New era for new SPH students; Senator Kennedy's death ends another era


Each year as dean, I enjoy the first week of School more than the last year. Easy for me, of course, no books to purchase, no worry about exams to come and no classes. Each year, new students come with great experiences behind them, tremendous commitment, excellent GREs and grades, and immense motivation to change the world for the better.

dsc03085-copy.jpgThis year, it was exhilarating to welcome our 529 new students, talk with them about why they have come here and, in some cases, alleviate their anxieties about how well they will perform. From our really smart new undergrads in environmental sciences and engineering, biostatistics, health policy and management and nutrition, to our new master’s and doctoral students across the School, it’s hard not to be excited by what these students already have done in their lives and what they hope to accomplish.

FHI fellows make first-rate presentations

For the last four years, 14 of our students have been selected to serve as FHI fellows through  the generosity of Family Health International, under the leadership of Ward Cates, MD, MPH, President of Research at FHI and a member of our School’s Advisory Council, and Lucy Siegel, PhD, Director of Research Resource Development at FHI.  They’ve  worked with Peggy Bentley and Gretchen Van Vliet at the School to develop the program. Last Friday, Gretchen, Sian Curtis, me, and several others from our School went to FHI’s offices to participate as three UNC FHI fellows (Heather Marlow, MCH, Kate Clouse, EPI and Kate Patterson Gilles, HBHE) presented their work. I doubt most of us on the faculty were as polished at their ages as the three women who presented their work. They’re having excellent, diverse research experiences, developing and testing interventions to reduce risk of AIDS, evaluating clinical trials to prevent AIDS and examining other aspects of the AIDS problem. They’re using new technologies like mobile phones to communicate with at-risk populations, analyzing quantitative and qualitative data, learning how culture influences behavior and spending time in clinics with patients.  The variety of experiences will give them a great head start on their careers after they complete their degrees. We are so grateful to FHI for partnering with us to provide these fellowships.

Senator Kennedy dies; end of an era

kennedy_ted_funeral_2.jpgI did not think Ted Kennedy’s death would hit me as hard as it did. Unlike the tragic deaths of his brothers, he lived his life in both years and accomplishments. He was there for so much of my life, championing the causes in which I and so many more others believed, exhorting us to do better, care more, treat people fairly, provide health care for all, advocate for those who could not do so themselves-the kinds of fundamental beliefs we in public health hold dearly. Not a perfect man, he was nevertheless a good man. Without Kennedy’s moving oratory and nearly messianic belief in health insurance for all, bitter partisan battles could overwhelm the momentum for change. I hope not.

I was in my mid-20s when I was leaving the Capitol after a hearing about breast cancer reconstruction and insurance coverage (Not so long ago, people debated whether reconstruction should be covered.), an issue on which Ted Kennedy was far ahead of many other people of his time. I mistakenly got on the elevators reserved for Senators and Representatives and was alone on the elevator with Ted Kennedy. I wish I could say that in that brief passage, I said just the right thing, but no such luck. He smiled, I smiled, and we disembarked. Still, it was a moment to remember, even years later when we’d been at some of the same Washington events, and I’d been to testify on the Hill, participated in Rose Garden events and become comfortable in DC. Still, there was always Kennedy.  There is no one like him and his passing is a loss for us all. Still, his dreams should not die.

Happy Monday, Barbara

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