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

HSPH 'Geniuses'
This year we were delighted when alumnus and faculty member Atul Gawande became the fourth member of the HSPH faculty to win the prestigious MacArthur Foundation "genius" fellowship. These $500,000, no-strings-attached awards are presented to individuals who have displayed exceptional levels of originality and creativity, so that they might advance their maverick pursuits unfettered by financial constraints.

Dr. Gawande wields pen and scalpel with equal dexterity. An assistant professor in our Department of Health Policy and Management and a surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston, Gawande is the author of the best seller Complications: A Surgeon's Notes on an Imperfect Science and also writes about medicine and public health for The New Yorker magazine and the New England Journal of Medicine. At HSPH, he is at the vanguard of health systems research, with a focus on reducing surgical errors. He earned his MPH here in 1999, beginning with our Program in Clinical Effectiveness for mid-career physicians.

Professor Sue Goldie, MPH '97, also in our Department of Health Policy and Management, received a MacArthur Award in 2005. She uses the tools of decision science to evaluate the clinical benefits and cost-effectiveness of alternative ways of preventing and treating viral diseases that represent major public health problems. Her focus in recent years has been on HIV, hepatitis B, and human papilloma virus (HPV), the leading cause of cervical cancer and a major cancer killer of women in developing countries. Her analytical work was instrumental in establishing the cost-effectiveness of antiretroviral treatment of HIV/AIDS and provided support for the CDC's decision this year to recommend the HPV vaccine for girls and women ages 11 to 26.

Another MacArthur winner and a major leader on the global health stage is Dr. Jim Yong Kim, who recently joined HSPH as the new director of our Francois Xavier-Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights. Dr. Kim came to us from WHO where, as director of its HIV/AIDS unit, he took the lead in holding world leaders accountable for making treatment accessible in poor countries through the "3 by 5" program, established to treat three million people within five years. While that goal was not achieved, setting a measurable target changed the way we frame priorities and accountability for health.

Kim, who is also Brigham and Women's chief of the Division of Social Medicine and Health Inequalities, received the 2003 MacArthur Award for his work with Paul Farmer, who, like Kim, is a physician at the hospital and a professor at Harvard Medical School. Together they founded Partners in Health, a nonprofit organization whose programs have increased tuberculosis cure rates and lowered the cost of treating multi-drug resistant TB among the poor in Haiti and Peru. These goals were achieved by introducing the radical strategy of community-based treatment, which engages local villagers, most of them not literate, to deliver treatment and ensure compliance.

Our longest-standing MacArthur Fellow is Joel Schwartz, a professor in the Department of Environmental Health. Schwartz, who received his award in 1991 while working at the Environmental Protection Agency, is the person we have to thank for having lead-free gasoline in our cars--a policy that keeps toxic emissions from fouling the air and ruining our health. His work required not only rigorous science, but the courage to stand up to enormous pressure from those who opposed environmental regulation.

Others associated with HSPH, too, have captured MacArthur Fellowships. In 2003, Nawal Nour, who received her MPH from HSPH in 1999, received the award for her work in providing treatment, including reconstructive surgery, for women who have undergone genital cutting, and for raising global awareness about the issue.

We are very proud of the contributions of our alumni and faculty, and I could describe the achievements of many more in this country and around the world. But here I need to acknowledge that there are many more of our alumni who provide leadership in communities, in local, state, and federal governments, and in national and international agencies and health organizations, who may not have received the degree of recognition I have described or visibility that they deserve. I am very pleased to take this occasion to honor each for his or her contributions to improving the public's health.

The Next Generation
Albert Einstein, when asked to identify the most important discovery in mathematics, answered: "compound interest." Einstein was right, but there is no compound interest that offers greater returns than the education of young people.
Just last spring, HSPH awarded degrees to 336 students in our 83rd graduating class. More than half the students were women; nearly one-third came from 58 foreign countries. These outstanding graduates are now hard at work throughout the world at universities, in government, and in the private sector. They are engaged in teaching, in research, and in shaping health policy. They share a passion for making this world a healthier place, and something more--the qualities of leadership.

It is no exaggeration to say that these are some of the brightest, most determined, and most creative individuals on the planet. It is they who will battle emerging infections and old foes, such as malaria, TB, and HIV/AIDS, and fight for equitable, affordable, quality health care, to achieve, as WHO's constitution states, "the highest attainable standard of health ... one of the fundamental rights of every human being, without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition."

Barry R. Bloom
Dean, Harvard School of Public Health
Joan L. and Julius H. Jacobson Professor of Public Health

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Photo: Getty Images-Santokh Kotchar

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