Faculty news, notes, and accolades

News and notes highlighting the work of faculty from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.


Deirdre Tobias, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition, received the Harvard Medical School 2020 Dean’s Community Service Award in May. Tobias received this award on behalf of a nonprofit community farm that she helps run called Norwell Farms, on Massachusetts’ South Shore. Her team teaches the community about sustainably grown local agriculture and promotes access to healthy food for all.

Xiaole Shirley Liu, professor of biostatistics, received the 2020 Benjamin Franklin Award for Open Access in the Life Sciences by members of Bioinformatics. org. She will give her laureate presentation virtually in October at the 2020 Bio-IT World Conference & Expo.

Edward Nardell, professor in the Departments of Environmental Health and Immunology and Infectious Diseases, received a 2020 alumni award from King’s College.

A project co-led by Francesca Dominici, Clarence James Gamble Professor of Biostatistics, Population and Data Science and co-director of the Harvard Data Science Initiative, aimed at using data science to address climate change, is one of eight projects to share $1 million in the sixth round of Harvard University’s Climate Change Solutions Fund awards. Dominici and co-investigator Danielle Braun, research scientist in the Department of Biostatistics, will build a research data platform linking data on climate change exposures, health outcomes, and other variables such as behavior and economics, to help inform policy. Read about the project in the Harvard Gazette.

Karestan Koenen, professor of psychiatric epidemiology, co-authored a revised and expanded edition of the book “Treating Survivors of Childhood Abuse and Interpersonal Trauma: STAIR Narrative Therapy.” The book, published in June 2020, presents a widely used evidence-based therapy approach for adult survivors of chronic trauma, helping clients to build social and emotional resources for living in the present and to break the hold of traumatic memories.

Francesca Dominici, Clarence James Gamble Professor of Biostatistics, Population and Data Science and co-director of the Harvard Data Science Initiative, was recently selected as the recipient of the 2020 Star-Friedman Challenge for Promising Scientific Research for her work on “Air Pollution, Race, and Health Outcomes for COVID-19 in the United States: Data Access, Methods, and Dissemination.” Read a Harvard Gazette article about the Dominici and other awardees.

A June 1, 2020 article on The Sociable featured Caroline Buckee, associate professor of epidemiology and associate director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics. The article, “15 Women Healthcare Leaders You Should Get to Know in 2020,” highlighted outstanding women health care leaders in the U.S. and elsewhere who are “facing down the most pressing issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The article noted that Buckee’s work using big data from mobile phones and satellites to understand how human pathogens spread and may be controlled is especially timely, given the current focus on tracking the spread of COVID-19.

Tyler VanderWeele, John L. Loeb and Frances Lehman Loeb Professor of Epidemiology, received an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, from the Catholic University of America during a May 16 virtual ceremony. In a press release from Catholic University, VanderWeele was cited for his “ongoing efforts to serve vulnerable populations and develop a fuller understanding of the factors that contribute to human flourishing.”

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) announced on May 12, 2020 the appointment of David R. Williams to its board of trustees. Williams is the Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health and chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. RWJF President and CEO Richard Besser praised Williams, saying, “We are incredibly fortunate that Dr. Williams will be joining our Board. His leadership, scholarship, and vision have helped to shape the Foundation’s health equity goals focused on giving everyone in America a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being.”

William Hsiao, K.T. Li Research Professor of Economics in the Departments of Health Policy and Management and Global Health and Population, has been named the 2020 recipient of the William B. Graham Prize for Health Services Research from the Baxter International Foundation and the Association of University Programs in Health Administration. The prize is the highest distinction that researchers in the health services field can achieve, particularly recognizing research that has a lasting impact on the health care system and health care delivery. Read more.

A paper by Catherine Barber, senior researcher at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, and co-authors was named one of Health Affairs’ top 10 articles from 2019. In the paper, Barber and her co-authors explore how the Utah legislature’s 2016 call to research firearms and suicide presents a case study for how policy makers, researchers, firearm stakeholders, and others can reach across ideological lines to study their local firearm suicide problem and identify actionable prevention strategies. Other Harvard Chan co-authors of the paper included John Berrigan, Deborah Azrael, and senior author David Hemenway.

School welcomes new faculty for spring semester


Stephen Marks, Dyann Wirth named AAAS Fellows

School welcomes new faculty

Benjamin Sommers elected to National Academy of Medicine

Michael Mina earns NIH Director’s Early Independence Award

In December, Ichiro Kawachi, John L. Loeb and Frances Lehman Loeb Professor of Social Epidemiology, will receive an honorary Doctor of Science degree from the Australian National University, for his “exceptional contribution to research, conceptualisation and integration of social science, health and inequalities and [his] invaluable role as a mentor and global leader.”

