Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD ’79, MSc ’75
Bloomberg Distinguished Professor
Fall Dean's Letter
When I first came on board as dean a year ago, everyone wanted to know my vision for the Bloomberg School. At the time, I said I wanted to leverage the breadth and depth of our amazing institution to tackle the most pressing public health problems here at home and around the world. But I don’t think I fully appreciated the true power of all we do until we began working on a strategic plan.
Our School is fortunate to be in a position of strength and relative stability. Our educational programs are consistently ranked among the top in the world. We are a global leader in discovery and public health practice. We are also part of an extraordinary University that affords opportunities for collaboration across disciplines, with a deep commitment to science that informs policies and practice that make a difference. However, we all know the world is rapidly changing. In today’s environment, we have to anticipate the future and think strategically about our role in shaping it.
As I prepared for the process, I read a lot about strategic planning and reflected on my own experiences. I wanted a dynamic, interactive process that reflected the thoughts and ideas of our entire School community, in particular our students, staff, faculty and alumni. I did not want a short-term operational plan. Rather, I wanted a strategy that would set out longer-range goals and priorities that would help us achieve our shared vision of a healthier world for all. Above all else, I did not want a plan that was destined to sit on the shelf and collect dust. I wanted a living document that we could use to focus our energy and resources on well-defined priorities and make a case to our constituents and funders for the value of the School and public health.
Writing a strategic plan is never easy, especially for a complex, multifaceted institution like ours. I was fortunate to have a talented working group of faculty, students and staff who coordinated the plan’s development—led by Dani Fallin, chair of Mental Health, and Katherine Frey, assistant dean for Strategic Initiatives. They organized input from more than 500 individuals through in-person meetings, focus groups, online feedback and personal conversations. They distilled key messages, resulting in a plan that reflects a common understanding of what is needed to move forward. My thanks to the committee for a job well done.
As the process evolved, it became clear that we were committed to shaping the future and not just planning for it. We want to be proactive in changing the dialogue about health and health equity so that major advances can be made.
The theme of our new strategic plan quickly became obvious. It was all about unleashing the power of public health. To achieve this, we decided to focus on five key areas: Education, Science, Partnerships, People and Advocacy. We must think in new and innovative ways to expand access to our educational programs, advance our research and build genuine partnerships within and outside the traditional boundaries of public health. And we must invest in our people and speak loudly for science that influences policy and policy that informs our science.
Most importantly, the process of developing the plan reminded us all that we can make a difference even in the face of seemingly insurmountable social and political challenges. But to do so, we will need to do a better job of communicating our science and engaging in open dialogue and advocacy that can lead to change.
We launched the new strategic plan on October 9. Now, of course, the real work begins. I encourage you to look at our plan in more detail. For each of the five main goals, we have developed a set of specific objectives and preliminary tactics. Over the next three months, we will refine these tactics and write an implementation and business plan. Meanwhile, departments, centers and offices throughout the School are talking about how they can support the plan and help us reach our objectives.
On a more personal note, I am loving my new role! I am constantly learning new things that shape how I think about the School and the field of public health. Our extraordinary faculty, students and staff are a community of restless people who believe deeply in the power of public health to find new ways to protect health and save lives. It is great to meet with so many of our amazing alumni and connect with friends of the School who care so much about the work we do. Both Al Sommer and Mike Klag said that being dean of the Bloomberg School is the best job ever. I must say I agree with them. I feel privileged to help lead the School into its next century and humbled by the enormous responsibility. I am, however, comforted in knowing we now have a strategy for moving forward—a strategy that will help shape the future. I look forward to working with you to realize our goals and unleash the power of public health.