Dean’s message: Inflection points

At the end of August I will be leaving the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, where I have been honored to serve as dean since 2009, to assume the presidency of the University of Miami. My experience at Harvard has been extraordinary, and the decision to step down came only after deep reflection.

As I move on, the kind of amazing work that has inspired me these past six years is vividly reflected in the Spring 2015 issue of Harvard Public Health. The cover article on e-cigarettes—which today are one of the most conspicuous moving targets in our field, with sophisticated consumer marketing outpacing scientific certainty—examines the need for clarity across a range of questions. Will these stylish, battery operated nicotine-delivery devices help longtime smokers who want to quit—or will they serve as a gateway to tobacco cigarettes for young people trying these novel products on a lark?

In a similar vein, the Q&A with biostatistician Melody Goodman, SM ’03, PhD ’06, thoughtfully explores how public health can bring clarity to our national discussion on police-associated violence. The Off the Cuff feature with Vish Viswanath, professor of health communication at the School, describes how public health can convey clarity to concerned parents about the overwhelming benefits of childhood vaccinations.

The student profile of Rose Filoramo, PhD ’17, shows a young biologist pursuing clarity on sepsis, one of the most vexing disorders in health care today. The story on JP Onnela, assistant professor of biostatistics, describes a quest to build clarity about mood disorders by drawing on unobtrusive cellphone technology. And the portrait of clinician and filmmaker Deborah Van Dyke, MPH ’93, reveals how a passion for improving health inspired a line of clear and simple instructional videos targeted to the world’s most impoverished places.

Going forward, public health will continue to be a central passion. As I embark on a new stage of my life, I feel immeasurable gratitude to the department chairs and center directors, members of the faculty, academic appointees, alumni, students, staff, and my leadership team at the School. I am also grateful for the transformative $350 million gift by the Chan family’s Morningside Foundation and for the ongoing generosity of all our benefactors and volunteers.

Happily, at the start of its second century, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health is in an exceptionally strong position to meet the challenges of the 21st century. I have no doubt that this School is poised to soar to new heights.

Julio Frenk
Dean of the Faculty and T & G Angelopoulos Professor of Public Health and International Development, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Kennedy School