Henning Tiemeier, Sumner and Esther Feldberg Professor of Maternal and Child Health, received the 10th Annual Leon Eisenberg Award established by the Division of Developmental Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital in the Department of Pediatrics. As part of the award, he delivered the Ludwik Szymanski Lecture at the Psychiatry Department Grand Rounds at Boston Children’s Hospital on December 4.

In November, Mary Bassett, François-Xavier Bagnoud Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights and director of the François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights, received the 2019 Stephen Smith Medal for Distinguished Contributions in Public Health from the New York Academy of Medicine. The award is given for lifetime achievement in public health to an individual who has “lead or significantly contributed to work that effected a significant change in public health policy or practice to improve population health, including work on the broad determinants of health, with a special emphasis on eliminating health disparities.”

In November, David Williams, Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health and Chair, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, received the Harvard Faculty Humanitarian Award from the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. This award is given annually to a Harvard University faculty whose work aligns with that of the recipient of the Elisabeth B. Weintz Humanitarian Award. This year’s Weintz awardee is Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative and author of Just Mercy .

Rory Kirchner, research scientist in the Department of Biostatistics, is among the awardees of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s Essential Open Source Software for Science program. The funding will support Kirchner’s work to improve the bcbio-nextgen toolkit, focusing on maintaining existing variant calling functionality and extending support for structural and RNA-seq variant analyses. Kirchner said his efforts build upon the important work of Brad Chapman and Lorena Pantano, and that he will work closely with a team that includes Sergey Naumenko, Ilya Sytchev, Shannan Ho Sui, and John Hutchinson.

Gina McCarthy, director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment (C-CHANGE), received the Women In Green Forum Trailblazer Award and the Care2 Impact Award for her extraordinary impact on national environmental policy and her initiatives to improve public health, cut air pollution, and reduce greenhouse gases. The awards committee commended McCarthy for transcending political boundaries to frame climate change as a matter of public health.

Jaap Goudsmit, adjunct professor of epidemiology, was appointed chief scientific officer and senior vice president of the Humans Vaccine Project. Goudsmit is an internationally recognized Dutch virologist who has studied AIDS, influenza, aging, and neurodegenerative diseases. The Human Vaccines Project is a public-private initiative that aims to decode the human immune system to make the next leap forward in human health.

Pardis Sabeti, professor of immunology and infectious diseases at Harvard Chan School and professor at the Center for Systems Biology and Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, has been awarded half of a 1 million euros ($1.1 million) grant called the Future Insight Prize. Awarded by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, for the first time, the annual prize is aimed at triggering curiosity and creativity worldwide on how to bring “ambitious dream products” into reality—in this case, a “pandemic protector.” The prize is being split equally between Sabeti and James Crowe of Vanderbilt University. Sabeti was recognized for identifying innovative genetic technologies for the detection and treatment of infectious diseases like Ebola and the Lassa virus.

Caroline Buckee, associate professor of epidemiology and associate director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, received the 2019 Alice Hamilton Award at a ceremony at the School in April. Presented by the Committee on the Advancement of Women Faculty, the award recognizes impact in public health and future promise. Buckee’s work focuses on using big data and mathematical models to study the spread of infectious diseases. She was also recognized in June by Malaria No More as a “10 to END” innovator in the fight against malaria for her work using mobile phones as a public health tool.

Diana Ceballos, a visiting scientist in the Department of Environmental Health, was part of a team presented with the Bullard-Sherwood r2p Award in the Knowledge category at the 2019 NIOSH Science Awards in April. Ceballos and her colleagues were recognized for their work integrating Wikipedia into occupational health classes as a platform for student work.

Edward Giovannucci, professor of nutrition and epidemiology, was awarded the AACR-American Cancer Society Award for Research Excellence in Cancer Epidemiology and Prevention at its annual meeting in April. He was recognized for his work defining the role of molecular, hormonal, metabolic, and nutritional factors in determining cancer risk and patient survival, and for identifying modifiable risk factors and preventive strategies for prostate and colorectal cancer.

Sebastien Haneuse, associate professor of biostatistics, was elected a fellow of the American Statistical Association in July. He was recognized for his “outstanding contributions to statistical methods and applications for analysis of complex observational studies,” and for his collaborations, teaching, and mentorship.

Bethany Hedt-Gauthier, associate professor in the Department of Biostatistics, received the Velji Global Health Education Award at the annual Consortium of Universities for Global Health Conference in March. She was recognized for her work training clinical researchers in Rwanda.

