“The Importance of Public Health”
Members of the audience at the 2018 Public Health Commencement Ceremony have supported their children, grandchildren, wives, friends, and family members for years as they worked toward this graduation, but many probably still weren’t sure. What is the importance of public health?
Dean Bess Marcus, in her first Commencement address as Dean, talked about what public health is, and about how easy it is to take public health initiatives for granted. “When you came here, today, you wore your seatbelt or your bike helmet," she said, “because of public health. You probably don’t smoke, and of course, you don’t go to the beach without wearing sunscreen. These are all examples of public health in action.”
While she lauded the great advancements in the quantity and quality of life brought about by public health, she reminded the audience that challenges remain. “The opioid crises, our grim maternal mortality rates, climate change, and the obesity epidemic are only a few examples of the obstacles we still face— obstacles I am confident the graduates before you are prepared to tackle.”
The 2018 Public Health graduates have acquired the skills needed to face today’s complex health challenges. They’ve learned to identify, measure, and compare health outcomes, and to analyze huge amounts of health data. And they’ve learned to apply this knowledge to the promotion of population health and the prevention of disease. From traumatic brain injury to hepatitis C, from diabetes to HIV, the remarkable graduates, across eleven academic programs awarded degrees today, have made their own contributions to increased life expectancy, while acquiring the skills to become public health leaders.
The Dean also introduced the representatives of Brown University’s Corporation on hand to award undergraduate degrees, trustee Susan Libby Heimark ‘76, and trustee Charles Giancarlo ‘79. This year there was a record number of 27 undergraduate honors students in the Public Health Concentration—44% of the class overall.
After the awarding of the undergraduate degrees in Public Health and Statistics, the Undergraduate Student Excellence Awards were presented along with the Public Health Graduate Impact Awards. The Undergraduate award recipients were Elizabeth Waisel, Kaitlyn Camacho-Orona, Isabel Blalock, Meghan Foe, and Lillian Hayes, and Trevor Lyford. The Master’s Public Health Impact Awards were presented to Jerson Cochancela (AM, Biostatistics), Kaitlin Gregg Goodman (MPH), and Akash Radia (ScM, BSHS). The Doctoral Public Health Impact Award was presented to Alexandra Ellis (HSR).
The graduate students, who received their diplomas during earlier ceremonies, were acknowledged and presented with gifts from their respective graduate program directors. Degrees were awarded this year to Master’s students in Behavioral and Social Health Sciences, Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Clinical and Translational Research, and the Master’s in Public Health. Doctoral degrees were awarded in Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Health Services Research.
Dean Marcus described it as a “glorious day to acknowledge the many achievements of these amazing and talented graduates—and to help launch them on their paths to becoming leaders in improving population health.” She thanked the faculty “who have educated, mentored, and sometimes nudged and nagged these graduates to completion of their degrees.” The faculty rose to acknowledge applause. Dean Marcus closed with well wishes and thanks to everyone in attendance. “Congratulations again to all the outstanding graduates in the class of 2018!”