End-of-year reflections

Dear Members of the Harvard Chan School Community,

With the end of the year fast approaching, I would like to share a few highlights from the fall semester.

Listening tour

It has been my privilege to meet with nearly 150 members of the Harvard Chan School community and colleagues across Harvard during my listening tour. This experience has been both enjoyable and illuminating. I will complete the tour early in the New Year, and I look forward to reporting back after that on what I have learned, and on the strategic priorities that have begun to take shape with your input and advice.

Senior leadership team

Two key appointments this fall have helped to strengthen the School’s senior leadership team. The arrival of Karen Emmons as dean for academic affairs and the promotion of Michael Grusby to senior vice dean for institutional planning and policy bring both experience and fresh ideas to the School. Their guidance will allow us to provide more responsive leadership and advance key strategic initiatives School-wide.

Faculty appointments

We have welcomed 11 new primary faculty members to the School, including senior professors Sara N. Bleich, Chi-Man (Winnie) Yip, and Albert Hofman who replaced me as chair of the Department of Epidemiology. We also celebrated the promotions of Wendy Garrett and Jane Kim to tenured professorships.

Students and educational programs

More than 1,200 new and returning students arrived on campus this fall. This group of extraordinary scholars included the first cohorts to experience the newly redesigned curricula for our 45- and 65-credit MPH programs, as well as the third cohort of students to enter the DrPH program. I am also delighted to announce that our own Christalyn Sims Rhodes, a student in the PhD program in biological sciences, was selected to be a Harvard Horizon Scholar. Christalyn is one of just eight students across the University to receive this high honor.

A boost for students and a new professorship

In September, we announced a $10 million gift from an anonymous donor for scholarships, leadership training, and a professorship named in honor of my predecessor, Julio Frenk. This generous gift will support the leadership of the DrPH program and provide much-needed aid to students—called Prajna Fellows—in the DrPH program, the Department of Nutrition, and the Occupational and Environmental Medicine Residency Program.


At the annual Alumni Weekend in September, we honored three remarkable individuals—Dileep Bal, MPH ’71; Howard Dubowitz, SM ’83; and Richard Heinzl, MPH ’90—with Alumni Awards of Merit, the highest honor conferred on Harvard Chan alumni by their peers. A new alumni chapter opened in Atlanta, Georgia. And two dozen alumni participated in the first ever educational exchange trip to Cuba.

These are just a few of our community’s many high points over the past few months. Reflecting on these and the myriad of other accomplishments of this remarkable School, I am both inspired and humbled to serve as your Dean. I am proud of the work we do to make the world a healthier place, and I am proud of the commitment we share to upholding health as a fundamental human right. In a time of political change and increasing uncertainty in the public health landscape, our common commitment to protecting the health and well-being of people everywhere—from our own campus, to our Mission Hill neighborhood, to the other side of the planet—will be a critical source of strength and motivation for everything we do.

I wish you all a happy and healthy holiday season.


Michelle A. Williams, ScD
Dean of the Faculty
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health