Virtual Alumni Week 2021 explores public health through the life course

Zoom screenshot of speakers at an Alumni Week panel
Speakers on the panel “Racism and Racial Discrimination and its Impact on the Life Course”

October 8, 2021 — Alumni from around the world came together for Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s virtual Alumni Week, held September 27 through October 2, 2021.

For the second year, the event shifted from its traditional in-person format, held on a weekend, to a week’s worth of online programming. Some 230 attendees from 27 different countries viewed expert panels on the theme “Public Health Through the Life Course,” lightning talks from individual alumni, and videos about the recipients of the annual Alumni Awards.

Three individuals received this year’s Alumni Award of Merit, the highest honor presented to alumni: Paula Johnson, MPH ’85, Lois Travis, SM ’82, SD ’94, and Stefan Willich, MPH ’90. Three additional alumni received professional achievement awards: Hilary Marston, MPH ’13 (Emerging Public Health Professional Award), Jocelyn Lehrer, SM ’01, SD ’04 (Public Health Innovator Award), and Kezevino Aram, MPH ’00 (Leadership Award in Public Health Practice).

Live panel discussions, presented throughout the week and available to watch on demand, included a keynote panel on healthy aging, featuring Alexandre Kalache, president of the International Longevity Centre, Brazil, and Yoav Ben-Shlomo, professor of clinical epidemiology at Bristol Medical School in the United Kingdom, and moderated by Lisa Berkman, director of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies and the Thomas D. Cabot Professor of Public Policy and of Epidemiology at Harvard Chan School.

The panel “Racism and Racial Discrimination and its Impact on the Life Course” included Natalie Slopen, ScD ’10, assistant professor of social and behavioral sciences at Harvard Chan School; David Chae, ScD ’07, of Tulane University; and Zinzi Bailey, ScD ’14, of the University of Miami. Margareta Matache, director of the FXB Center for Health and Human Right’s Roma Program, moderated.

“From Infancy to Adulthood–Risk Factors across the Life Course,” featured a discussion of the ways that social factors experienced from infancy to adulthood influence cognitive function, dementia, stroke, and other health outcomes in old age. It was moderated by Albert Hofman, Stephen B. Kay Professor of Public Health and Clinical Epidemiology and chair of the Department of Epidemiology at Harvard Chan School, with panelists Henning Tiemeier, Sumner and Esther Feldberg Professor of Maternal and Child Health, Vincent Jaddoe, adjunct professor of epidemiology, and Maria Glymour, SM ’00, SD ’04, of the University of California, San Francisco.

An alumni panel highlighted the impact of mental health and loneliness on health. Panelists included: Cynthia Cohen, SM ’76, founder and director, Pathway Partners; Kasley Killam, MPH ’20, founder, Social Health Labs; and Elif Cindik, MPH ’01, medical director, Psychiatrisches Zentrum am Marienplatz. It was moderated by Shekhar Saxena, professor of the practice of global mental health at Harvard Chan School.

In a series of lightning talks, alumni gave TED-style presentations about their research. Topics included resilience in young people living with HIV in Nigeria, homelessness among people with mental illnesses, and reimagining aging for women.

Amy Roeder