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Dean's Message from Melinda Pettigrew - Spring 2023

Yale Public Health Magazine, Focus: Spring 2023


This spring is an exciting time for the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) community as we prepare to welcome Dr. Megan Ranney as the school’s next Dean on July 1, 2023. Dr. Ranney is deeply committed to elevating and including the voices of those for whom we work through community-driven collaborative approaches to public health challenges.

YSPH has long been a leader in aging research, amplifying the voice of the aged population. The term “ageism” was coined in 1969 as a “process of systematic stereotyping or discrimination against people because they are old.” Today, the culture has not sufficiently changed with 82 percent of older people in the U.S. encountering ageism regularly, as Professor Becca Levy has reported. The persistence of ageism has both individual and structural causes, many of which you will read about in this Spring 2023 issue of Focus.

Professor Levy’s groundbreaking research reveals surprising insights about how the mind-body connection influences the aging process. For example, health problems that have been thought to be entirely due to aging are instead influenced by negative age beliefs. Positive age beliefs, on the other hand, can lead to better health and longer life.

You will also read about the work of several YSPH researchers who are dedicated to studying issues related to aging. Associate Professor Xi Chen, an affiliate of Yale’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, discusses the importance of better understanding social determinants of dementia risk. Assistant Professor Chelsey Carter and Associate Professor Joan Monin, will interview caregivers for persons of color who are suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). This work, funded by a new grant from the ALS Association, is important because ALS has historically been viewed and studied as a disease of older white men like Lou Gehrig, whose name has been synonymous with the disease. Dr. Monin, recently appointed as a Fellow of the American Psychosomatic Society, also led a separate study that showed that an early intervention targeted at spousal care partners not only increased their quality of life but also positively impacted their partners living with dementia. Professor Thomas Gill, director of the Yale Program on Aging, and of the Claude D. Pepper Older Americans Independence Center, defines the scope and scale of mortality after major geriatric surgery in the U.S.

Two Yale alumni, Phil Moriarty and Sam Waterston of the Class of ’62, who continue to work into their 80s, joined Professor Levy for a panel discussion on “flunking retirement” during alumni weekend in 2022.

Moriarty and Waterston recently continued the discussion with us during a lively Q&A, featured in Conversation. And, as a special online feature profile, YSPH doctoral student José Aravena Castro conducts fieldwork studying memory loss among indigenous people in Chile.

Representing just a glimpse of the breadth of impactful research and practice achievements at YSPH, I hope that you find this Focus informative and inspiring.

Melinda Pettigrew, PhD ’99
Interim Dean and Anna M.R. Lauder Professor of Epidemiology (Microbial Diseases)