Miguel Hernán, Kolokotrones Professor of Biostatistics and Epidemiology, was elected a fellow of the American Statistical Association. He was recognized at a ceremony in July for “outstanding contributions to methodological research in causal inference with substantive applications to address important public health and clinical problems,” and for teaching and mentorship.

Albert Hofman, chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Stephen B. Kay Family Professor of Public Health and Clinical Epidemiology, was ranked as one of the top 9 authors in the biomedical sciences for 2018 by Nature Index. The announcement noted that Hofman is a world leader in the epidemiology of common neurologic and vascular diseases who has authored influential studies on the role of vascular factors in Alzheimer’s disease.

William Mair, associate professor of genetics and complex diseases, received the 2019 Armen H. Tashjian Jr. Award for Excellence in Endocrine Research at a ceremony at the School in May. The award recognizes promising young faculty members and fellows who are pursuing innovative research ideas in basic biomedical sciences. Mair’s research focuses on the basic biology of the aging process.

Gina McCarthy, director of the Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment (C-CHANGE) at Harvard Chan School, was named one of the “Climate 100“—the world’s most influential people in climate policy—by Apolitical, a global network for government that helps public servants find ideas, people and partners to solve societies’ hardest challenges. McCarthy was cited for her work as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama, which included leading initiatives that cut air pollution, protected water resources, reduced greenhouse gases and strengthened chemical safety.

Samuel Myers, principal research scientist, planetary health, in the Department of Environmental Health, delivered the 2019 commencement address at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing. Myers’ research interests include planetary health, climate change, and consequences of large-scale environmental change to human nutrition and the impact of food production systems on the environment.

Vikram Patel, professor in the Department of Global Health and Population at Harvard Chan School and Pershing Square Professor of Global Health in the Blavatnik Institute at Harvard Medical School (HMS), received the 2019 John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award for his pioneering work in global mental health. Patel’s achievement was celebrated at a reception in April at HMS.

Eric Rubin, chair of the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases and the Irene Heinz Given Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, was named editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) in June. He is an esteemed scientist who has focused much of his research on Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the pathogen that causes human tuberculosis. He is the author of 147 scientific articles and has been an associate editor of NEJM since 2012.

Jack Shonkoff, Julius B. Richmond FAMRI Professor of Child Health and Development at Harvard Chan School and the Harvard Graduate School of Education and director of the Center on the Developing Child, was awarded the 2019 LEGO Prize for his outstanding achievement in deepening the world’s understanding of the importance of the early years. Awarded by the LEGO Foundation, the LEGO Prize honors individuals or organizations that have made an outstanding contribution to the lives of children and are champions of learning through play. Shonkoff, who is also professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, has received numerous honors for his accomplishments in the field of early childhood education and care.

Elsie Tavares, professor in the Department of Nutrition, and chief, Division of General Academic Pediatrics at Mass General Hospital for Children, was one of the 20 nationally recognized health and nutrition experts named to serve on the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and the Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar in February. The independent Advisory Committee will review the scientific evidence on topics and questions identified by USDA and HHS and will provide a report to the Secretaries. Their work will help inform the Departments in developing the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Michael VanRooyen was selected in March by the Center for Strategic and International Studies to join its Task Force on Humanitarian Access. This diverse group of leaders from across the humanitarian space aims to develop concrete policy recommendations to improve aid delivery while bringing humanitarian access issues to the forefront of foreign policy debate. VanRooyen is Lavine Family Professor of Humanitarian Studies, professor in the Department of Global Health and Population, and director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.

Marianne Wessling-Resnick, professor of nutritional biochemistry, received the Committee on the Advancement of Women Faculty’s Mentoring Award at the 2019 Alice Hamilton Award ceremony in April.

David R. Williams, Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health and chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard Chan School, and professor of African and African-American studies and sociology at Harvard University, was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in April. Election recognizes “distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.” Williams is an internationally renowned social scientist focused on social influences on health.

New department chairs named
Three department chairs began their roles on January 1: Marcia Castro, Andelot Professor of Demography, in the Department of Global Health and Population; Robert Farese, professor of genetics and complex diseases, in the Department of Molecular Metabolism; and David R. Williams, Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health, in the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. They join two other new chairs who began last summer: John Quackenbush, Henry Pickering Walcott Professor of Computational Biology and Bioinformatics, in the Department of Biostatistics; and Eric Rubin, Irene Heinz Given Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, in the Department of Immunology and Infectious Diseases.


