PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — After spending 14 months on temporary leave to lead the U.S. government’s COVID-19 pandemic response and recovery efforts, Dr. Ashish K. Jha will return to lead the Brown University School of Public Health. Jha will resume his post as dean of SPH on July 1, as Interim Dean Ronald Aubert continues his leadership through the close of Brown’s academic and fiscal years before taking on the permanent role of senior associate dean of education at the school.
Jha will return to Brown having concluded his term as White House COVID-19 response coordinator, a position to which U.S. President Joseph R. Biden appointed him in March 2022. The federal COVID-19 public health emergency expired May 11. Biden commended Jha’s leadership in a Thursday, June 8, statement from the White House.
“As one of the leading public health experts in America, he has effectively translated and communicated complex scientific challenges into concrete actions that helped save and improve the lives of millions of Americans,” Biden said. “I extend my deepest thanks to Ashish and his family. We are a stronger and healthier nation because of his contributions to public service.”
Brown Interim Provost Larry Larson praised Jha’s public service and also the strong leadership of SPH during his temporary leave.
“Ashish’s willingness to serve the nation in a moment of such tremendous challenge, and his commitment to focusing on science and solutions, sets an excellent example for every aspiring public health leader,” Larson said. “We’re excited to welcome him back to Brown. At the same time, we are deeply grateful to Ron Aubert for his outstanding leadership in ensuring continued positive momentum at the School of Public Health.”
In his first 18 months as dean, Jha introduced a series of high-impact initiatives, championing an expansive portfolio of research and education priorities, and recruiting world-class faculty with expertise in global health, information disorders, health policy reform, and pandemic preparedness and response.
Under Aubert’s leadership, the School of Public Health has continued to thrive. The Health Equity Scholars program, founded in 2021, has grown significantly, with master of public health degree scholarships now available for graduates of historically Black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions and Rhode Island residents. The school’s Pandemic Center, launched last September, is connecting policymakers with data-driven recommendations to mitigate disruption during global epidemic events.
Other research and education initiatives led by SPH faculty are making a positive difference on public health challenges ranging from Rhode Island’s overdose epidemic, to air and water pollution, to Alzheimer’s and dementia.
“I’m grateful to the scholars, educators and students who have continued to advance Dean Jha’s vision and who make the School of Public Health a dynamic and impactful place to work and study,” Aubert said. “Their collective research continues to improve lives in Rhode Island and around the world. We are all very excited about the return of Dean Jha and look forward to quickly translating his real-world, real-time policy work into the educational experience of our students.”
Jha said his return offers an opportunity to employ insights from the nation’s pandemic response as educators across the school focus on training the next generation of public health leaders.
“We are in a world drastically altered by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Jha said. “For all we have accomplished to reduce illness and save lives, COVID-19 has exposed the weaknesses in our public health and health care systems. I look forward to returning to Brown to continue our groundbreaking work transforming public health education, research and practice to convert these weaknesses to strengths.”