Fall 2012 philanthropic impact
[ Fall 2012 ]
This month, as in every September for nearly the last century, a new group of students walks through the doors of Harvard School of Public Health. Like the generations before them, they enter with hope, excitement, maybe a touch of fear—and with plans to change the world.
There’s no better place for them to do so than at HSPH. From the classroom studies on Huntington Avenue to hands-on lessons in developing countries, our students transform the health of millions. And when people’s health improves through disease prevention and health promotion, so, too, do the economies of their countries. As Dean Julio Frenk says, “Investing in health is not only the right thing to do on ethical grounds, but it is also the smart thing to do in order to achieve economic prosperity.” As our cover story, Public Health and the Economy, shows, public health is a critical economic engine.
Here at HSPH, philanthropy is the financial fuel that powers everything HSPH accomplishes. Without the generosity of all of our donors—from the 1,400-plus alumni who supported us this year to the largest of foundations—our work simply could not happen. One case in point: With their gift of $5 million, Jonathan and Jeannie Lavine have established the Lavine Family Humanitarian Studies Initiative, as part of the new Humanitarian Academy within the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI). Directed by HSPH professor of global health and population Michael VanRooyen, HHI advances the science and practice of humanitarian response worldwide. The Lavines’ transformative gift has enabled the creation of a first-of-its-kind global resource for educating and training leaders to respond to crises caused by war, genocide, and natural disasters.
I am delighted to report that this year, our contributors have been more generous than ever, supporting the School with a landmark total of $63.7 million. To all of you who have given your time, talent, and treasure, know that you are making an extraordinary difference in people’s lives—here on campus and throughout the world. I cannot thank you enough.
Vice Dean for External Relations
Transformative Education for Public Health Leaders
Killer infections. A dramatic rise in chronic diseases. Environmental emergencies. Unequal access to medical care. These problems—just a few of the daunting public health issues facing the world today—demand not only wide-ranging expertise, but also inspired leadership. To help future public health leaders meet this challenge, a $5 million gift has been made to Harvard School of Public Health to fund a “Leadership Incubator for Strengthening Health Systems.” The gift is a key component of the “Roadmap to 2013,” a comprehensive review of HSPH’s educational strategy, which is being undertaken as the School approaches its centennial in fall 2013.
The Leadership Incubator for Strengthening Health Systems is expected to be supported by an anonymous gift of $5 million—the largest gift ever made to HSPH in support of education.
Breaking the Mold
According to Dean Julio Frenk, the incubator will foster changes in education that will “break the mold,” pushing the traditional discipline-based boundaries of academia, research, and public health. It will encourage a greater focus in coursework on the importance of leadership and on the complexities—political, economic, and social—of achieving global improvements in public health. “A new doctor of public health (DrPH) degree that we envision, for example, will be oriented toward competencies in high-level policy analysis and problem-solving leadership,” he said. “This gift will enable us to continue as the leading school of public health—first in quality as well as first in our capacity to shape the future.”
“We have followed with admiration the work of the School for more than two decades, and this initiative is one of the most exciting things that we have seen during this period,” the donors said. “It speaks to our deep belief in the power of young people—in particular, this generation of young people—to change the world.”
A key component of the gift supports students at all levels of experience and creates opportunities for them to learn from each other. Another unique and important part of the gift supports faculty members’ efforts to work with alumni and other public health leaders to create state-of-the-art curricula, new teaching methods, technology enhanced learning, and an immersive and life-changing educational experience for professional degree students.
Under a proposal to redesign the DrPH degree, for example, 25 outstanding students, beginning in 2014, will be named each year as “Centennial Fellows”; 10 will be supported by the new gift. Students will complete two years of coursework, bolstered by case studies, crisis simulations, and field experience, followed by an innovative third-year internship experience that serves as the capstone to the degree.
The Leadership Incubator is also expected to sustain already established leaders at various points in their careers. For current leaders, HSPH has already initiated a Ministerial Leadership in Health Program, an intensive five-day campus-based program for ministers of health, which is followed by year-long support from experienced public health experts and HSPH faculty. Meanwhile, leaders who have recently held high-level public health positions can spend time on campus as “Senior Leadership Fellows,” sharing expertise with students and project work with faculty members. And a new joint initiative with Harvard Business School will give advanced leaders the chance to study major social problems that shape health.
Primed to Make an Impact
“HSPH’s new Leadership Incubator will provide the impetus for a paradigm shift in educating entrepreneurial public health students—both young and old, less experienced and more—who will be primed to make the greatest possible impact on the health challenges of the 21st century,” said Ian Lapp, associate dean for strategic educational initiatives. “We are extremely grateful for this historic gift, which will enable us to live out the spirit of our centennial celebration by beginning our second century with innovations in the education of today’s and tomorrow’s leaders.”
New Scholarship Supports Doctoral Students in Nutrition, Honors Willett
Prajna—a Sanskrit word that conveys ultimate wisdom—is the name of a new scholarship for doctoral students in the HSPH Department of Nutrition that was established to recognize the leadership and distinction of the department’s chair, Walter Willett. The first Prajna Scholar—Neha Khandpur of India—envisions a career focused on obesity prevention in disadvantaged population groups.
The new Prajna Chair’s Scholarship in Public Health Nutrition, created through an anonymous gift of $1.75 million, will provide opportunities for highly accomplished and motivated but financially underprivileged students to study at HSPH. The donors hope that, in particular, the scholarship benefits students from economically challenged countries.
“This scholarship will afford me the academic freedom to really think about my education and career in public health nutrition and to really find my calling,” said Khandpur, who has worked in India as a nutrition and fitness consultant and for the Public Health Foundation of India, which propelled her desire to influence nutrition not just one-on-one but in populations. “It’s really exciting.”
“Neha is a very good fit for this scholarship,” said Willett. “She already has quite a bit of experience working in India on nutrition programs and she’s planning to return to India to work in this area. The scholarship underscores what our department is all about—working at the very cutting edge of science, but also applying this knowledge to solve real problems of real people in the real world.”
The word Prajna (pronounced Pra´-gyia) refers to wisdom that cannot be reached by developing intellect alone, but includes insight from experience and understanding gained through engagement with the world. The donors chose this word because it aptly describes Willett, whose wisdom and insight has fueled his major contributions to public health nutrition. Likewise, the donors hope that the scholarship will encourage its recipients to merge intellect and practice together to compassionately advance the welfare of humanity, and to become leaders in the field of public health nutrition, like Willett. They also hope their gift will inspire others to support both students and faculty at HSPH.
Willett said that now, more than ever, support of students and faculty is critical because of cutbacks in HSPH’s major funding source, the National Institutes of Health. “If someone wants to give to a worthy cause, supporting a doctoral student is probably one of the very best things they can do,” Willett said. “It’s investing in people who, for decades in the future, will make a real difference in the world. The multiplication effect is huge.”