Atul Gawande, professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Harvard Chan School, was named one of five physicians in the U.S. who made headlines in 2018 and someone who “you’ll want to watch in the year ahead” in a December 27, 2018 article in FierceHealthcare. Gawande was appointed in June to lead a new healthcare venture formed by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan Chase, which FierceHealthcare called “arguably one of the biggest healthcare stories of 2018.” Gawande is also a widely recognized surgeon, author of four New York Times bestsellers, a writer for the New Yorker, and executive director of Ariadne Labs.

Christopher Duggan, professor in the departments of nutrition and global health and population at Harvard Chan School, has been named editor of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The journal, published by the American Society for Nutrition, has the highest impact factor of any peer-reviewed journal in its category. Over his career Duggan has authored more than 300 research and review articles and has edited several books, including “Nutrition in Pediatrics” and “Clinical Management of Intestinal Failure.”

Francesca Dominici, Clarence James Gamble Professor of Biostatistics, Population, and Data Science, and Xihong Lin, professor of biostatistics and of statistics, were elected to the National Academy of Medicine in October. This is one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine and recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievements and commitment to service. Dominici was cited for “developing and applying innovative statistical methods to understanding and reducing the impact of air pollution on population health.” Lin was cited for “ingenious research in statistical methods and applications in whole-genome sequencing association studies, gene-environment, integrative analysis, and complex observational studies.”

John McDonough, professor of the practice of public health, received the Award for Outstanding Public Engagement in Health Policy 2018 from the Health Politics and Policy Section of the American Political Science Association at their annual conference in Boston in September.

Health care economist Anna Sinaiko was appointed by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker in July 2018 to the Group Insurance Commission, a quasi-independent state agency that provides and administers health insurance and other benefits to the Commonwealth’s employees and retirees, their dependents and survivors. Sinaiko, assistant professor of health economics and policy in the Department of Health Policy and Management, has expertise in the U.S. health care system, with a focus on consumer decision-making and how information and financial incentives alter behavior in health care settings.

David R. Williams, the Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health at Harvard Chan School and professor of African and African American Studies and Sociology at Harvard University, has been named a 2019 recipient of the Herbert Pardes Family Award for National Leadership in Advocacy for Research. He is among five recipients of awards from Research!America, a public education and advocacy alliance aimed at making research to improve health a higher national priority. The awards recognize leaders in medical and health research advocacy. Williams is an internationally recognized authority on social influences on health. His research has enhanced understanding of the complex ways in which race, socioeconomic status, stress, racism, health behavior, and religious involvement can affect health. Williams has played a national leadership role in raising awareness about the problem of health disparities and in identifying interventions to address them.

Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard Chan School, was one of 10 individuals honored as a 2018 “American Food Hero” by EatingWell. The awards recognize visionary leaders and influencers who are working on some of today’s most pressing food, sustainability and nutrition issues. Willett, who has published more than 1,700 original research papers and reviews over the course of his career, was among the first researchers to find a link between artificial trans fats and cholesterol and heart disease.

Sara Bleich, professor of public health policy, was selected for a professorship with the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She will conduct research on health policies for obesity prevention during the 2018–2019 academic year.

Margaret Kruk, associate professor of global health, delivered the 2018 Alice Hamilton Award Lecture on May 8. Presented by the School’s Committee on the Advancement of Women Faculty, the award recognizes the impact in public health and the future promise of a woman faculty member, honoring the memory of Alice Hamilton–a pioneer in the fields of toxicology and occupational health, who was the first woman appointed to the faculty at Harvard. At the event, Donna Spiegelman, professor of epidemiologic methods, received the annual mentoring award, and Paige Williams, senior lecturer on biostatistics, received the inaugural service award.

Lorelei Mucci, associate professor of epidemiology, and Timothy Rebbeck, Vincent L. Gregory, Jr. Professor of Cancer Prevention are among the researchers participating in a new Stand Up To Cancer Dream Team focused on revolutionizing the treatment of multiple myeloma. Stand Up To Cancer announced on April 15 a $10 million award to the team, which will seek ways to detect the incurable blood cancer of plasma cells before the cells turn into a full-blown disease.

Samuel Myers, principal research scientist at Harvard Chan School and director of Harvard’s Planetary Health Alliance, has been named the inaugural recipient of the Arrell Global Food Innovation research award. The $100,000 prize, which will be awarded by the Arrell Food Institute at the University of Guelph in May, was created to recognize innovation and excellence in global food security.

