David Linn Edsall: 1922-1935
Under Dean Edsall, the School emerged as a leading research and training center in the fields of sanitary engineering, tropical medicine, and industrial medicine. School scientists amplified the power of serums and vaccines; conducted important studies in poliomyelitis, sleeping sickness, and hookworm; and studied the special needs of premature infants and of individuals afflicted with mental illness. Edsall was an early and strong proponent of medical education reform.
Cecil Drinker: 1935-1942
An eminent physiologist and the School’s first full-time dean, Dean Drinker initiated groundbreaking studies in industrial medicine, bacteriology, and child development. The School dramatically expanded enrollment and, for the first time, admitted women as candidates for degrees. Drinker’s younger brother, Philip Drinker, invented the first widely used iron lung.
Edward G. Huber: Acting Dean, 1942-1946
Acting Dean Huber steered the School through the extreme shortages of money and personnel during World War II, and paved the way for an institution that was fully autonomous from Harvard Medical School.
James Stevens Simmons: 1946-1954
A School graduate—as well as a physician, soldier and scientist—Dean Simmons pushed for an expanded national commitment to train public health professionals. He called upon the nation’s schools of medicine to place increased emphasis on preventive medicine. Before joining the School, Simmons had studied malaria, dengue, and other tropical scourges, and developed a preventive medicine program that safeguarded the health of men in the military during World War II.
John C. Snyder: 1954-1971
A bacteriologist, Dean Snyder had come to the School to study rickettsial diseases, international health, and population control. He established the Department of Demography and Human Ecology—the first such department in any school of public health. He also created a University-wide center for population studies and a department of behavioral sciences. Snyder left a legacy of new facilities, academic centers, faculty expansion, and educational excellence that imprinted the School with much of its present-day character.
Howard H. Hiatt: 1972-1984
A Harvard-trained physician and former physician-in-chief at the Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Hospital, Dean Hiatt defined health and health care in the broadest possible terms. During his tenure, he strengthened and broadened work in quantitative analytic sciences, introduced molecular and cell biology into the School’s research and teaching, and created its program in health policy and management—the first in a public health school. Hiatt is currently associate chief and co-founder of the Division of Global Health Equity at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
Harvey V. Fineberg: 1984-1997
A visionary and eloquent public health advocate, Dean Fineberg launched interdisciplinary centers and programs, including the Harvard AIDS Initiative, the Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention, the Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease, and the Harvard Center for Children’s Health. He strongly promoted a health and human rights agenda, molecular epidemiology, health communications, and research in public health practice. Fineberg served two consecutive terms as president of the Institute of Medicine (2002-2014).
James H. Ware: 1997-1998
Longtime Academic Dean James H. Ware, a biostatistician, became Acting Dean in 1997 as Fineberg assumed the position of Provost of Harvard University. During his tenure as academic dean (1990-2009), the student body doubled in size and the research budget grew at an annual rate of 8 percent.
Barry R. Bloom: 1999–2008
Under Dean Bloom, a distinguished immunologist and global health authority, the School responded to rapid advances in technology and to deepening health crises. It adopted an interdisciplinary emphasis on genes and the environment, quantitative social sciences and bioinformatics, and global health. Bloom reinvigorated the School’s educational mission and initiated a long-term planning matrix. By the end of Bloom’s tenure, the School was annually accepting more than 1,000 students from more than 50 different countries, and the number of faculty and researchers topped 400. During his tenure and continuing today, Bloom has kept up an active career in bench science, as the principal investigator of a laboratory researching new vaccine strategies for tuberculosis.
Julio Frenk: 2009–2015
Dean Frenk assumed his post on January 1, 2009. He also served as the T & G Angelopoulos Professor of Public Health and International Development, a joint position in the faculties of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Kennedy School. He was previously founding director-general of the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico (1987–1992) and executive vice president and director of the Center for Health and the Economy at the Mexican Health Foundation (1995–1998). From 1998 to 2000, he served as executive director of evidence and information for policy at the World Health Organization. As minister of health of Mexico from 2000 to 2006, Frenk pursued an ambitious agenda to reform the nation’s health system. He then served as a senior fellow in the global health program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Among his signature accomplishments as Dean of the Harvard Chan School were designing and launching a new educational strategy, which emphasized experiential learning and streamlined degree offerings for both professionally oriented and research-oriented students. During Frenk’s deanship, the School launched several new programs, including the doctor of public health (DrPH) program; the blended online and on-camps MPH, a first among Harvard schools; the PhD in population health sciences; and redesigned MPH programs. Dean Frenk also embraced developments in online learning, making the School an early leader in edX. In 2014, Dean Frenk oversaw the renaming of the School from the Harvard School of Public Health to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, thanks to a transformational gift from the Morningside Foundation that was spearheaded by School alumnus Gerald Chan, SM ’75, SD ’79, and his brother Ronnie Chan.
David Hunter: Acting Dean, 2015–2016
Appointed Dean for Academic Affairs in 2009, David Hunter, MPH ’85, ScD ’88, assumed the role of Acting Dean after the departure of Dean Julio Frenk. Dean Hunter was director of the Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention from 1997 to 2003, when he was appointed Vincent L. Gregory Professor of Cancer Prevention. He was founding director of the Harvard Chan School’s Program in Molecular and Genetic Epidemiology, and established the first genotyping core facility at the School, now a core laboratory of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center. Dean Hunter’s myriad research accomplishments include early work on HIV in East Africa and numerous studies on the nutritional, environmental, and genetic causes of cancer. Among his many accomplishments were guiding the Harvard Chan School strategy for developing HarvardX and other online courses and leading the School’s Research Strategy review. He is currently Vincent L. Gregory Professor of Cancer Prevention, emeritus.
Michelle A. Williams: 2016–present
Michelle A. Williams, ScD ’91, became Dean of the Faculty on July 1, 2016. She is an internationally renowned epidemiologist and public health scientist, an award-winning educator, and a widely recognized academic leader. Prior to becoming Dean, she was Professor and Chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard Chan School and Program Leader of the Population Health and Health Disparities Research Programs at Harvard’s Clinical and Translational Sciences Center. Dean Williams previously had a distinguished career at the University of Washington School of Public Health. Her scientific 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. Dean Williams has published over 450 scientific articles and has received numerous research and teaching awards, including the American Public Health Association’s Abraham Lilienfeld Award. In 2011, President Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. Dean Williams was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2016. She holds an undergraduate degree in biology and genetics from Princeton University, a master’s in civil engineering from Tufts University, and master’s and doctoral degrees in epidemiology from the Harvard Chan School and Harvard University.
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