Kay Professorship attracts leader in maternal and infant health

Stephen Kay

Stephen Kay

Winter 2012 ]

Stephen Kay decided to establish a new professorship in epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health with a straightforward goal: to alleviate sickness and reduce deaths. Kay, who has also supported student financial aid at HSPH, called the School “extraordinary.”

Kay, AB ’56, MBA ’58, PA, a Goldman Sachs senior director and longtime Harvard supporter, said the first person to be named the Stephen B. Kay Family Professor of Public Health—Michelle Williams, who is the new chair of the Department of Epidemiology—has conducted impressive research on the health of mothers and infants. “I hope that her work can save lives,” he said.

Formerly a professor of epidemiology and global health at the University of Washington School of Public Health, Williams is an expert in women’s reproductive health and child health. Her work focuses on integrating genomic sciences and epidemiological research methods to identify risk factors, diagnostic markers, treatments, and prevention targets for disorders that contribute to maternal and infant mortality. She currently has research and teaching collaborations with epidemiologists in Chile, Ethiopia, Peru, and Thailand.

David Hunter, Vincent L. Gregory Professor in Cancer Prevention and Dean for Academic Affairs, commented that in addition to conducting important research, Williams has “a stellar track record of mentoring.” Earlier this year, President Barack Obama presented Williams with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring.

Hunter added that having named chairs provides crucial support for department leadership, such as setting strategic direction or recruiting talented faculty. The establishment of the Kay Professorship, he said, “was very helpful in trying to attract Michelle here from her highly successful, well-established career at the University of Washington.”

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