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The Key to Public Health: Interdisciplinary Collaboration

Oklahoma Pride Cover Page Final Book


Oklahoma Pride: Working Together for the Well-Being of All Oklahomans

Oklahoma Pride: Working Together for the Well-Being of All Oklahomans was the brain-child of longtime business and civic leader Gene Rainbolt. Rainbolt and Dr. Gary E. Raskob (who served as the dean of the Hudson College of Public Health at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center at the time) assembled a committee of subject-matter experts to determine the book’s discussion topics. Dr. Raskob was also the public health content advisor and editor. In a joint review, University of Oklahoma President Joseph Harroz Jr. and then-president of Oklahoma State University Burns Hargis heralded the book as a call to action to improve health across our state.

After the subject matter experts selected the main health indicators, OU art students used them as inspiration to produce hundreds of images and social media campaigns over several months. While the book starkly documents the facts regarding Oklahoma’s current state of health, the intent was not to criticize. “The involvement of OU visual arts students made this book unique. As our next generation of leaders, today’s students will bear the consequences of these challenges, and viewing these issues from their perspective was a critical aspect of this project,” Rainbolt said.

“It was both a privilege and a pleasure to work on this book in partnership with a great community leader, Gene Rainbolt,” Raskob said. 

Former Commissioner of Health Terry Cline, who also served as one of the book’s public health content advisers, explained the comprehensive approach to the project. “The basis for this book emphasizes the interlocking nature of three areas: health, education, and poverty,” Cline said. “It was important that the solutions outlined in the book avoided the all-too-common mistake of directing funds away from one area in an attempt to improve the other areas. This book offers a strategic, multi-year vision, informed by data to measure progress.”

The Vision

Use art and imagery to start a social conversation focused on Oklahoma’s greatest challenges around health and the critical relationships between health, education, and the economy. This idea inspired an innovative interdisciplinary collaboration between the Hudson College of Public Health and the School of Visual Arts within the OU Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts.

The Result

A book that combined the students’ artwork with public health expertise to create a profound and touching depiction of health outcomes and determinants using real-time statistics. Through the lens of art, the book’s collaborators hoped this visual storytelling would inspire the state’s leaders and citi¬zens alike to work hand-in-hand to forge a healthier, more prosperous Oklahoma.


Sharon Neuwald, Consultant and former Chief of Staff and Director of Policy and Legislative Relations, Oklahoma Department of Human Services

Terry L. Cline, former Oklahoma Commissioner of Health

Jeffrey Dismukes, Director of Communications, Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

Diane Joy-Sisemore, Senior Vice President, BancFirst

Karen Hayes-Thuman, Professor of Art and Design, School of Visual Art, Weitzenhoffer Family College of Fine Arts at the University of Oklahoma

Kelly Dyer Fry, former Editor and Publisher, The Oklahoman

James Tolbert, Owner, Full Circle Bookstore (and Full Circle Press)

VaLauna Grissom, Special Assistant, Hudson College of Public Health at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center