Transforming Public Health Education

A $12.5 million gift from the Charina Endowment Fund and Richard L. (MBA ’59) and Ronay Menschel—longtime supporters of the School and honorary co-chairs of the Campaign for Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health—established the Transforming Public Health Education Initiative. The gift has enabled the School to develop innovative teaching methods, train faculty, harness new educational technologies, and highlight fieldwork and experience-based learning. This generosity has made possible more case-based and field-based “real-world” learning; accelerated the move toward “flipped classrooms,” in which lectures are delivered online, freeing class time for discussion; and helped the School update its master’s degree program for health professionals and create a new doctor of public health degree. These innovations are part of an overall effort to better prepare 21st-century students to achieve maximum impact in their careers.

“We support Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health with our philanthropy because we believe in the importance of public health and the opportunity to expand the knowledge and skill sets of future public health leaders through the use of technology and case studies,” says Ronay Menschel. Adds Richard Menschel, “Improving learning leads to better-prepared students who can more successfully address the major public health issues facing the world today.” The Menschels are supporting these future leaders through the Horace W. Goldsmith Fellowships, which they established in 2007.

A New Name and a Grand Statement for Public Health


At the time, no one would have guessed that the largest gift in Harvard University’s history would be to the School of Public Health. When it was announced in September 2014 that the Chan family and its Morningside Foundation would donate $350 million to the School, Gerald Chan, SM ’75, SD ’79, said, “We wanted to send a message to the world that it is in public health that we should invest for a better future.”

Chan added that his studies at the School—renamed for his late father as the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health—transformed his thinking. Here, he learned that life sciences research applied to populations can help create a healthier world.

The unrestricted gift as an endowment supports students interested in public service careers—46 have received loan-forgiveness awards—funds faculty research in the areas of greatest need, and allows the School to invest in infrastructure in key areas including data science and the microbiome.

By enabling the School to “respond to student financial need and important global health research opportunities to a far greater extent than ever before,” says Dean Michelle A. Williams, the gift is “advancing the School toward new heights of learning and discovery.”

Financial Aid Fund Supports Maternal Health Studies

With a gift of $250,000 through his maternal health foundation, Square Roots, Morad Fareed has supported research for maternal and child health and created a named financial aid fund at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The endowed Dr. Nabiel and Wesam Fareed Family Financial Aid Fund, named in honor of his parents, is intended to support students from or descended from residents of the West Bank or Gaza who are pursuing studies in women’s health.

“Palestinian society has a great tradition of empowering women,” says Fareed. “Culturally maternal health is of paramount importance. I can’t think of a more vital area to support.”

As a co-founder of Delos, a wellness real estate and technology company, Fareed had focused on creating healthy indoor environments in buildings. After creating the Well Living Lab at the Mayo Clinic to focus exclusively on how environments influence human physiology, he then turned to what he calls the next logical question: “If we agree that people’s physical and social environments are a great determinant of health, then at what period in life is it most important to have a healthy environment? I would argue that it’s when you’re in the womb. This is when much of your health is being determined for life.”

This realization completely changed his perspective. “I used to think of it as an episode called pregnancy,” he says. “You get pregnant and give birth. It’s done. The focus is on the survival of mom and baby. But obviously the reality is much more complex. What about the well-being of mom and baby during pregnancy—and throughout the rest of their lives?” The mother’s living, working, and social conditions and access to human support systems are examples of issues that need to be addressed, he says.

Fareed’s decision to support financial aid at the Harvard Chan School was influenced by his sister, Cynthia Hazar Fareed. “The School takes a multidisciplinary approach,” he notes, “which aligns perfectly with our desire to focus holistically on maternal health. My sister had the insight that because the School looks at all the dimensions of life, including people’s physical and social environments, Harvard Chan students will be ideally positioned to carry out the kind of work we hope to encourage.”

