2011 Alumni Award of Merit winners
[ Winter 2012 ]
Alumni Award of Merit winners on why public health is compelling
Each year, Harvard School of Public Health awards four distinguished graduates the Alumni Award of Merit—the highest honor presented to an alumna or alumnus. The award is given to individuals whose leadership, community service, contributions, and commitment to the field of public health exemplify the School’s ideals.
Alumni Weekend 2011
Hugh S. Fulmer, MPH ’61
For a career spent putting public health theory into practice through community-oriented health care and preventive medicine programs.
From 1958–1960, I worked at the Navajo-Cornell Field Health Research Project at Many Farms, on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona, as clinic medical director and research associate. I was repeatedly confronted with what I didn’t know about public health and the science of epidemiology. An HSPH physician grad student, visiting us as a consultant, helped me see my ignorance. We had cases of anemia on the reservation. In preparation for his arrival, I had pulled the charts of all 36 patients with anemia from our clinic’s family- and community oriented record system. He looked through them and said, “You have a significant public health problem. But to study it further, you can’t just review their charts as a clinician—you have to take a random sample of the whole community, get hematocrits, establish the prevalence of anemia in the population.” That episode was startling to me. Not only was it part of my introduction to “denominator” medicine, but it sparked a career-long focus on the need for merging medicine and public health in education and practice.
J. M. Yolene Vaval Suréna, MPH ’81
For decades of on-the-ground work addressing public health challenges and disaster response in
her native Haiti.
Day Six after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, we were tired, food was scarce, and we had been sleeping on small mattresses outside for only a few hours at a time. The city smelled bad, flies were all over the place, and we were threatened with rain. The teams were showing signs of exhaustion.
Around 6:45 am, I dropped a medical team at a hospital and congratulated the night shift for its work,
putting smiles on exhausted faces. I attended the 7:00am meeting between national and international head agencies to plan and coordinate responses with the Prime Minister and prepare his address to the nation. By 10:00 am, I had located 200 tents and sent a team to set them up. Everyone’s determination was inspiring.
William N. Rom, MPH ’73
For contributions to environmental and occupational medicine through clinical research, public policy, and advocacy for the underserved.
In July, I work on the wards at Bellevue, when we get all the new interns and fellows. We hear half a dozen different languages from our patients—from Farsi and Bengali to Polish, Mandarin, and Spanish. These patients are really sick. Deciphering their illnesses and deciding how to manage them is a huge challenge.
What I’ve learned over the years is that public health is science-based. Once you have the data and the scientific argument down pat, you can win the day. I’ve also learned about the importance of perseverance. Whether it’s going after grants or trying to achieve something, you just have to keep at it. You are one little cog in the wheel—but your little contribution helps make the wheel go around.
Earl Francis Cook, Jr., SM ’77, SD ’83
For contributions to clinical epidemiology and impassioned teaching and mentorship.
In public health and clinical medicine, epidemiology is a core basic science—if not the core basic science. It involves a set of skills that is used in other areas of public health. One epidemiology professor used to say “It’s the queen science of public health.” As a teacher, the best thing is to see our students become teachers. I take great pride in the Program in Clinical Effectiveness that we helped develop in Argentina, which is modeled after our program at Harvard; our students at Harvard became faculty in Argentina’s program. It’s a lot more effective to take the training program to the audience than to bring the audience to Harvard.
New Awards Honor Trailblazers in Public Health
In 2011, HSPH awarded three new alumni awards: the Emerging Public Health Professional Award, the Leadership Award in Public Health Practice, and the Public Health Innovator
Hilarie Cranmer, MPH ’04
For leadership in humanitarian work and commitment to teaching.
My interest in public health became clear when I worked in Kosovo for Physicians for Human Rights, shortly after the war and the return of the refugees, documenting war crimes. It was obvious I needed more of a skill set to deal with the complex milieu of health concerns, crimes, water, health structure. Eyes open! I was thrown into the thick of it. I continued to have this passion for the humanitarian field. And having an MPH is like carrying a green card when you want to do international health—it is the recognized currency of global work training. A background in public health helps you make sense of what you’re seeing, by looking at the statistics, by understanding the data and trends, and by gaining insight into the bigger picture. It’s a much grander scale than working with an individual. Whether your patient is malnourished, has measles, or has
just come across a border crossing: How do you put a voice to the issue? How do you have a bigger impact on the community that this patient represents? What truly lies behind what you are seeing? This patient with measles represents a much larger breakdown of a health care system: How do we heal that larger problem?
Public Health Innovator Award
Trishan Panch, MPH ’10
For envisioning the potential of mHealth through Sana Mobile and improving health care access worldwide.
HSPH redefines what is possible. It sets a higher floor for what’s possible and raises the ceiling—in fact, it removes the ceiling. What particularly fascinates me is using creativity and science together to impact public health problems. I want to create the conditions for people in technology to say to people in public health, “I’d like to solve health problems and have an impact on the world by using my engineering skills.” And for public health professionals to say to technologists, “I have this idea, but I don’t know how to do it and I feel technology could have an impact.” There’s a lot of creativity in the public health community, but it is often not nurtured. I want to be a part of defining a new path for public health action.
Leadership Award in Public Health Practice
Françoise Bouchard, MPH ’86
For contributions to equitable delivery of care and commitment to public health in Canada.
My work in the Canadian correctional system placed me inan environment where there were conflicting values: One focused on restriction and punishment, the other on rehabilitation. As a public health professional, we need to recognize these different value sets in order to advance a health agenda. Over time, we were able to gain funding and enhance programs such as HIV, Hepatitis C, and methadone treatment, as well as mental health services. We do get into trouble when challenging the status quo. But by applying a public health and population perspective to organizations and societal issues, we create transformative value.
Adrianne Appel is a Boston-based science writer.