Celebration of the life of Dr. Douglas Scutchfield is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at UK and will be livestreamed on YouTube

Dr. F. Douglas Scutchfield

By the University of Kentucky College of Public Health

An author, diplomat, doctor, editor, educator, father, founder, friend, grandfather, husband, mentor, researcher, veteran, and so much more, Dr. F. Douglas Scutchfield, inaugural dean of the University of Kentucky College of Public Health, passed away Monday, May 23, in Lexington.

A celebration of life will take place in the Lewis Honors College atrium at UK Wednesday, June 22, at 4:30 p.m. and will be livestreamed on YouTube here. After the ceremony, there will be an opportunity to share stories about the man who was known in the community as “Scutch.”
Doug Scutchfield was born on April 23, 1942, in Wheelwright, attended Hazard High School and Eastern Kentucky University, and received his medical degree from the University of Kentucky in 1966.

Public Health Passion and Impact

Scutch, after seeing firsthand the poverty in Appalachia, gravitated toward the field of public health and preventive medicine. He completed post-graduate medical education at Northwestern University, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and UK. He holds honorary doctoral degrees from Eastern Kentucky University and the University of Pikeville.

He served as co-editor of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine from 1995 to 2014 and launched the Journal of Appalachian Health in 2018. He is the author of more than 200 papers, book chapters, and technical reports, and has edited several books.

Scutch was a founder of the College of Community Health Sciences at the University of Alabama and founded the Graduate School of Public Health at San Diego State University. He returned to his home state of Kentucky and founded the then School of Public Health at UK in 1997 and became the Peter P. Bosomworth Professor of Health Services Research and Policy.

Scutch held faculty appointments in UK’s College of Public Health and the College of Medicine. He was a diplomat of the American Board of Preventive Medicine and of the American Board of Family Practice from 1972 to 1985. He held fellowships in both the American College of Preventive Medicine and the American Academy of Family Practice.

Scutch held many national positions in professional organizations, including president of the American College of Preventive Medicine, and received several awards from those organizations, including the American Medical Association’s Distinguished Service Award.

Dr. Julia Costich, who succeeded Scutchfield as the public health college’s Peter P. Bosomworth Professor of Health Services Research, told Kentucky Health News, “Public health is about doing things for populations, but Scutch’s gift was relating to individuals—students, colleagues, prominent leaders—as individuals. His generous nature was tempered by a deep need for reciprocation. This was part of what drew him to the work of Thomas Merton, who articulated the need for human contact to bridge the spiritual gulf.”

Scutch earned the UK Libraries Medallion for Intellectual Achievement in 2017. In his acceptance, he said his interest in Merton and the humanities reflected a part of his philosophy of being a physician: “I am a firm believer in the importance of humanity to those of us in the health professions. We do not treat a disease; we treat a person, thus we must know the humanness of the individual in front of us, as well as the diagnosis and treatment of their disease.”

In 2019, Scutch received the Sedgwick Memorial Medal for Distinguished Service in Public Health from the American Public Health Association. Recipients of this award, known as the most prestigious award offered from the APHA, are held in high esteem, as they are nominated by their colleagues and recognized for their dedication to service and accomplishment in the field of public health.

Scutch had an international reputation and was a consultant to government and non-governmental organizations in Panama, China, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Germany, as well as the U.S. But he never forgot his hometown of Wheelwright, which was one of Kentucky’s biggest coal towns when he was growing up.

Scutch most recently served as chair of the accreditation committee of the Public Health Accreditation Board, which accredits local and state health departments, and spurred Kentucky to be a leader in getting its departments accredited. It was one of his latest accomplishments in a life devoted to public health.

Remembering Scutch

Many of Scutch’s students will remember him fondly. Former student, Dr. Scott Keel, said he was “so honored to be one of the many he took time to mentor. I am forever grateful, forever impacted, and forever changed. He made a difference in my life.”

Glen Mays, professor and chair of Health Systems, Management and Policy at the Colorado School of Public Health, recalled, “I began working with Scutch in the mid-1990s while I was still a graduate student at UNC-Chapel Hill, after meeting him at a conference. Our shared goal was to build a robust national program of research that could identify how best to organize, finance, and deliver public health services across the U.S.”

“In less than a decade Scutch had accomplished this goal, with a multi-million-dollar research program, dozens of graduate student trainees, and a nationally renowned conference based at the University of Kentucky. I was honored to join Scutch in this enterprise from 2011-19 and serving in the endowed professorship that bears his name. One of Scutch’s lasting legacies is his ability to create big new things out of nothing to solve problems that really matter to people.”

The F. Douglas Scutchfield Endowed Professorship was established at the UK College of Public Health in 2008 to honor Scutch’s many years of service to the college. In addition, the college established a Faculty Scholarship for the Future of Appalachian Health, which provides scholarships to students pursuing an MPH degree who are from an Appalachian county in Kentucky, have a commitment to improving heath in the region, and a desire to return to this region to promote and improve public health – just like Scutch.

“The legacy of Scutch was his commitment to service – to the discipline of public health, to the academic and medical communities, and to those who were fortunate enough to work with and learn from him,” says Donna Arnett, Dean of the College of Public Health. “Scutch will forever be memorialized as a public health hero, champion, and humanitarian.”

Scutch will be remembered and missed by a myriad of his colleagues, friends, family, and students. One thing that everyone will remember about Scutch was his big, infectious smile and laughter.

A full obituary can be found here.

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