- Sten Vermund’s Tenure as Dean of YSPH Marked by Historic Gains… and COVID-19
Sten Vermund’s time as dean of the Yale School of Public Health will forever be associated with COVID-19. After all, nearly half of his term from February 2017 to July 2022 was dominated by the devastating global pandemic, which dramatically changed the world and how YSPH operates. So Vermund, MD, PhD, the Anna M.R. Lauder Professor of Public Health, may be remembered for how he navigated the school through the sudden transition to virtual learning, COVID-19 tracking and surveillance, local and global guidance from faculty experts, and steep fluctuations in enrollment. But there is much more to his legacy as a leader of one of the nation’s top public health schools.
During Vermund’s time as dean, YSPH experienced its largest jump in the national rankings put out by the U.S. News & World Report in more than a decade. The school now ranks at number 11, its highest ranking ever. Vermund also established the school’s first Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging led by Associate Dean Mayur Desai, MPH ’94, PhD ’97. In a reflection of their personal commitment to DEIB, Vermund and his wife, Pilar Vargas, MD, created the Dr. Pedro Vargas and Pilar Bodas de Vargas Fund for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging exclusively dedicated to the school’s DEIB efforts. The gift was one of several private donations quietly made by Vargas and Vermund during his tenure as dean.
Growing the school’s endowment was a top priority when Vermund began his leadership role, and he steps down from the job having garnered unprecedented development funds, over $70 million in the past three years alone. One of the most significant highlights of Vermund’s term was his success in revamping and greatly expanding the school’s Office of Public Health Practice providing students plenty of guidance and internship opportunities to hone their public health skills and improve their prospects for future jobs. The office, alongside unprecedented engagement by Vermund and a host of YSPH faculty, has increased the school’s interactions with state, local, and community partners to historic levels of intensity.
In February 2022, in the most historic moment for the school under Vermund’s leadership, Yale President Peter Salovey, Provost Scott Strobel, and School of Medicine Dean Nancy Brown, MD, announced that YSPH would be transitioning to a self-supporting independent graduate school after decades of operating as a department under YSM. Concurrent with that announcement, university leaders pledged $150 million of endowment support for YSPH’s teaching, research, and practice missions, to complement $50 million to be raised by YSPH.
In describing his proudest achievements as dean, Vermund cited the expansion of the Office of Public Health Practice and stronger engagement with the community as being high on the list. He was also proud of the fact the school has improved its alumni outreach, services to alumni, and fundraising through motivated donors who are deeply supportive of YSPH’s mission to improve health care for all. He praised the star caliber of the school’s newly recruited faculty and said YSPH has improved teaching quality and been a magnet for students as reflected by rising student demand and yield. He said it also was gratifying to partner with the Schools of Medicine and Nursing to create the Yale Institute for Global Health and to create YSPH’s new hybrid Executive MPH program.
“It has been a great privilege to work at the Yale School of Public Health as dean,” Vermund said. “This is a time of rising awareness in the field of public health both inside and outside the university, and I’ve been very pleased to support the faculty, staff, and students to achieve greater success and impact.”