Leadership of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences

The following announcement was sent to the School community by Dean Michelle A. Williams on November 16, 2018.

Dear members of the Harvard Chan School community,

I am pleased to announce that David R. Williams, PhD, MPH, Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health, will serve as Chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, effective January 1, 2019.

I would like to offer my sincere thanks to Ichiro Kawachi for the leadership he brought to the department over the past ten years. As Chair, he has strongly advocated that public health must engage with discoveries in the field of behavioral sciences. He co-edited a textbook on applications of behavioral economics to public health, and in 2013, he launched a MOOC through HarvardX called “Health and Society,” in which 32,000 participants registered from around the world. Under his leadership, the department was ranked as the top social/behavioral sciences department in the nation according to the National Research Council survey of all research doctorate programs. Again, on behalf of the School and the faculty, I thank Professor Kawachi for the many contributions he has made to the department and the School and wish him continued success.

Professor Williams is an internationally recognized social scientist and his research focuses on the complex ways in which socioeconomic status, race, stress, racism, health behavior, and religious involvement can affect physical and mental health. With funding from the NIH and the sponsorship of the WHO, Professor Williams directed the South African Stress and Health Study, the first nationally representative study of the prevalence and correlates of mental disorders in sub-Saharan Africa. He was also a key member of the team that conducted the National Study of American Life, the largest study of mental health disorders in the African American population in the United States and the first health study to include a large national sample of Blacks of Caribbean ancestry.

He is the author of more than 400 scientific papers and served on the editorial board of 12 scientific journals. The Everyday Discrimination Scale that he developed is one of the most widely used measures of discrimination in health studies. Professor Williams’ many achievements include being elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2001 and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2007.

Additionally, Professor Williams holds a faculty appointment in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences as Professor of African and African American Studies. He graduated from Loma Linda University (California) with a MPH in Health Education, earned his PhD in Sociology from the University of Michigan, and joined the School’s faculty in 2006.

Please join me in congratulating and welcoming Professor Williams to this new role at the Harvard Chan School.

Michelle A. Williams, ScD
Dean of the Faculty, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Angelopoulos Professor in Public Health and International Development,
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Kennedy School