UW-CTRI Promotes Karen Conner to be the Next Outreach Director

Karen Conner
Karen Conner

Karen Conner will be the next UW-CTRI Outreach Director, taking over for Rob Adsit, who is retiring. She will begin on March 16 in an interim role while Adsit is on leave and will officially become the Outreach Director on July 1 when Adsit’s retirement is official.

“I am so pleased that our own Karen Conner has accepted our offer to serve as director of our center’s outreach program,” said UW-CTRI Director Dr. Michael Fiore. “Karen assumes this position with a wealth of experiences, including leading a tobacco control program in Alaska for many years. Over the last three years with us at the center, she has expertly managed the COVID project, as well as our behavioral health and smoking project, all while increasingly participating in key outreach activities. Please join me in congratulating Karen as she assumes this core center role!”

Conner said she’s excited about the transition. “I learned about the work being done at UW-CTRI in the early years of my career,” Conner said. “I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to continue the legacy that has been established here, and to lead the Outreach Program in continuing the amazing work they have done to change systems to better address tobacco use, not only here in Wisconsin but all throughout the United States.”

Conner will aid the regional outreach specialists serving Wisconsin in the work they do with healthcare professionals, healthcare systems, behavioral health systems, and community members. She’ll provide support and assistance with planning, implementation and evaluation of outreach projects.

“Karen’s career of working in tobacco prevention and control make her an excellent individual to lead the outreach program,” said UW-CTRI Regional Outreach Specialist Sarah Thompson. “Her management experience, along with her understanding of the evidence base and complexities of health systems change, will support continued growth of the program in a positive direction.”

“What is motivating about moving into this position is that I have already developed strong working relationships with the regional outreach specialists,” Conner said. “They are very good at what they do—working with so many healthcare and behavioral health systems across the state to address tobacco use. I’m looking forward to leading them in this work and learning from them along the way. My hope is that, together, we can think about where there are still gaps in tobacco treatment and think creatively about how to reach those systems and providers to help their clients quit.”

Adsit said that, as his retirement quickly approaches, he feels good about the state of the UW-CTRI Outreach Program. “The four regional outreach specialists are each experienced and thriving in their work,” he said. “The Outreach Program funding is strong and our relationship with our primary funder continues to be extremely collaborative, productive, and mutually beneficial. Karen Conner, as incoming UW-CTRI Outreach Director, has been and is well-poised to continue the robust work, deliverables, relationships, collaborations, and funding for the Outreach Program.”

Conner said she has learned a lot from Adsit, who for years has empowered the Outreach Program to take UW-CTRI research findings and help healthcare professionals integrate those findings into their practice.

“In the past several years,” Conner said, “more research has focused on how to help populations who use tobacco at the highest rates quit tobacco. We know that these populations have an equal or greater desire to quit but are less likely to use evidence-based tobacco treatment. As the new Outreach Director, I look forward to thinking more about how to continue to change systems to reach these populations—to think beyond the traditional health care system—and determine where to best intervene with people who experience the most challenges and barriers that might be preventing them from quitting. I sincerely appreciate and value what Rob has put into the program for the past 20 years.

Conner’s first official day as UW-CTRI Outreach Director, July 1, will coincide with the first official day for the new UW-CTRI Director Dr. Hasmeena Kathuria.

Outreach team
The UW-CTRI Outreach team manages the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line and works with healthcare systems to integrate best practices and research findings on tobacco treatment. They appreciate the funding and support of the state of Wisconsin Health Services.