Brown School of Public Health welcomes new graduate students, with focus on global health challenges

In orientation address, Dean Ashish Jha highlights school’s distinct approach and key areas of focus.

Brown University’s School of Public Health kicked off the 2023 academic year with an emphasis on its commitment to addressing pressing global health challenges. Dean Ashish K. Jha, in his address at the school’s graduate student orientation, posed a simple, yet essential, question: “What makes Brown different?”

“Among the many great institutions dedicated to public health,” he began, “Brown distinguishes itself as a school that’s committed to tackling monumental challenges head-on.”

Dean Jha noted that there are hundreds of health hazards that impact societies worldwide, singling out several with potential to inflict widespread damage.

Among these challenges is the opioid epidemic. Dean Jha underscored Brown's exceptional faculty, notably Brandon Marshall, newly appointed vice chair of the Department of Epidemiology and director of the Center for Epidemiological Research, who spearheads groundbreaking work on opioid overdose prevention.

Dean Jha also acknowledged the ongoing resonances of the COVID-19 pandemic. Speaking from first-hand experience as the White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator from 2022-2023, Jha stressed the importance of proactive readiness, highlighting Professor Jennifer Nuzzo’s stature as a preeminent global health security expert and applauding her leadership of the Pandemic Center at Brown.

Dean Jha also underscored the gravity of climate change as a paramount public health concern. He cited the School’s burgeoning climate and health initiatives, the Environmental Health and Climate Change program within the Department of Epidemiology, and the Pandemic Center’s contributions as pivotal in navigating the interplay between environmental crisis and human well-being.

“Last but certainly not least,” he said, “is the information crisis. What is true? It’s something that we don’t agree on as a country at the moment. To address this, the school has established the Information Futures Lab, led by renowned experts Claire Wardle and Stefanie Friedhoff."

Dean Jha acknowledged that most of the students in attendance would embark on careers as practitioners, serving across industry, nonprofit, and government sectors. To equip these future public health leaders for their roles, he highlighted two skills to cultivate during their time at Brown.

“ Public health begins with the public. Translating complex research in an accessible manner is crucial for our impact. ”

Dean Ashish Jha

“In a world awash with data, the skill of critically assessing the literature is vital,” he said. “Interpreting data and scientific literature accurately is a core competency you’ll refine here." The second skill, he emphasized, is the ability to effectively communicate scientific findings. “Public health begins with the public,” he stressed. “Translating complex research in an accessible manner is crucial for our impact.”

In addition to Dean Jha’s remarks and sessions focused on student support resources, Senior Associate Dean for Education Ronald Aubert welcomed students, noting that many in this year’s incoming cohort have crossed oceans and traveled thousands of miles to study in Providence. Some are the first in their families to attend college; others are accomplished musicians and athletes. “All of this speaks to the range of lived experiences of this year’s class,” Aubert said, “which will enrich the culture and learning environment at Brown.”

As the curtain rises on the fall 2023 semester, Brown University’s School of Public Health is committed to supporting its students and welcoming them to their new academic home. Its visionary faculty and dynamic students are beginning a new year, dedicated to confronting the public health challenges of our time.