A message to the Brown Public Health Community from Dean Ashish Jha as he begins his tenure as the third dean of the Brown University School of Public Health
This is an unprecedented time to be joining you. In the midst of the largest public health crisis in a century, this is a moment to recast and reinvigorate public health. And we at the Brown School of Public Health are uniquely able to do so. In this moment of challenge, we have the ability to bring bold thinking and fearless research to this pandemic, to issues central to our school, and, importantly, to make clear the significance of public health in our community, our country, and around the globe. I am so excited about the opportunities ahead and look forward to working with all of you to meet them.
As you well know, the community that is Brown University offers extraordinary academic strengths, a highly unique collaborative culture, and the ability to maximize the impact of our work at the School of Public Health. We can bring these strengths to the rigorous work that transforms public health. Our field tackles complex problems, from how systemic racism shapes the lives and health of so many of our fellow Rhode Islanders and Americans, to the health challenges created by climate change. These are deeply public health problems – but they are not solely public health problems. And engaging with scholars in other fields makes our work better and more effective.
The impact of our research is seen not only in the scholarly work we produce but also in how we train the next generation of public health leaders. This training has to be not just multi-disciplinary – but also life-long. We are all students and our commitment to our current and future alumni is that we will continue to engage and work together for years to come. The knowledge that underlies public health is rapidly changing and we must all commit to refreshing and updating our knowledge. Our school is committed to working with you – while you are here but also for the rest of your careers – in helping you stay current and engaged with the latest in public health.
Beyond changing how we train leaders in public health, we have to work much harder on changing who we train. This means a commitment to substantially expanding the diversity of our students so that the next generation of public health leaders are far better equipped to understand and tackle some of the biggest public health problems. Bringing in more diverse voices to change the face of public health leadership will elevate and address key issues central to closing the gap in public health outcomes. And we have to make sure that our own internal environment at our school fosters a sense of inclusion and belonging that is central to helping diverse voices thrive.
Finally, at a time when there is a massive hunger for public health education, we need to think hard about how we create new opportunities for teaching a global audience. Students who may never step foot in Providence need access to knowledge and education about the basics of public health. We need to think more creatively about how to provide that education across boundaries and on new platforms.
I cannot overstate how excited I am to be joining the Brown School of Public Health. We are a school founded in the 21st century, ready to take on the big public health problems of the 21st century. This is a time for us to be bold and ambitious. It is a time to tackle the big public health problems, from pandemic preparedness and response to racism to climate change. We must leverage the strengths of our university and engage deeply in our local community at Brown, in Providence, and across Rhode Island. If we are willing to do that – to think beyond our walls, to be bold, and to take risks, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.
Thank you for being a part of this community and for dedicating yourself to improving people’s health. My door is always open and I am eager to learn from you about how I can help your mission to improve public health. I look forward to the conversations and important work ahead.
Ashish K. Jha, MD, MPH
Dean, School of Public Health
Professor of Health Services, Policy & Practice