New Year's Eve

This week, “Monday Morning” comes on Monday night. I am in my office contemplating the end of an amazing year and the beginning of the new one full of promise. This isn’t the forum to review the year in depth, but I want to point to good news.

It is remarkable that, despite storm clouds on the funding horizon, our faculty members have been extremely successful in achieving strong records of research funding. What outsiders may not realize is that it takes more work than ever before to obtain grants. In the past, excellent grant applications may have been funded on the first try; now it is not uncommon to require three tries, resulting in long delays in funding research. Sometimes, excellent research is not funded at all. That represents a loss for all of us.

Our faculty, staff and students received numerous awards in 2007, evidence of their accomplishments in multiple domains, including the substantive impact of their work.

The most spectacular event of the year was the pledge of $50 million from Dennis and Joan Gillings that is transforming the School of Public Health, helping us to anticipate the future and accelerate our impact in improving the public’s health. We have made substantial progress in realizing the goals for this gift. I am grateful to the Carolina Public Health Solutions group for their dedicated, focused efforts; to the many faculty, staff and students who have rallied to participate; and to the wonderful advisors who agreed to work with us. This gift is about what we do best – accelerating solutions and solving problems.

While the gift from Dennis and Joan Gillings is monumental, hundreds of people have given to the School in the last year, and we are grateful for every gift, no matter what its size. Each gift represents a belief in this School and our ability to make a difference. Each deserves a sense of reciprocal obligation on our part – to use the gift well.

We look ahead to 2008 and see that it will be an awesome year, the year in which our School will become the Dennis and Joan Gillings School of Global Public Health, the first school of public health with “globalin its name. We must act quickly in the next six months to get ready for the name change. This will include making major changes in our Web site and taking a hard look at the global content of our teaching. We have to earn our new name – and keep earning it. Willie Mays said, “It isn’t hard being good from time to time. What is tough is being good every day.” We have to be good every day.

I have been impressed by the advances made by several of our departments (including HPAA) in globalizing their content. Dr. Peggy Bentley and others have been instrumental in this process. As we evolve, I want us to keep a strong sense of our “true north” and not lose sight of the central role of our students in defining what we do and who we are. We look forward to major festivities in the fall to celebrate the name change. There will be many opportunities for anyone interested to contribute to planning efforts.

We are in the heat of a political campaign, the outcome of which will have earthshaking implications not only for public health but for world health, in the broadest sense. I look forward to opportunities to facilitate informed dialogue about the issues. Stay tuned for an upcoming announcement about the Foard Lecture in this regard.

As I look back on the year, I am incredibly grateful to all the people who have helped me and helped our School – faculty, staff, students, people from other schools at UNC, and an incredible and growing group of external advisors who recognize our contributions and see our potential to make a difference. This School is a magnificent institution, and I am grateful to be its dean.

I also am awed by the private struggles that many of our faculty, staff and students have undergone in the last year – people who continue to work in spite of their own and family members’ treatments for cancer and other life-threatening illnesses, deaths of close family members, and calamities such as fires. My empathy is with you all, and I wish you good health and recovery.

One only has to pick up the daily paper to see the need for public health – drought in the Triangle, war in Kenya, AIDS in Africa and around the world, obesity at home, more and more people without health insurance and so much more. As we look ahead to 2008, it is clear that we in this School of Public Health are a global resource, and our dedication, skills, experience and knowledge are tools to change the world.

Eleanor Roosevelt said the three most important requirements for happiness are “a feeling that you have been honest with yourself and those around you; a feeling that you have done the best you could both in your personal life and in your work; and the ability to love others.” These are good principles for every year.

Onward to 2008! I look forward to working with you. Wishing you health, comfort and joy in the year to come!


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