Fall 2012 Greeting
Dear Faculty, Academic Appointees, Staff and Students,
Welcome back to the Harvard School of Public Health. I hope that you have had a rejuvenating summer, and return prepared to start the new academic year with creativity and passion.
Please join me in welcoming the 547 new students arriving on campus from 45 countries around the globe. Our talented and diverse student body infuses all of our research and teaching activities with new energy and fresh perspectives. While these new HSPH students expect to learn much from us in the coming year, I suspect we will all learn much from them as well.
Powerful Ideas for a Healthier World
As we begin the new academic year, let us take a moment to reflect on the three central qualities that I believe capture what we do here at HSPH and which make us unique.
- We are a community of global leaders from a wide variety of fields.
- We work together to produce new knowledge and practical solutions through rigorous research and the effective teaching of current and future public health leaders.
- Our work improves the health and transforms the lives of people everywhere, informing and influencing everything from individual habits to health care systems and government policies.
As part of our extensive branding initiative, we have recently introduced a new tagline for the School of Public Health – Powerful Ideas for a Healthier World – which I believe embraces what we all aspire to create in our work. My goal as dean is to help the HSPH community contribute to the creation of powerful ideas that will help people live healthier lives.
HSPH faculty members have been extremely productive this summer in their research endeavors and efforts to translate research into policy. For example, HSPH research pinpointing the life and death effects of states failing to expand Medicaid made headlines across the country. Members of our faculty reported on efforts to analyze the vast human “microbiome.” Others of our faculty identified how a key inflammatory pathway in the body is regulated, which could yield potential new targets for drug therapies. And members of our research community provided some of the most motivating information to date about why we need to move more and sit less, suggesting that sitting for more than three hours a day may shorten a person’s life by two years, even if that person is a physically active non-smoker. The far-reaching effects of these and the many other powerful ideas being developed by our community contribute immeasurably to a healthier world.
HSPH Approaches Its 100th Anniversary
The 2012-2013 academic year is a pivotal one for HSPH on many levels. In 2013, the School will celebrate its Centennial, the planning for which is well underway.
In 1913, a group of foresighted faculty members at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology created the Harvard-MIT School for Health Officers, which, as the immediate precursor to HSPH, can claim to be the longest continuously running higher education program in public health. The field of public health is credited with increasing life expectancy for the average American an astonishing 25 years during the 20th century, thanks to the development of vaccines for infectious diseases, improvements in auto safety and occupational health reforms, cleaner water and improved air quality, reductions in smoking, among other advances. Many of these improvements in health are the result of powerful ideas and new knowledge that were created at our School.
Education Enhancements: Roadmap to 2013 and EdX
Much has changed since our early days as an institution. Research and technology continue to develop at such a rapid pace that what and how we teach our students must continue to evolve rapidly as well. In response to the Report of a Global Independent Commission that I co-chaired with Dr. Lincoln Chen, published in The Lancet in December 2010, we have embarked upon what we are calling the “Roadmap to 2013,” a multi-year comprehensive review of our educational strategy. The goal of the Roadmap is to guide the next century of teaching and learning at HSPH and to help define the future direction of higher education in public health. The focus of our Roadmap efforts is to update the School’s doctoral and master’s programs to better support the education of future public health leaders both in research and in professional practice.
In conjunction with the Roadmap process, we are enthusiastic participants in edX, a new online education platform that will draw on the faculty, research, and institutional backing of Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of California, Berkeley. HSPH will be unveiling one of the first two Harvard edX courses—on biostatistics and epidemiology— later this fall.
Reaching Current Public Health Leaders
In June, HSPH and the Harvard Kennedy School jointly held the first Ministerial Leadership in Health Program, which was extremely well-received. The program was kicked off with an annual Ministers Forum attended by 16 ministers of health from all developing regions of the world, which included an intense three days on campus, in which former public health leaders and HSPH faculty provided advice and coaching support to ministers tackling key public health challenges in their home nations.
For expert leaders who have recently held high-level public health positions, there are also now opportunities to spend time on campus and share expertise with students and work with faculty as Senior Leadership Fellows. Current Fellows include David Mwakyusa, Tanzania’s former Minister of Health and Social Welfare, who joins us this fall. Meanwhile, our Executive and Continuing Professional Education Program, under new leadership, is ramping up and diversifying the options it provides for public health practitioners and leaders throughout their careers.
Complicated Funding Landscape
In the midst of these exciting activities across the School, however, we must remain ever mindful of the complicated research funding landscape. The upcoming Presidential and Congressional elections in the U.S. this November, and the budget challenges faced by the federal government, will have a significant impact on the future of scientific research. HSPH, as many of you know, receives approximately 70 percent of its revenue from sponsored research, primarily from the federal government.
Despite the challenges that we face in this complicated funding environment, we remain committed to strengthening our School. Since becoming dean, one of my primary objectives has been to steer the School towards greater diversification of its revenue sources to protect and expand our excellence. I am pleased to report that the expansion of our fundraising efforts has begun to have a positive impact on our financial condition, with the Office of External Relations and our faculty jointly raising more than $63.7 million in gifts and pledges from all non-federal government sources, compared to $47.0 million in FY2011 and $24.7 million in FY2010. While only a portion of these funds are available for current use, these strong pledge commitments are expected to bear fruit inthe coming years. We continue to look at other ways to diversify our revenue, including an expansion of our executive education offerings and a fuller exploration of the opportunities indistance learning.
Through a combination of revenue enhancements and budget tightening, we cut the School’s non-sponsored operating deficit from $12.0 million in 2011 to $7.6million in 2012. I am very appreciative of all of you who have been affected in both small and large ways by the necessary reductions in certain expenditures, and those of you who have contributed ideas on how to be more efficient in our practices. We continue to look for ways to improve our financial position, with a goal to balance the School’s budget by 2015.
I am happy to report that Linda Brady—who served as my Chief of Staff for nearly three years before taking a senior role at Yale School of Public Health—has agreed to return to her previous position at HSPH to help me and the senior team support you in your efforts.
As we embark on a new academic year, let us all continue to think creatively about how we can contribute to our shared mission to protect the health and improve the quality of life of all people. I am enthusiastic about what we can accomplish together in the coming year. I look forward to the opportunity to work with each of you as we develop new, innovative, and powerful ideas for a healthier world.
Dean of Faculty
September 7, 2012