Amid broader restructuring, Yale begins search for new dean of public health

Yale Daily News

The search for the first dean of an independent Yale School of Public Health is ongoing.

In a Monday email to faculty, university president Peter Salovey unveiled the committee members who will help him select Dean Sten Vermund’s successor, who will lead the school as she enters into a new era of independence after more than a century of school surveillance. of Medicine. Three senior faculty members from the Yale School of Public Health detailed the importance of the new dean’s responsibilities and the pressures on his role during the ongoing pandemic.

Associate Professor of Epidemiology Gregg Gonsalves ’11 GRD ’17, Professor of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging Howard Forman and Professor of Medicine Harlan Krumholz ’80 all pointed out that whoever succeeds Sten Vermund will face the important task to achieve the independence of the school and put to best use the millions of dollars in new endowment funds Central University has transferred to SPH.

“Now we need a dean of extraordinary caliber,” Gonsalves said. “Someone who can manage the complex transition to a newly independent institution, but who is also a leader in public health, has a vision for public health in the 21st century, and can raise the additional funds we will need to upgrade infrastructure – including the possibility of a new building for YSPH – which can free our students from debt by improving financial aid and help us to rise in the ranks of the best public health schools in the United States »

The research committee will be chaired by Associate Dean for Research and Professor of Epidemiology Susan Dwight Bliss at the Yale School of Public Health, Melinda Irwin. The 11-person committee includes the current dean of the Yale School of Medicine and professors of public health, global affairs, epidemiology and medicine.

Salovey also announced that the University has retained Boston-based research firm Isaacson Miller to assist the committee with its research, breaking with recent precedent, when various research committees were not assisted. by outside companies.

The head teachers described, in stark terms, the importance of the new dean. The task ahead of them, according to the professors, is complex and requires a vision of public health in the present moment. And, they said, the Dean must be able to raise funds and launch a new era in the future of the School.

Krumholz elaborated, writing that SPH needs someone with “vision and drive.” He presented the role of the new dean as incredibly broad, bordering on philosophy: whoever succeeds Vermund must be able to “fire people’s imaginations” about the role of public health in society and must embrace both the use of data science and the ‘power of the community.’ He added that the new dean must connect the school to the wider university, in recognition of the contemporary importance of public health .

“There’s a need for someone with ambition to see the promise of what can be done at Yale come true,” Krumholz said. “There’s a lot of work ahead of us.”

Forman, successfully raising funds for the School of Public Health is one of the most important tasks the new dean will face. He highlighted in particular the prospect of obtaining a new building for the School, which would require significant new fundraising. The School of Public Health is currently spread over several buildings and many courses are taught in the basements.

Forman noted that Vermund himself would have “done a great job” navigating the school through the complex years ahead.

“I was disappointed to see him walk away from that position,” Forman said. “I don’t in any way want to infer that I don’t think he can because I think he could handle that transition.”

Earlier this year, it was revealed that Vermund had been ousted as Dean. At the time, professors expressed concern about leaving the SPH without a stable direction.

Both Gonsalves and Forman highlighted the importance of new funds to improve the School’s structural deficit and how SPH’s reliance on the School of Medicine has limited its operations. The School of Public Health was previously structured as a department within the School of Medicine, with the School of Medicine overseeing budgets and hiring. In Forman’s view, in particular, the interconnection with the School of Medicine compounded the financial difficulties of the SPH.

“I believe President Salovey’s new announcement could usher in a new era for public health at Yale,” Gonsalves wrote in an email to The News. “Giving the school the independence and the financial resources to start its new adventure is a real step forward.”

Forman detailed how an institution such as SPH has three potential sources of revenue: tuition fees, research grants, and external funding such as an endowment. In Forman’s portrait, the first two often provide little profit for SPH and as a result the third becomes the most important, with a heavy reliance on medical school which, Forman said, was a “difficult position” for the HPS. The School of Medicine has a much larger endowment than the School of Public Health and also earns money through clinical procedures.

“The School of Public Health has never been adequately funded,” Forman told The News. “If you want to adequately fund the School of Public Health…you have to find an endowment. And raising an endowment for a school that is a department of medical school is also a tough proposition.

When raising funds for SPH within the School of Medicine, donors feared, Forman explained, that the funds would be used to fill the School of Medicine’s deficit, rather than directed to programs. specific to HPS.

Because of these challenges, Krumholz was particularly optimistic about Yale’s new investment in SPH’s endowment, describing it as a watershed moment for the University.

“An independent Yale School of Public Health has the opportunity to become the world’s leading institution, building on Yale’s strengths and paving the way for immense impact,” Krumholz told The News.

Forman explained the details of university president Peter Salovey’s new announcement, saying that of the total amount pledged, the School of Public Health will have “relatively easy” access to $200 million, which he says , is the exact amount needed to see the school. work as expected.

“[The investment] clears the structural deficit, it allows you to provide financial aid, at least to a slightly greater degree than we had before, and it allows the school to make strategic investments in programs that previously had to be approved by the medical school or more likely would not have been approved for lack of funds,” Forman told the News.

Vermund’s term will end on June 30. In his message to the School of Public Health community, Salovey wrote that during his tenure, the Dean has “enhanced the contributions of YSPH to the world.”

“I am grateful to him for his contributions to the school, to Yale, and to the health and well-being of so many communities around the world,” Salovey wrote.

The School of Public Health was founded in 1915.


Philip Mousavizadeh covers Woodbridge Hall, the President’s office. He previously covered the Jackson Institute. He is a sophomore at Trumbull College studying ethics, politics and economics.

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