. You can’t come here. You have to be able to hear heart sounds and breath sounds. Sorry.’ Well, that’s clear discrimination.

Q: What did the commission propose?

Doolittle: We devised a plan to create a pipeline for deaf and hard-of-hearing students, starting in high school and going all the way through to doctoral programs and ultimately in jobs within health care and/or academic fields. We have submitted proposals for grants to implement these ideas. 

In addition to providing direct educational training through undergraduate programs, another role RIT would play would be to provide on-campus mentoring and training to deaf and hard-of-hearing postdoctoral fellows who want a career in academia but who haven’t had the opportunity to train and learn teaching methodologies. 

Q: Can you set the groundwork for these programs now? 

Doolittle: We’re not waiting for the funding. We’re moving forward and our faculty and staff understand the importance of having all we need to support the special needs of this population in our programs. The richest opportunities are for the students in the biomedical sciences program because that’s where we offer the widest array of career choices and where we have the largest capacity to accept students. The physician assistant and ultrasound programs are a different size pool. It’s tough for anyone to get into those programs but we are seeing more high quality 
deaf/hard-of-hearing students still earning their way in.

I think the word about rich opportunities for careers 
in health care is getting out among the deaf and hard-of-hearing population. You couldn’t ask for a better scenario 
of students telling other students about these career 
options and the fact that it is possible to be competitive. 
If I can have something to do with the success of that, 
it feels very gratifying. 

Q: This must be a challenging time for everyone 
who wants to see the new college grow. 

Doolittle: I really feel this obligation to make sure the 
college succeeds and that means growing existing programs, helping design new space that meets with the growing demands and adding new programs. The strategic plan of the college can’t be my plan for my career. I’m retiring soon! It’s got to be the plan of the people—what’s going to bring the greatest good to the greatest number of people. 

With the help of The Wallace Center, we are hoping to launch the Journal of Health Sciences and Technology that will be peer-reviewed through a national/international 
editorial board and will put us on the map as an up-and-coming center for applied, technology-based research. We’ve got to launch projects and programs that are sustainable and with the right people in place with the deep dedication to the students and the foresight to stay ahead of the advances in medicine and technology. That’s the secret to anything that’s worth its weight: Will it be here long after you’re gone? If the answer is yes, then we’ve done well.