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Humphrey’s Leadership Leaves Lasting Mark on UM, Statewide Healthcare


MISSOULA – “I like UM’s trajectory,” said University of Montana’s College of Health Dean Reed Humphrey, reflecting about the future of the flagship institution.

As Humphrey wraps up his decades-long run at the helm of UM’s fastest growing college, he can finally take a step back and reflect on the 10 years of growth, innovation and impact that defines his time leading the college.

The optimism that Humphrey depicts isn’t whimsical or superficial. Rather, it is the prediction of a leader who experienced the ups and downs and challenges and triumphs that a career in higher education provides.

During his four-decade career, Humphrey climbed every rung on the ladder – one-by-one – from starting as a volunteer faculty member at a historically Black university to leading UM’s College of Health during an era of record expansion.

“Of course, Reed believes that UM’s trajectory is pointing upward,” said UM President Seth Bodnar. “He used his time as a campus leader to ensure that is the case.”

Humphrey took the reins from prior Dean David Forbes at the College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences – now the College of Health – in 2014 after serving as a faculty member and chair for UM’s School of Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation Science for eight years. From 2020 to 2022, Humphrey’s role on campus was expanded at the request of Bodnar to serve as provost — leading UM’s entire academic portfolio through the challenges of the pandemic and into a period of university-wide enrollment success.

During Humphrey’s tenure as dean, the College of Health’s enrollment grew by roughly a third, research expenditures rose from $8 million in 2014 to over $30 million in 2023 and the number of academic units within the college increased from three to seven. Nine centers and research institutes also are now embedded in the college, along with three campus clinics, the Family Medicine Residency of Western Montana and the Area Health Education Center.

But it is not just growth that will define Humphrey’s time leading the College of Health. The innovation and eagerness to adapt the services the college provides will ensure UM remains at the center of Montana’s growing healthcare industry long after his time on campus comes to a close.

In 2016, Humphrey established UM Health and Medicine to serve as a hub for the broader health science and healthcare related initiatives at UM and across the region. In the years since, UMHM partnered with healthcare providers across Montana to address some of the largest healthcare shortfalls facing the state. This interdisciplinary and interprofessional collaboration provided UM with the ability to expand its role educating health professionals in numerous Montana communities, ultimately leading to improved health outcomes for people across the state.

The connections built between UMHM, community health providers and state health policy leaders paved the way for successful health-related initiatives that will continue to benefit Montanans in every county for years ahead. 

“In Montana, you can be on a first-name basis with hospital leadership, and that is how we get things done,” Humphrey said, when reflecting on the growing relationship between UM and Montana’s healthcare providers. “What differentiates UM and our College of Health from others is the collaborative approach to health education we achieved through UMHM to create new research initiatives with hospitals and clinical opportunities that will meet the needs of our state, while retaining caregivers who wish to have that academic affiliation.”

Humphrey’s push for the college to prioritize a more interprofessional education allowed faculty to build relationships and exchange ideas with the state’s primary healthcare leaders. This connection created more job opportunities for students because the college is now working so much closer to Montana’s hospitals and clinics.

“No one builds a college on their own, and our growth started with inheriting a solid College in 2014,” said Humphrey. “It’s been to my benefit to have effective department chairs and directors over the years, excellent dean leadership in pharmacy and good support from central administration – from the office of the president through the academic and research sector leadership. This is a challenging job, but I’m grateful to have had collaborative leadership and support along the college’s trajectory”.

Additionally, under Humphrey’s leadership, the School of Public Health and Community Health Science grew from three to 20 faculty members, adding both an undergraduate degree and Ph.D. program while collaborating with Missoula City County Public Health to launch one of the nation’s few Academic Health Departments. This partnership became essential to Missoula’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and set a blueprint for how higher education institutions can inform and strengthen public health.

“Over the last eight years, the School of Public and Community Health Sciences has grown tremendously and now supports public health professional development and research activities throughout the Northern Rocky region,” said Tony Ward, UM professor at the School of Public and Community Health Sciences. “Dean Humphrey has been a primary facilitator of the School’s growth through his leadership and support.”

While it’s cliché to state that Humphrey’s impact will be felt for generations, it is impossible to ignore that fact. As he hands his keys over to his successor, Mathew Fete, Humphrey will watch as his labor bears fruit with two of UM’s newest academic degree programs.

Beginning in the fall of 2025, UM will launch a clinical Doctor of Occupational Therapy program, which aims to address Montana’s shortage in occupational therapists– especially in rural communities. These occupational therapists will graduate from UM prepared to provide care through outpatient clinics, schools, hospitals and community organizations.

Then fall of 2026, UM will launch the state’s first Physician Assistant Program at a public university. These physician assistants, with a focus on primary care, will help support the nearly 50 Critical Access Hospitals in Montana to ensure the continuum of care is available to all Montanans – regardless of where they reside.

These new professional programs, combined with the College of Health’s recent success, has Humphrey grateful for the opportunity to serve as dean. His career could have taken him in many directions, but he is happiest that his last and longest stop was in Missoula. As for his prediction about the trajectory of UM, he has confidence that it won’t slow down any time soon for a few specific reasons.

“There are few barriers to collaboration at UM and in Montana and that is really awesome,” Humphrey added. “And Missoula is all anyone can ask for as a place to live.”

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Contact: Dave Kuntz, UM director of strategic communications, 406-243-5659, dave.kuntz@umontana.edu



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