Rochelle Walensky to Lead CDC
Rochelle Walensky, MPH ’01, was named by President Joe Biden as the new administration’s director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Walensky served as chief of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Division of Infectious Diseases and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
“I began my medical career at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis, and I’ve spent my life ever since working to research, treat, and combat infectious diseases,” Walensky tweeted following the December 7, 2020, announcement. Saying she was honored by the appointment, Walensky added, “We are ready to combat this virus with science and facts.”
Walensky’s research has focused on HIV/AIDS policy and cost-effective strategies of HIV care in the U.S. and in resource-limited settings. She is internationally recognized for her contributions to U.S. policy on the promotion of routine HIV screening and for her work on effective and efficient strategies for HIV care in South Africa. She was chair of the National Institutes of Health Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council and has advised the World Health Organization and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS.
Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of the School’s Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, spoke toSTAT about the enormous challenges Walensky will face in her new role. Lipsitch, who has known Walensky since she was a student in the first class he taught at the School, in 2000, said, “I think she’s someone who inspires confidence and who has the competence to back it up.”
Alumni and students team up to fight COVID-19 disinformation
A team of recent alumni launched an online COVID-19 insights database this summer, published by the nonprofit organization Meedan: learnaboutcovid19.org. The effort is led by Natalie Gyenes, MPH ’15, director of the Digital Health Lab at Meedan. Other team members include Christin Gilmer, DrPH ’18, Jessica Huang, DrPH ’20, Mohit Nair, MPH ’16, and Nour Sharara, MPH ’15, and current students Emily LaRose, DrPH ’21, Jenna Sherman, MPH ’21, and Anshu Shroff, DrPH ’21. The group describes it as a “rapid-response tool to support fact-checking organizations that are working to address health misinformation online.” They also partnered with the Harvard Chan School group Students Against COVID-19 to develop visuals to accompany the content on the website and on social media.
Jane Miller Whitehouse, SM, died on August 21 as a result of a highway accident in Schroon Lake, New York. She was 64. Whitehouse was president and CEO of Whitehouse Associates, a consulting firm specializing in industrial health and safety, and worked with companies throughout the United States. An avid swimmer, Whitehouse was president of the Capital District Swim Officials organization and officiated swimming and diving meets.
J. Jacques Carter, MPH, received a Harvard Alumni Association (HAA) Award in September. Carter is an attending physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he completed his residency training in internal medicine. He also is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and a consulting staff member at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. A distinguished physician and educator, Carter has served as a teacher, adviser, and mentor for students at Harvard College, Harvard Medical School, and the Harvard Chan School. He is a founding member of the Harvard Chan School’s Leadership Council and past president of the School’s Alumni Association. He chairs the nominating committee for the School’s Alumni Council and previously chaired several other alumni committees for the School and the HAA.
Jonathan Klein, MPH, was appointed associate vice chancellor for research at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in October. A specialist in adolescent medicine and health services research, he is the Savithri and Samuel Raj Professor of Pediatrics and executive vice head of the Department of Pediatrics at UIC College of Medicine. His research focuses on adolescent preventive services, tobacco control, and child health policy. He previously served as associate executive director at the American Academy of Pediatrics and is an elected member of the executive committee of the International Pediatric Association.
Gary S. Belkin, MPH, is the 2020–2021 fellow-in-residence for the McSilver Institute for Poverty Policy and Research at New York University. Belkin is founder of the Billion Minds Institute, which aims to bring policy and practical attention to taking on the “social climate” crisis that is intertwined with the global climate crisis. He also is a visiting scientist at the Harvard Chan School and an adjunct professor of psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine. Belkin is the former executive deputy health commissioner for New York City and was chief of policy and strategy for the Office of ThriveNYC, in the Office of the Mayor.
David Cullen, SM, authored a paper in 2007 chosen by the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation (APSF) as one of their 10 most important articles related to patient safety published in the 35-year history of its newsletter. His article, “Beach Chair Position May Decrease Cerebral Perfusion: Catastrophic Outcomes Have Occurred,” presented an analysis of why some healthy patients undergoing surgery in the upright (beach chair) position suffered the rare event of strokes or brain death during the procedure or immediately thereafter. In October, Cullen published an editorial in the APSF newsletter describing progress on this topic.
Previously, in 1986, he and co-authors from anesthesia departments at several Harvard-affiliated hospitals published a seminal paper in JAMA describing the first set of standards of care developed by any medical specialty. Within a year, this work was adopted verbatim nationally by the American Society of Anesthesiologists. Within a few years, along with improvements in monitoring technology, anesthesia mortality in relatively healthy patients was reduced by two orders of magnitude, and anesthesia malpractice premiums decreased by two-thirds. In 2015, this paper was recognized as the 10th most important paper in the history of anesthesiology.
