From The Dean: Learning from Discovery and Service

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Dean Stephen Shortellheading
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Knowledge for its own sake is an enjoyable and worthy pursuit. But knowledge put to use advances human civilization. As a professional school at the world’s leading public university, we have a special obligation to link knowledge to action, or as we express it, to move “from publication to public action.”

 

One result of our engagement, and that of many others on campus, is that UC Berkeley was recently recognized as the top university in the country for its contributions to society by the Washington Monthly annual rankings. These rankings are based on three broad categories: (1) social mobility in terms of recruiting and graduating low income students; (2) research in terms of producing cutting-edge scholarship and Ph.Ds; and (3) service in terms of encouraging students to give something back to their country.

Volunteer Mobilization Day gardeningOur students learn through discovery and service. The creativity and critical thinking skills required in research and knowledge production are equally needed in service. We need to be constructive skeptics, not only in the development of new knowledge, but in its application. In brief, the service that our faculty, students, and staff provide to our communities becomes itself an object of analysis in the quest to improve human health. We examine our service to see what works and doesn’t work under varying situations and circumstances.

This issue of Berkeley Health tells some of the stories of people at the School who are committed to service and how they are acting on that commitment in a variety of ways— through clinical care, policy making, community activism, and other means.

We are reaching out to those students with a particular interest in serving vulnerable communities—locally, across the country, and throughout the world. For example, the UC Berkeley-UCSF Joint Medical Program (JMP) is training primary care physicians to serve the urban poor, while the Suitcase Clinic, started by a JMP student more than 20 years ago, has provided millions of hours of free care to people in need in Berkeley and surrounding areas.

Through the School’s Center for Health Leadership, students learn the skills to serve as leaders wherever their paths take them—in areas as diverse as community health education, reproductive rights activism, and teaching new media tools. Other outstanding examples of service spotlighted in this issue include students and graduates working in Haiti in the wake of the  disastrous earthquake; in India on community development projects to improve maternal and child health; and in Berkeley combating health inequities.

The School is frequently called upon to serve the State of California in the policy arena. Members of the School community are helping to implement good health policy, advising the State Legislature, and leading initiatives to improve care.

volunteersSpeaking at the Commonwealth Club, Jane Goodall made the following comment: “We look around the world and we see many problems. But equally we look around the world and we find many solutions, and our job is to replicate the solutions and to live with courage and not to live in fear and to live with determination that we will create a more healthy and a better world. It’s we who can make the difference.”

I hope you will be inspired by what you read in the following pages, and that these stories will spark some new ideas for your own personal commitment to service.
 
 
Stephen M. Shortell, PhD, MPH, MBA
Dean, School of Public Health
Blue Cross of California Distinguished
Professor of Health Policy & Management
Professor of Organization Behavior

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