Message from the Acting Dean: The Power of Collaboration

Acting Dean David Hunter

The power of collaboration has played a part in virtually every great public health intervention, and evidence of that power carries through this issue of Harvard Public Health. The cover story on Karestan Koenen’s and Andrea Roberts’ research into the long-lasting and wide-ranging effects of trauma on mind and body attests to the synergy of scientific collaboration. Their work, both as a team and as independent scholars, has revealed that trauma not only triggers physical ailments but also reverberates down the generations. As a result of their studies and advocacy, vast numbers of silent sufferers may someday get the help they need.

In a very different realm, the innovative collaboration between Bob Farese and Tobias Walther has yielded not only fundamental discoveries about lipid biology, but also a model of how a high-powered academic lab—which they run as equal partners—can operate based on principles of interdependence and emotional relatedness.

And the feature on the School’s long collaboration with the Boston Housing Authority and public housing residents shows how even the most high-minded collaborations require mutual patience, persistence, negotiation, and ultimately a leap of faith that the effort will bring immense payoffs. In this case, the teamwork among the School’s Jack Spengler and Gary Adamkiewicz, MPH ’02, resident advocates, and housing officials has led to dramatic environmental benefits in Boston’s public housing stock—and the collaboration continues, with even more ambitious goals.

Both the feature article about this success and the profile of student Erica Walker, SD ’17, who is mapping the soundscape of East Boston to measure the health effects of different noise levels, demonstrate the School’s renewed commitment to improving health in its own backyard.

Collaboration is a hallmark of this School and of the field of public health. So it is with genuine enthusiasm that I welcome the appointment of Michelle Williams, SM ’88, SD ’91, as the new dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. An academic leader known for her dedication to building bridges between scientific disciplines, theory and practice, domestic and international research, and diverse communities in groundbreaking studies of maternal and child health, Michelle is currently the Stephen B. Kay Family Professor of Public Health and chair of the Department of Epidemiology. She will become dean of the School on July 1, and I cannot think of a better leader as the Harvard Chan School moves forward in its mission to improve the health and well-being of people everywhere.

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David Hunter, MPH ’85, SD ’88
Acting Dean of the Faculty
Dean for Academic Affairs
Vincent L. Gregory Professor in Cancer Prevention Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health