Fareed believes that there is a great need for prospective Palestinian students to know that they should apply to the Harvard Chan School—and that some assistance will be available from this newly created fund should they come. “They should know that their dreams will be valued here,” he says. “We want to uplift and empower people and give them new opportunities. Receiving financial aid can change perspectives. It can change individuals. And it can change lives.”


Why Public Health? Darrell Gray, II

Darrell Gray, II, MD, MPH ’14, is determined to reduce the incidence of colorectal cancer in vulnerable populations and is also working on a project with the U.S. Department of Defense to expand its telehealth services worldwide.

Inspired by Darrell’s experience? Please click here to make a gift today and support HSPH in shaping the next generation of public health practitioners, researchers, and advocates—making the world a healthier place of for all.

Supporting international field placements for students

Countess Albina du BoisrouvrayA gift from François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) USA will support a key administrative post at Harvard School of Public Health to help establish field practice placements for highly motivated HSPH students to work in some of the world’s poorest regions. This gift is on behalf of Albina du Boisrouvray, Founder of the FXB Foundation which established the François-Xavier Bagnoud (FXB) Center for Health and Human Rights in 1993, the first academic center in the world to focus exclusively on the practical dynamic between issues of health and human rights.

The student placements will be at field sites of the Association FXB International, a non-governmental organization also founded by Albina du Boisrouvray – that has worked at the grassroots level to develop sustainable and community-based solutions to eradicate extreme poverty and AIDS, with a special focus on children and women.

“The creation of the FXB International Liaison Officer role underscores the School’s commitment to a chief pillar of public health—improving and protecting the health of the vulnerable, particularly the underserved—as well as to enhancing the student experience,” said Jennifer Leaning, François-Xavier Bagnoud Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights and Director of the FXB Center. “This generous gift from our Founder Albina du Boisrouvray, will play a critical role in broadening student engagement overseas and advancing the HSPH mission.”

By facilitating the placement of students and fellows in FXB International sites across the world, the new liaison officer will effectively leverage the myriad skills and talents of the HSPH community, while also providing the HSPH cohort with the opportunity to make a measurable impact on families living in resource-poor areas. Through a rigorous screening process, HSPH students and fellows will be matched with FXB International field sites that reflect their interests and would most benefit from their presence. They will then travel to these sites over their winter or summer breaks to work on evaluation or assessment projects relating to interventions that aim to improve health, education, and livelihoods. The new liaison officer will also work with students before they travel so they can hit the ground running on arrival, assuring that their projects are do-able and relevant both to the host community and their own interests.

“This initiative,” said Albina du Boisrouvray, “will build on the legacy of the FXBVillage – a pioneering holistic 3 year-program to eradicate extreme poverty we run since 1991 and the ongoing work of this program worldwide. To date, 150 FXBVillage across 8 countries helped to lift thousands of children and their families out of extreme poverty. We look forward to grooming a generation of health specialists who have first-hand knowledge of the inextricably linked challenges of poverty, lack of rights, poor health and lack of well-being, and who know how to tackle them.”

Albina du Boisrouvray founded in 1989 together with friends and family the FXB Foundation and the FXB International Association, in honor of her son, Francois-Xavier Bagnoud, a helicopter pilot who died at the age of 24 in a 1986 rescue mission in Mali, to perpetuate the values of generosity and compassion that guided his life but also his mission by also seeking to rescue people, some of the poorest on the earth.

In 25 years, 17 million adults and children across 20 countries have benefited from the presence of FXB International in their communities through poverty eradication, sustainable community development, infrastructure rehabilitation, education, prevention, awareness and access to water and sanitation programs. FXB strongly believes that investing in children and women is an investment in peace and security around the world.

Preventing eating disorders

Ellen Feldberg Gordon
Ellen Feldberg Gordon, AB ’76

“As with anything,” says Ellen Feldberg Gordon, AB ’76, “if you can start with prevention, then you’re ahead of the game.” Gordon, a psychotherapist, specializes in working with clients who are struggling with an eating disorder. She points out that much of the current research in the field of eating disorders focuses on treatment rather than on prevention. But the STRIPED program—of which Gordon was a founder in 2009 with a significant gift—is different. That’s why STRIPED (Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders) is the focus of her philanthropy at the Harvard Chan School.

