Harvard Public Health Review Winter 2007
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Leaders worth folowing: HSPH celebrates distinguished faculty and alumni

When I first arrived as Dean of the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), it was made clear to me that the role of Harvard University--and the task of every School dean--is to train leaders, and to create an intellectual environment for students and faculty alike in which their intelligence, creativity, and potential for leadership can develop. In October, we at the School had occasion to reflect on the qualities of leadership in public health and on our success in enabling our graduates to achieve national and international leadership, when we bestowed the School's highest honor, the annual Julius B. Richmond Award, upon two extraordinarily creative and effective public health leaders: William H. Foege, MPH '65, SD '97, former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Julius B. Richmond, the award's namesake, is an emeritus professor at HSPH and Harvard Medical School, and a former U.S. Surgeon General. His innumerable achievements have set the highest of standards for public health leadership. Dr. Richmond was the creator and first director of the national Head Start Program, the originator of the Healthy People report that first established measurable benchmarks for the nation's health, and the author of Smoking and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General (1979), which definitively established the causal link between smoking and cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Honoring two innovators
In 1966, having earned his MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health and trained at the CDC, Dr. Bill Foege volunteered as a medical missionary to work on a smallpox eradication effort in remote areas of Nigeria. With too little vaccine to treat all the villagers in a series of outbreaks, Foege devised a successful targeted strategy that began with family members and contacts, and moved outward based on social and transportation patterns, using vaccine only where there was an outbreak. This strategy broke transmission of the virus and became the strategy that would ultimately eradicate smallpox worldwide. Later as chief of the CDC's smallpox eradication program in the 1970s, Foege was able to persuade health officials in India to undertake this novel containment strategy in combination with traditional approaches to immunizing populations. The infection rate on the subcontinent, at the time the world's highest, fell with astonishing speed--to zero within a year.

Foege's success in the global eradication of smallpox--the first human pathogen to be eliminated worldwide--represents a milestone in public health and completely changed our thinking about how to contain epidemics.

From 1977 to 1983, Foege served as the CDC's director, one of six HSPH graduates since 1962 to do so. In 1984, Foege created and directed the Task Force for Child Survival and Development, through which the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program, and the Rockefeller Foundation made a commitment to vaccinate all the children of the world against infectious childhood diseases. That collaborative effort led to a dramatic increase in childhood vaccination, from just 20 percent of all children in 1984 to almost 80 percent in 1990.

Anthony Fauci is a renowned HIV/AIDS investigator who, as head of NIAID since 1984, has been a visionary both in the fight against AIDS and in anticipating scientific needs relating to bioterrorism and pandemic infectious diseases such as SARS and influenza. Under his leadership, NIAID has grown from the sixth to the second largest of the NIH institutes. At a time when AIDS was seen only as a strange disease limited to gay men, Dr. Fauci realized that HIV's devastating effect on the immune system made AIDS a potential global catastrophe.

Fauci was compelling in persuading our government to make a massive commitment to understanding both the virus and the disease, and to mobilizing the scientific community in these efforts. Equally important, he enlisted the support of the activist community and became an extraordinary spokesperson in the halls of Congress and the White House. Tony Fauci exhibited a level of honesty, integrity, and courage that moved this country to a greater commitment to preventing and treating HIV/AIDS domestically and internationally.

Both of these individuals changed the course of public health and history, and it was a privilege for us to honor them and to have them present their inspiring commentaries, along with Dr. Richmond's reflections.

At the head of their class
Let me mention a few additional alumni and faculty who have been recognized as representing the kind of leadership we have always aspired to nurture at HSPH.
Dr. Gro Haarlem Brundtland earned her MPH at the School in 1965 on a scholarship. She served Norway for 10 years as its first female prime minister and was, at 41, the country's youngest leader. In the 1980s she gained international recognition while championing the principles of sustainable development as chair of the World Commission of Environment and Development. She served as director-general of WHO from 1998 to 2003, defining the organization as the "moral voice and technical leader in improving health for the people of the world."

At November's annual meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA), in Boston, HSPH alumni took top domestic leadership honors. Jonathan Fielding, MPH '71, director of public health for Los Angeles County, received the Sedgwick Memorial Medal for Distinguished Public Health, the oldest and most prestigious award given by APHA. (Fielding was also in Boston in June of this year to accept HSPH's Alumni Award of Merit.) Adam Finkel, SD '87, professor of environmental and occupational health at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey's School of Public Health, was given the David P. Rall Award for Advocacy in Public Health.

At a recent meeting of the American Statistical Association, our biostatistics faculty won the "Triple Crown" of awards in their field. Louise Ryan, our newly appointed chair of the Department of Biostatistics, won acknowledgment as a role model and leader among women, particularly for her work with students from underrepresented minority groups. Professor Marvin Zelen was recognized for lifetime achievement, while Xihong Lin, an innovator in complex methods used to interpret data with greater precision, was chosen for outstanding contributions by a statistician aged 40 or younger.

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Photo: Getty Images-Santokh Kotchar

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