Winter 2013 philanthropic impact
[ Winter 2013 ]
New financial aid gifts to support international students, epidemiology students
For some students, attending Harvard School of Public Health can pose a seemingly insurmountable financial burden. Some are doctors already in debt from years of medical school; others come from foreign countries and are not eligible for assistance from the U.S. government. Others simply don’t have the money. That’s why support for financial aid is high on the School’s list of priorities.
Two new financial aid gifts will now help ease financial obstacles for students.
John and Irene Danilovich have given $250,000 to create a new endowed fellowship fund to support international students. The Danilovich Fellowship will give preference to students from Botswana, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ghana, Morocco, and Tanzania.
Ming and Snow Tsuang have contributed $100,000 for a new financial aid endowed fund to support epidemiology students. The Tsuang Financial Aid Fund will give preference to students studying psychiatric genetic epidemiology and behavioral genetics. Ming Tsuang, chair and director of behavioral genomics in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, worked at HSPH from 1985 through 2003 and still holds an appointment at the School as director of the Harvard Institute of Psychiatric Epidemiology and Genetics, an institute he founded.
The Tsuangs moved to UCSD so that they could be near their children and grandchildren, but Ming Tsuang says the couple believe it’s important to continue supporting HSPH students because “many of them become important contributors in the field of psychiatric epidemiology.”
Researchers in the field study both environmental and genetic risk factors for psychiatric disorders ranging from depression to schizophrenia to post-traumatic stress disorder. “These are important areas,” notes Tsuang. “People tend not to talk about these subjects, but the families and the patients who are affected need a lot of help in identifying the risks for these disorders. That’s the reason I’m contributing to help students.”
The Tsuangs also provide support for the epidemiology department’s Brain Health Colloquium, and Ming Tsuang has been working with epidemiology department chair Michelle Williams on ways to raise funds for an endowed chair in psychiatric epidemiology at HSPH.
Gifts such as those from the Daniloviches and the Tsuangs are crucial because they help HSPH maintain an “exceptionally diverse global student body that sets us apart from other schools,” says Dean Julio Frenk. Such gifts, he adds, “create a huge ripple effect when our graduates go on to lead public health efforts around the globe.”
Sloan Foundation grant supports research on mass transit-microbiome link
As a key player in the National Institutes of Health’s Human Mcrobiome Project, HSPH’s Curtis Huttenhower helped identify and analyze the more than 5 million microbial genes that exist in the human body—in the stomach and the mouth, on the skin, and elsewhere.
Huttenhower, assistant professor of computational biology and bioinformatics in the Department of Biostatistics, is now taking the work a step further. Along with HSPH’s John Spengler, professor of environmental health and human habitation, and colleagues from the Broad Institute, Huttenhower will examine how city subways and other forms of mass transit alter the microorganisms that ride along with passengers. The work will be supported by a $250,000 grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
The new research, says Huttenhower, “will answer for the first time whether and how high-traffic urban surfaces can stably alter the healthy adult microbiome,” and how best to protect riders from risks to their microbial health.
The Sloan Foundation, through its Microbiology of the Built Environment program, aims “to grow a new field of scientific inquiry that examines the microbial systems found in our homes, offices, and other indoor areas where people spend the vast majority of their time,” says Paula Olsiewski, program director at the foundation. “Curtis’s research into the way in which urban transportation systems might transmit microbes is an exciting, relevant, and largely unexplored area of study that we are happy to support.”