Building a healthier world, together

Michelle Williams

This is a crucial moment for public health. From the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic to climate change and structural racism, we are facing many challenges that threaten global health—and we at the Harvard Chan School have an obligation to both serve and lead.

This is, of course, a demanding task, but I know our community is up to it. Whenever I feel daunted, I look at a quote from Arthur Ashe that I keep on the wall by my desk. He grew up in segregated Richmond, Virginia and went on to become a trailblazing Black tennis player. He said: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

Start where you are

The first part of that quote is “start where you are.” And Harvard Chan School is a great place to start.

Here we generate knowledge and powerful new ideas through scientific research—and then translate those insights into policies and programs that improve population health and advance the public good.

But we are not just a premier research school, though we are certainly—proudly—that. We are also an action school. An impact-driven school. We change lives every day as we work toward our shared vision of health, dignity, and justice for every human being.

Use what you have

This leads me to the second part of the quote: “Use what you have.”

At Harvard Chan School, we are lucky to have students and faculty who are already using their remarkable talents to improve public health everywhere. The power of our community multiplies that impact.

Our students learn how to do good science here. They also learn how to effectively communicate their insights to policy makers, practitioners, and the public at large. How to build programs, policies, and business ventures to improve health on a population scale. And perhaps most importantly, they learn how to collaborate with people from different disciplines, sectors, and continents to tackle the biggest challenges of our age.

It is this network of outstanding students, faculty, staff, and alumni that magnifies the impact of our science and extends the reach of our ideas.

Do what you can

We are all here to make a difference. Some of us will produce groundbreaking research. Some will launch an innovative startup. Others will design and implement ambitious public health programs around the world.

But no matter the path, each of us is guided by the same North Star: improving health and well-being so all people can thrive. We are all here to “do what we can.” And what we do matters deeply.

It is such an honor to lead this community. I look forward to our work together and to the powerful impact we will have as we build a healthier world.

Michelle A. Williams, ScD
Dean of the Faculty


Read the Dean’s messages to the Harvard Chan community

Read the Dean’s blog


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