Dean’s Message: Building on a Legacy

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I’m grateful to be writing to you as dean of the School of Public Health. UC Berkeley is simply an amazing environment with a rich community of people determined to improve the world. I’m inspired by the breadth and depth of the research and training that go on at the School every day.

In my previous life as an academic in Mexico, the inaugural class of our training program in health economics graduated a year after I arrived. As you might imagine, this made for a very small group of alumni who immediately became my close colleagues, with whom I’m still in touch. What a contrast with the vast, interconnected Berkeley community I encounter now. I’m humbled to know that all of you are out there promoting global and local health, that you are the future employers and colleagues of our current students, and that you will partner with me in making the School even stronger than it is today.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my predecessor, Dean Emeritus Stephen Shortell, who played a vital role in the accomplishments of the School over the past 11 years. I encourage you to read more about the School’s many milestones during his tenure beginning on page 8. I also had the opportunity to sit down with Steve during my first few weeks on campus to talk “dean to dean”—you can find that conversation opposite this letter.

Along with the change of leadership at the School, there have been other important transitions in recent months: Nicholas Dirks succeeded Robert Birgeneau as Berkeley chancellor in June 2013, Janet Napolitano was selected as UC president in July 2013, and Susan Desmond-Hellmann MD, MPH ’88 will step down as UCSF chancellor in March. Transitions are a time of opportunity—for instance, the School can contribute to Chancellor Dirks’s Global University intiative to expand research and service opportunities in global public health. I’m also looking forward to partnering with other UC leaders to strengthen the School’s multidisciplinary ties across the campus and across the bay with UCSF.

Transitions can also bring some stress and uncertainty. One of my top priorities is working with faculty, students, and staff to help smooth the process so people remain satisfied and productive in their work. I’m also committed to embarking on a collaborative strategic planning process to shape a vision for the School we’d like to see 10 or 20 years from now. I look forward to getting input from you, our alumni and supporters, during this process.

One of the things that drew me to the School of Public Health is the world-class faculty. Again, I have Steve to thank for many of my academic colleagues— he recruited 21 during his time as dean. As I meet them, I realize more and more that the faculty members here are so much of what makes the School one of the best places in the world to get a public health education. I’d like to thank in particular Professor Ralph Catalano, who recently agreed to serve as executive associate dean. I’m looking forward to benefiting from his wise counsel in the areas of academic affairs and school management.

I hope you will read in this issue of Berkeley Health about some of the work of our faculty members, alumni, and students tackling pressing and emerging issues around the globe—including in the areas of “Big Data” and health care reform. I think you will find it as inspiring as I did.

Sincerely,

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Stefano Bertozzi MD, PhD
Dean and Professor of Health Policy and Management

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