Today's news includes the upcoming vacancy at the top of the Harvard School of Public Health. Barry Bloom, dean for the last 9 years, is stepping down from the deanship at the end of this academic year.
People in Allston and Brighton have voiced many ideas about how Harvard's School of Public Health could be involved in our community in ways consistent with the school's mission. Certainly there must be numerous ways - including research, health education for adults and children, and access to quality medical care - that the school might consider as opportunities to improve the health of the people who will live in the shadows of its new campus.
So it unfortunate that Dean Bloom's vision for the School of Public Health in Allston makes not even a mention of the people who live in Allston and how the School might be relevant to their lives. His vision stresses "connections" but these connections are primarily connections within the walls of Harvard University. He mentions opportunities for the School to connect with Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard Business School, Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, Harvard Law School, and Harvard's School of Education. But connections with the local health clinic and the local elementary school are not mentioned.
When Dean Bloom mentions the exciting opportunity to teach Harvard undergraduates "to think about problems of public health nationally and globally", maybe he also wanted to mention "locally". Because where else could it be easier for Harvard students and faculty to put their knowledge into practice than right in their own backyard? Improving the health of people in Allston may be less glamorous than establishing a China Initiative, but maybe it is possible for Harvard to do both.
When Harvard's employees wax eloquently about "partnerships" with Allston, most people in Allston think that means more than just writing checks for new sidewalks and Little League uniforms. Committing to apply the mental resources of Harvard to solve local problems and build a better community is what a real partner would do.
The Harvard Crimson :: News :: Public Health Dean To Retire
A Vision for HSPH in Allston - Harvard Public Health Review, Fall 2007
Solving ‘Big Problems’ In Public Health - The Harvard Crimson, June 2007