A time of transition

Dear Members of the Harvard Chan School Community,

Voters took to the polls last week in the U.S. national election, and in a testament to the civic engagement of millions across the country, the turnout appears to have been the highest in more than a century. On Saturday, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were elected the nation’s next president and vice president.

Biden and Harris have begun working on the transition, and their four stated priorities are all areas that touch on the very roots of public health: COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity, and climate change. To immediately address the pandemic, the president-elect today announced the launch of the Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board that will advise the Biden-Harris team on the country’s COVID-19 response. I am proud to share the news that Atul Gawande, founder and chair of Ariadne Labs and professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management, will join this group of leading health experts. In other pandemic-related news, Pfizer announced early positive results suggesting that its COVID-19 vaccine could be highly effective. Although we know that a vaccine will not be a “magic bullet” to stop the spread of the virus, this news is nevertheless a welcome development.

During this period of transition to the new administration, I encourage you to remain patient, hopeful, and strong, and to live the School’s values by demonstrating kindness and compassion, fairness and generosity, and respect and dignity for all people, including those with whom you may have disagreed about the election. Biden has called for unity and national healing, and we can all play a part in moving our country in a positive direction.

We recognize that although the election is over, there still may be trying times ahead over the next several weeks. In addition, because of the pandemic, these past few months have called upon all of us to make personal and professional sacrifices. The reality for many has been difficult and challenging. And it may be some time before we can return to any semblance of the lives we left behind back in March. But our strength will come from moving forward into this new reality—whatever it may be—together, remembering that our mission is, at its core, to focus on the well-being of others.

You are making a difference every day by carrying out our public health work. Your contributions are deeply and critically important to the mission of the School and the overall health of the country, and I am grateful to each and every one of you for the people that you are, for the commitment that you bring, and for the heart that you unfailingly show in times of adversity. Your collective presence in our Harvard Chan community makes it the remarkable space that it is.



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