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International Health

From the Chair
Robert E. Black

Robert BlackI write for the last time as Chair of our department with the hand-off to David Peters occurring on May 1, 2013. First, I would like to offer my congratulations and best wishes to David as the new Chair. I followed his career after graduation for a decade at the World Bank. I was pleased when we were able to recruit him back to the faculty where he soon rose to become the Director of our Health Systems Program. He has exceptional qualifications to lead our department and I offer him my full support in the transition and beyond.

Second, I would like to reflect on the 28 years that I have been Chair. I came in 1985 to a department with a small group of faculty who had developed the principles of primary health care and created the field of international public health. The Department’s first Chair, Carl Taylor, had gone to China as the UNICEF Representative, but after some years he fortunately returned to teach. Two of the other "founding fathers," Tim Baker and Bill Reinke, have continued to have valued roles in the Department.

I did see, though, a need to expand the scope of the Department to encompass more research on control of infectious diseases and nutritional problems prevalent in developing countries. Very early on we were fortunate to be able to fold in the Geographic Medicine Division from the School of Medicine, adding the leadership of Brad Sack, the young rising star, Mathu Santosham, and other faculty. In addition, Mary Lou Clements, who came with me from the University of Maryland, and Neal Halsey whom I recruited from Tulane, established the first sustained applied vaccine research program at the School. And I managed to get Ken Brown to come back from Peru to take over our Human Nutrition Program. I wish I had space to list all of the faculty subsequently recruited, but with our current 175 full-time faculty that would be impossible.

It has been the faculty who have built this to be the biggest and most outstanding department of its kind in the world. It has been a dynamic department rising to address emerging needs as diverse as AIDS, injuries, obesity, non-communicable diseases, disaster response, and mHealth. I believe the Department has a broad and strong base of research, excellent academic programs and an innovative and entrepreneurial faculty. Demand for our academic programs is high and increasing, and the applicants are outstanding. It has been a great experience to serve as Chair during these formative years of the Department.

Third, I wanted to say what is next for me. I plan to stay in the Department as Director of the Institute for International Programs (IIP). In recent years we have built an excellent group of faculty working on assessment of new or adapted technologies, studies of the effectiveness of health services and evaluation of large-scale programs. There are increasing opportunities in these areas for faculty leadership and student involvement and I believe that IIP can play a facilitating role.

Finally, I would like to thank all the faculty, staff and students (and three Deans) with whom I have been privileged to work for their commitment to the Department and to global health.