Led by Bryn Austin, SM ’96, SD ’99, associate professor of social and behavioral sciences, STRIPED is a graduate-level multidisciplinary training program for public health professionals who will work on eating-disorder prevention. The program is based at Harvard Chan and Boston Children’s Hospital. At the heart of Gordon’s passion for this field is her own personal experience. “I had an eating disorder myself,” she says, “as did my mother and my daughter. I’ve seen how it can affect not only the individual, but also the entire family.”

When Gordon is passionate about something, she is not one to sit back and ignore the issue. Where she cannot be hands-on herself, she will make possible the good work of others through generous philanthropy—a value that was handed down through her family by her father, mother, and grandfather. “Their message was that since we are fortunate enough to be able to give back, it’s our responsibility to do so,” says Gordon. “It is wonderful to be able to help fund efforts that will be directed at overcoming or addressing certain issues in society. In the case of STRIPED, it’s personally meaningful to me to support research on eating-disorder prevention, and Bryn Austin’s work is making a tremendous difference.”

Gordon recently pledged $500,000 to STRIPED in the form of a challenge, to encourage others to contribute to this important research. She will match contributions to STRIPED dollar for dollar, up to $500,000, over the next five years.

Ellen Feldberg Gordon, AB ’76, is a marriage and family therapist. She and her husband, Michael Gordon, support the Ellen Feldberg Gordon Fund for Eating Disorders Research. For information about supporting the STRIPED program, please contact Jenn Musso at or 617-432-8076.

Educating and Informing Great Numbers of People

COHN_LawrenceAs a surgeon and a member of the School’s Leadership Council, Lawrence Cohn has an abiding interest in public health. “My wife, Roberta, and I haveseen a wide variety of health scenarios,” says Cohn. Seasoned travelers, they have visited every continent except Antarctica. “Given our experiences,” he says, “we felt that it was important to publicize health information in a way that would reach as many people as possible.”

The Cohns’ recent gift of $150,000 will go a long way toward achieving that goal. The couple established the Dr. Lawrence H. and Roberta Cohn Forums Fund, which will support four Forums every year for three years. The Forums at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, produced at and broadcast from the School’s Leadership Studio, feature leading experts discussing issues involving current policy choices and scientific controversies. “Over the years,” notes Cohn, “I’ve attended many Forums, and they have all been excellent. They are particularly exciting because they can be viewed anywhere with an Internet connection, including on mobile devices, so the Forums have the power to educate and inform great numbers of people.” Indeed, the content of the programs has been viewed and downloaded in more than 200 countries and territories.

The first Cohn Forum will be held around Valentine’s Day 2015, focusing on women’s heart disease. Cohn notes that although many people believe heart disease is much more common in men than in women, in fact the incidence is roughly the same, with heart disease the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. A future Cohn Forum will focus on telemedicine. “Roberta and I thought a lot about how to create the greatest impact with our contribution to the School,” says Cohn. “We are pleased that our philanthropy will provide knowledge on important health topics, with access for all.”

Lawrence Cohn has been a cardiac surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital for more than 40 years. Information about the Forums at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health is available on the Forums website.


Gift funds leadership training to address global health

Jeff Walker, MBA ’81

“What can we do to minimize suffering?” This question drives the work of Jeff Walker, MBA ’81, and his colleagues to address global public health issues. A former full-time venture capitalist and private equity investor, Walker now spends some 95 percent of his time on global health efforts and the study of philanthropic and collaborative leadership. He is currently vice chair in the Office of the U.N. Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Health Finance and Malaria, focusing primarily on community health workers, and his book The Generosity Network is the basis for a Harvard Kennedy School course he helped establish.