Rashad Massoud, MPH, became senior vice president and chief program officer of Americares in September. In his new role, Massoud oversees the organization’s health programs worldwide for people affected by poverty or disaster and its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Massoud has more than 20 years of experience directing initiatives that have strengthened health systems in vulnerable communities around the world. Prior to joining Americares, he served as chief medical and quality officer and senior vice president of the Quality and Performance Institute at University Research Co. He also served as director of the USAID Applying Science to Strengthen and Improve Systems Project and has worked for the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
John Whyte, MPH, chief medical officer at WebMD, was named in October to the Medical, Marketing & Media 2020 Health Influencer 50 list. He was cited for his work to combat misinformation around the COVID-19 pandemic as host of WebMD’s near-daily video series Coronavirus in Context.
Nawal Nour, MPH, became chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston on October 1. Nour is the first Black department chair at the Brigham, the first department chair of Sudanese descent, and the third woman to be named to a chair role. She joined the obstetrics and gynecology faculty at the Brigham in 1999, following completion of her residency at the hospital.
Ravindra Gupta, MPH, was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020. Gupta, professor of clinical microbiology at the Cambridge Institute of Therapeutic Immunology and Infectious Disease in the U.K., was recognized for his research working toward a functional HIV cure. He was honored in the magazine’s September 22 issue with an essay by Adam Castillejo, known as the “London Patient,” who is the second person ever to be functionally cured of HIV. Gupta oversaw the stem-cell treatments Castillejo received, which led to his remission.
Tom Piazza, MPH, is director of a new center for the holistic treatment of PTSD and traumatic brain injury for military personnel. The Intrepid Spirit Center opened at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida in July. The first clinic of its kind in the Air Force, the center incorporates expertise and technology from traditional medicine along with alternative modalities like acupuncture and art and music therapy.
Janette Heung, SM, passed away at age 35 on September 5 in a rock-climbing accident. Heung was an assistant director of community programs at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, a job she had started in April. Heung founded the OutdoorRx Collaborative in Denver and was former deputy director of the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry. She also was a writer for several outdoor organizations, including the American Alpine Club.
George Molina, MPH, joined the Division of Surgical Oncology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital this fall, in addition to joining the faculty at Harvard Medical School. He also has new appointments at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Ariadne Labs, a joint center for health systems innovation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Leah Zallman, MPH, died on November 5 from injuries sustained after she was struck by a motor vehicle. She was 40. Zallman was director of research at the Institute for Community Health (ICH) in Malden, Massachusetts, a primary care physician at Cambridge Health Alliance’s East Cambridge Care Center, and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. She is survived by her husband, Nadav Tanners, and children Eli and Kai. Zallman was remembered by her colleagues at ICH as “a trailblazer in her field, an incredible physician, and just an all-around wonderful person.”
Abubakar Abioye, MPH, co-founded the nonprofit Global Medical Education Collaborative (GMEC) with two Harvard Medical School students when he was bedridden with COVID-19 earlier this year. To help medical students around the world keep learning during COVID-19 shutdowns, GMEC provides free online tutorials at gmecollab.org.
Jamaji Nwanaji-Enwerem, PhD, was named an Agents of Change in Environmental Health fellow by Environmental Health News in November. Fellows write first-person essays for the site and share their stories on its podcast.
Morissa Henn, DrPH, was named to Modern Healthcare’s 2020 class of Top 25 Emerging Leaders in October. Henn is community health director at Intermountain Healthcare, based in Utah. In national recognition of her efforts to prevent firearm suicide, particularly in engaging gun owners and advocates, in 2019 the late Rep. John Lewis invited Henn to provide expert testimony at a U.S. House Ways and Means Committee hearing on preventing gun violence. In her role at Intermountain, Henn recently oversaw the development of the Emotional Health Relief Hotline, a free call-in service offering comprehensive mental health resources and connection to telehealth services to thousands of Utahans since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tariana Little, DrPH, produced over the spring a video series in response to the COVID-19 pandemic called #StayHopeful. It features eight individuals across Greater Boston, from a sixth-grade artist to a best-selling author, sharing reflections, advice, and visions for the future. A short film of the series was screened at the 2020 APHA Public Health Film Festival. Little runs the mission-driven storytelling agency EmVision. Watch videos at em.vision/community.
Aviva Musicus, SD, was named to Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30” list in the health care category in November. She is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard Chan School, where she studies the effects of food-related environmental and policy changes on human health and behavior, with a specific focus on the impact of food labeling, messaging, and marketing. Her research helped inform a new law in Philadelphia on sodium labeling.
Alumni from around the world tuned in for Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s first-ever virtual Alumni Week, held September 29 through October 3, 2020. Amid COVID-19 restrictions, the event shifted from its traditional in-person format, held on a weekend, to a week’s worth of online programming that featured expert panels, lightning talks from individual alumni, and the presentation of the annual Alumni Awards [see page 14]. This year’s theme was “Lifting Lives: Public Health Solutions for Vulnerable Populations.” To view videos, visit hsph.harvard.edu/alumni-week-2020 and click on each event.
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