Howard Koh, Harvey V. Fineberg Professor of the Practice of Public Health Leadership, was awarded the Excellence in Melanoma Prevention Award from the Children’s Melanoma Prevention Foundation on April 12, 2018. Koh, an oncologist and dermatologist who previously served as U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health and Commissioner of Public Health in Massachusetts, was honored for his leadership in skin cancer prevention education, research, public policy and awareness. He was an organizer and founder of the American Academy of Dermatology’s National Skin Cancer Screening Program, which has resulted in more than 2 million Americans receiving free cancer screenings.

Koh was the undergraduate commencement speaker at the American University of Beirut. He also received an honorary doctorate of humane letters at the University’s commencement exercises on June 8, 2018. Read announcement

Two articles by researchers at Harvard Chan School are among the top 10 editor’s picks for 2017 in the journal Health Affairs. The noteworthy articles were: Los Angeles Safety-Net Program eConsult System Was Rapidly Adopted And Decreased Wait Times To See Specialists, led by Michael Barnett, assistant professor of health policy and management; and Women In The United States Experience High Rates Of Coverage ‘Churn’ In Months Before And After Childbirth, led by Jamie Daw, doctoral student in health policy, and co-authored by Katherine Swartz, professor of health policy and economics, and Benjamin Sommers, associate professor of health policy and economics (senior author).


Winnie Yip, professor of the practice of international health policy and economics at Harvard Chan School, was elected president of the International Health Economics Association (iHEA) on December 1, 2017. Read more

Liming Liang, associate professor of statistical genetics, and colleagues received a 2016 Ten Most Influential Research Award from the Chinese Diabetes Society at its 21th annual meeting on November 25, 2017. Liang was co-first author on the paper Early Prediction of Developing Type 2 Diabetes by Plasma Acylcarnitines: A Population-Based Study.

Pagona Lagiou, adjunct professor of epidemiology at Harvard Chan School and professor of hygiene and epidemiology at the University of Athens Medical School and was elected chair of the Department of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Medical Statistics (DHEMS) in her home institution, effective November 20, 2017. DHEMS is the first epidemiology department that was established in the context of a Medical School in Greece. It thrived and expanded its international collaborations under the leadership of Prof. Dimitrios Trichopoulos and is currently one of the most prolific epidemiology departments in Europe. Among others, it hosts a World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center for Nutrition and Health and the Greek National Reference Center for Retroviruses, and contributes to several international studies and consortia on the etiology of cancer and other chronic diseases.

Gina McCarthy, former administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was appointed in November 2017 as professor of the practice of public health in the Department of Environmental Health. She also became director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment, effective January 1, 2018.

The School welcomed four new faculty members in 2017: Vilsa Curto, assistant professor of health economics and policy, Daniel Neafsey, assistant professor of immunology and infectious diseases; Elise Robinson, assistant professor of epidemiology; Anna Sinaiko, assistant professor of health economics and policy. Read more

Robert Farese, Jr., professor of genetics and complex diseases at Harvard Chan School, has received a prestigious Laureate Award from the Endocrine Society. Announced in September 2017, the award will be presented in March 2018 at the Endocrine Society’s 100th annual meeting and expo. Read more

Glorian Sorensen, professor of social and behavioral sciences, received the 2017 Mark Dundon Research Award, one of the annual HERO Workplace Health and Well-Being (HWB) Awards. These awards honor dedication and commitment to the field, and acknowledge outstanding achievements in leadership and research. The award was presented during the HERO Forum on Engagement & the Emerging Workforce, held September 12-14, 2017 in Phoenix, AZ. Read more

A portrait of David Hunter, Vincent L. Gregory Professor in Cancer Prevention, Emeritus and former Dean for Academic Affairs and Acting Dean was unveiled at the School on September 6, 2017. Read more

Tyler VanderWeele, professor of epidemiology, and Xihong Lin, Henry Pickering Walcott Professor of Biostatistics, and chair of the Department of Biostatistics, received prestigious awards from the Committee of Presidents of Statistical Societies (COPSS) in honor of their outstanding contributions to the profession of statistics. The awards were presented on August 2, 2017 at the Joint Statistical Meetings in Baltimore. Read more

Madina Agénor, assistant professor of social and behavioral sciences, was one of eight junior faculty from around the country who participated this summer in an intensive four-week program at Yale University aimed at advancing HIV/AIDS research by underrepresented minority academics. Read more

Heverton Dutra, a researcher in immunology and infectious diseases from Brazil, was named in June 2017 as a member of the 2017 class of Pew Latin American Fellows in the Biomedical Sciences. The program provides two-year fellowships to talented Latin American scientists who receive postdoctoral training in the United States. Read more