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Welcome from Alumni Association President Kathe Fox

Yale Public Health Magazine, Yale Public Health: Fall 2023


Dear Alumni,

I had the pleasure of meeting our new dean, Dr. Megan Ranney, MD, in April when she spoke about our alumni as critical players in the school’s success.

Ranney, the C.-E. A. Winslow Professor of Public Health and Professor of Emergency Medicine at Yale School of Medicine, is nationally known for her advocacy and research on firearm injury prevention as well as her community-driven approaches to addressing longstanding and emerging public health problems. As dean, she will oversee the school’s historic transition from a department within YSM to a fully independent, self-sustaining professional school.

Ranney’s four pillars that will guide her leadership are inclusion and community; innovation and entrepreneurship; communication; and data-driven leadership.

Innovation is the theme of this Yale Public Health magazine, which showcases our faculty, students, alumni, and staff who are having an impact on public health. These individuals are thinking and acting with creativity, hoping to improve and sustain the health of our communities, nation, and world.

Innovation is the buzzword of the 21st century – everyone wants to be an innovator. In other times we have called individuals who sought to change the status quo scientists, explorers, experimenters, and discoverers. What all these individuals have in common is a desire for a different world – hopefully, one that will be better for all. These individuals have energy, ideas, passion, and commitment, traits that are critical for the formulation of an innovative idea and are required to see that idea through to implementation.

Public health has always been a discipline where innovation led to lifesaving and life- extending changes. According to the CDC, the following are the top innovations of the 20th century:

  • Vaccination
  • Motor vehicle safety
  • Safer workplaces
  • Control of infectious diseases
  • Decline in deaths from coronary heart disease and stroke
  • Safer and healthier foods
  • Healthier mothers and babies
  • Family planning
  • Fluoridation of drinking water
  • Recognition of tobacco use as a health hazard

We take these innovations for granted, often forgetting that their foundation was in public health innovation.

I remember Jim Jekel, emeritus C.-E. A. Winslow Professor of Public Health, lecturing in the fall of 1977 when I was in my first year. He said, “The average life expectancy for a man at age 60 has not changed from 1776 to 1976.” He was introducing us to two concepts at the same time: age-adjusted life-expectancy and competing causes of death. While we know that the life expectancy at birth has changed dramatically in those 200 years, few public health changes extended life for those who lived to age 60. Since 1977 that too has changed as the impact of car safety, smoking cessation, and medical advances have become widespread.

Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic revealed that many individuals consider public health and individual health synonymous. Yet we know that health advances, with a foundation in public health, are collective, not individual; they require a common mindset where everyone adopts, adapts, and changes for the collective good. Without the acceptance and understanding of collective versus individual rights, many public health initiatives flounder. But the pandemic also revealed the power of innovation as we adapted and adopted so that the entire world would survive.

I love innovations, most especially those which target individual behaviors, nudging us to make and sustain changes so that we are healthier. From diet to reproductive health, to safer aging, and emotional health – innovators and their contributions have changed, I think for the better, our lives.

Read Yale Public Health magazine and enjoy the accomplishments of our YSPH family.

In solidarity,

Kathe Fox, PhD ’81
President, Association of Yale Alumni in Public Health (AYAPH)

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