Dean’s message: Singular vision

[ Spring/Summer 2012 ]

Dean Julio Frenk

Public health centers on improving the physical and mental well-being of people everywhere. But even with this deep-rooted interest in the common good, it often takes visionary individuals to pave the way to scientific breakthroughs and policy reform. This issue of the magazine features Harvard School of Public Health faculty and students who are striking out in new directions in their mission to improve the health of many.

A delegation of Harvard School of Public Health friends and faculty members led by Dean Julio Frenk traveled to India in March 2012.  Pictured: Dean Frenk and Swati Piramal, MPH ’92, at the Piramal Healthcare Life Sciences Facility in Mumbai.

The cover story on health policy eminence Bill Hsiao portrays a man who combines economic erudition with patience, tact, and a singularly humane touch—all in the service of promoting enlightened health care among governments throughout the world. The feature on “big data” showcases HSPH researchers Sarah Fortune, Winston Hide, Victor De Gruttola, Pardis Sabeti, and doctoral student David Reshef, who are drawing on fresh approaches to analyze giant datasets for hidden clues to disease. Three of the School’s leading practitioners in humanitarian relief—Jennifer Leaning, Michael Van Rooyen, and Parveen Parmar—discuss the frontline challenges of making their visions a reality.

The Spring/Summer 2012 issue also showcases alumna Kate Powis and master’s candidate Rob Buelow, who recast their lives to recast the public health enterprise. The Q&A with environmental epidemiologist Philippe Grandjean illuminates how a scientific hunch led to a major new direction in environmental health research. And the Off the Cuff quote from molecular entomologist Flaminia Catteruccia reveals how creativity and persistence in the mosquito-breeding lab may usher in new methods for controlling malaria.

The essence of public health has always been a comprehensive curiosity, motivated by a desire to change the world. But as this issue of the magazine reminds us, the engine of scientific progress is fueled by individual passion.

Julio Frenk
Dean of the Faculty and T & G Angelopoulos Professor of Public Health and International Development, Harvard School of Public Health