The same question provided the impetus for Walker’s $500,000 gift to the Harvard Chan School, part of his Campaign gift to his alma mater, Harvard Business School. The gift created the Jeffrey C. Walker Fund for Public Health Leadership Development and is designed to promote collaboration between the Harvard Chan School and Harvard Kennedy School, especially in support of the work of Howard Koh, professor of the practice of public health leadership and director of the Leading Change Studio at the Harvard Chan School.

Walker believes that investing in leadership training programs is the most effective way to address big global health problems. Employing the skills of collaboration and networking honed throughout his business career, he has become a catalyst for bringing together people with a passion for public health and advancing serious programs to tackle the issues.


Supporting faculty in biostatistics

Luisa Fernholz, director of the Fernholz Foundation
Luisa Fernholz, director of the Fernholz Foundation

“Statistics has been my career and an important part of my life,” says Luisa Fernholz, director of the Fernholz Foundation, which recently made a $300,000 contribution to the Department of Biostatistics to support faculty salaries.

Fernholz holds a PhD in statistics from Rutgers and is professor emerita of statistics at Temple University, where she taught from 1987 to 2004. “The use of statistics and statistical methods has increased dramatically in the last several decades, with the massive increase in data as well as the greater processing power of computers and the development of specialized software,” she says. “Having all these data and the tools to analyze them has made statistics a very important field.” Biostatistics is a highly interdisciplinary field, she notes. Molecular biology, epidemiology, genetics, and drug development, among other disciplines, all use biostatistics. “As a dynamic discipline, biostatistics needs new methodologies to deal with the increasing quantities of data. Training statisticians to develop new methods to analyze data is indeed a vital contribution to the School and to the society,” says Fernholz. “Biostatistics is crucial, and I think it’s important to help this field.”

Fernholz also noticed the reduction in federal government funding for research and decided that she had to act. “I think that people have to step in and fill in the gaps in funding that the government does not cover,” she says. “That is what we’re trying to do with this gift.”

At the suggestion of John McGoldrick, AB ’63, LLB ’66, a friend from Princeton who has endowed the John L. McGoldrick Fellowship in Biostatistics in AIDS Research at the Harvard Chan School, Fernholz met with several Harvard Chan faculty members in the Department of Biostatistics. She was highly impressed, and she is also happy that the Department includes several women faculty, as she has worked to promote the advancement of women in the sciences.

“The more I read and learned about the Department,” says Fernholz, “the more I felt that this was the right place to contribute. I think they are doing an excellent job, and I am very happy with this decision.”

Gifts support human rights research

Ben Tao
Ben Tao

“We just clicked.” That is how Ben Tao, an entrepreneur, described his fall 2014 meeting with the Harvard Chan School’s Jennifer Leaning.

Born in Burma (also called Myanmar), Tao retains a keen interest in events there. When he met Leaning, the François-Xavier Bagnoud Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights and director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, they discussed, among other topics, the plight of the Rohingya refugees. The Rohingya, a minority Muslim group in Burma, are facing persecution there; many have fled to Bangladesh, where they live in refugee camps. As a result of that meeting, Tao contributed $50,000 toward the implementation of Leaning’s Rohingya Rapid Assessment Project. She traveled to Bangladesh in March 2015 to begin the first phase of the study.

Tao is a strong supporter of many of the School’s other human rights efforts as well. After meeting Theresa Betancourt, associate professor of child health and human rights and director of the Research Program on Children and Global Adversity, he contributed $50,000 to support her Mental Health Disparities in Refugee Children research project. And he contributed $500,000 to establish the endowed Tao Fund for Human Rights Research. Tao describes this gift as a vote of confidence in Leaning, Betancourt, Dean Julio Frenk, and other faculty he has encountered. “Everyone I’ve met at the School has been deeply inspiring and impressive,” says Tao. “Their dedication to their jobs is really priceless.”