Dear Harvard Chan School Alumni,
I am thrilled to be welcoming all of you to Alumni Weekend 2022! This time of year, filled with firsts and new experiences, is always exciting, but gathering for the first time in quite a while is truly special.
In the three years since we last met in person, public health has often been in the spotlight. The pandemic made visible longstanding inequities in health care access and outcomes. The killing of George Floyd sparked important and necessary conversations about systemic racism as a public health crisis. We confronted new evidence of climate change and its devastating impacts—with those who have done the least to cause the problems bearing the brunt of the harm. And recently, the overturning of Roe v. Wade stripped the right of bodily autonomy from millions across the U.S. For all the troubling news, we have also seen up close the enormous impact that public health can have in preventing illness and promoting well-being. Again and again, we have seen public figures and private citizens rise to the challenge, take action, and make a difference.
The theme of this Alumni Weekend reflects the courage and the conviction we have seen from so many over these past few years. Rising to the Challenge: Public Health in a Changing World gives us an opportunity to reflect on our roles and recommit to doing our part to tackle the daunting challenges of our day.
Together, we will learn more about pressing public health issues through panels and lightning talks; connect with one another to build solution-minded networks; and look forward to a brighter future. We will also draw inspiration as we honor six alumni who have made positive and lasting change. These outstanding individuals have created legacies through their targeted efforts to improve women’s wellness, mental health and children’s health, health care rights, and emergency care. They have worked tirelessly to try to bring an end to homelessness, lethal infections, and smoking around the world. I am energized by their work and by this entire community.
This alumni network is driven, accomplished, and visionary—and it’s an honor and privilege to come together with you. Whether it’s standing up for a marginalized group in your personal life or working on the frontline of critical research in your professional life, you are making a difference. Thank you. A big thank you, as well, to our Alumni Weekend planning committee and Alumni Association President Trishan Panch. This community would not be the same without each of you.
In the Harvard Chan way, let’s all use our compassion, insights, and integrity to rise to the challenge today, tomorrow, and every day.
Michelle A. Williams, ScD
Dean of the Faculty, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Angelopoulos Professor in Public Health and International Development,
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Kennedy School