Harvard Chan School Class of 2022 Convocation | News

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May 25, 2022 — Solving global public health issues like climate change or a pandemic will require partnerships of all kinds, according to Jane Kim of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

Kim, Dean of Academic Affairs and KT Li Professor of Health Economics, spoke at the school’s convocation for the Class of 2022 at the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury Crossing on May 25, 2022. “It’s up to you to make sure that what we’ve learned during this pandemic is not quickly forgotten,” she said. “That your work is not limited to disciplines, sectors or borders.Whether you seek out and invest in ideas from around the world.

The ceremony – the first in-person graduation to be held since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic – celebrated the achievements of 633 graduates. The degrees, which will be officially conferred at Harvard’s graduation ceremony on May 26, included Doctor of Philosophy (60), Doctor of Public Health (9), Doctor of Science (1), Master of Health Care Management (25), Masters in Public Health (387) and Masters of Science (151). Forty percent of graduates came from outside the United States, from 46 different countries.

Dean Michelle Williams

Dean Michelle Williams, who was unable to attend the ceremony due to testing positive for COVID-19, made remarks via video. “I feel much better, but I certainly wouldn’t want to flout public health guidelines in front of hundreds of future public health leaders!” she says.

Williams thanked the graduates for “jumping headlong into the most disheartening public health crisis of your young life.”

“You could have easily given up your place here to focus on your sourdough starters, or waited a few years until Zoom classes were a thing of the past,” she said. “But instead, you chose to respond to the urgency of the moment.”

In addition to Williams and Kim, speakers at the ceremony included Sumantra student speaker Monty Ghosh, MPH ’22; Mamphela Ramphele, lecturer, activist, doctor, academic, business leader and political opinion leader; and Trishan Panch, president of the Harvard Chan School Alumni Association.

Also at the ceremony, Erin Driver-Linn, Dean of Education, announced the annual awards for graduate students, faculty and staff, including winners of the inaugural Sastry Awards.

“Public health is global health”

Jane Kim
Jane Kim

Kim acknowledged that “it can seem incongruous to celebrate in the midst of a global pandemic” and that it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by the many public health crises around the world.

“I know our hearts sink when we think of yesterday’s senseless shootings at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and earlier this month at Tops Supermarket in Buffalo, New York, and at Church Taiwanese Presbyterian in Laguna Woods, California,” she said. mentioned. “Gun violence is certainly one of the major public health issues that we collectively need to address.”

But she added that her dominant emotion was one of optimism. “I am optimistic because I know you will all be a driving force – an unstoppable force – in building a healthier, better world for all,” she said.

Kim spoke about Paul Farmer, the pioneering global health physician and medical anthropologist who died in February. As chief strategist for the international health organization Partners in Health, Farmer has worked to improve health care for some of the world’s most vulnerable people, in places like Haiti, Sierra Leone and the Navajo Nation, she noted.

She quoted Farmer’s words in a graduation speech he gave in 2012: “‘With rare exceptions,’ he said, ‘All of your greatest accomplishments on this planet will come from the working with others – or, in a word, a partnership. “Ten years and a pandemic later, his message still resonates deeply. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that public health is global health.

As an example of the importance of taking a more holistic approach to problem solving, Kim cited the discovery of the omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in Gaborone, Botswana. Sikhulile Moyo, director of the Botswana-Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership laboratory, noticed an unusual pattern while sequencing COVID samples in mid-November, and shared his findings with colleagues in South Africa, who also found the new sequence. Researchers have alerted the rest of the world that the new, highly contagious variant is on the move.

“Now just imagine what would be possible if this kind of international public health partnership were the rule and not the exception,” she said, adding, “What we do – and if we do together – will chart the course for human health for the next century and beyond.

A call for innovation to improve equity

Sumantra Monty Ghosh
Sumantra Monty Ghosh

Ghosh is a faculty physician at the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary in Canada. He focuses on substance use disorders, harm reduction and homeless populations. He began his remarks by noting that he took a COVID-19 test that morning. He held up a test kit, marveling at his invention, but noted that, “at $20, it’s probably affordable for most of us Harvard graduates, but its price is out of reach for many.”

He spoke of one of his patients, Sandy, who lives in a shelter and for whom $20 “would be the difference between a reasonable meal or digging through leftovers.” When there was an outbreak of COVID-19 in the shelter, Sandy opted to sleep outside, even though there was a cold snap. “A week later, he came to show me his blackened, frozen, numb toes,” Ghosh said. “The look in Sandy’s eyes told me he knew he was going to lose his toes. But, seeing the gangrene go up to the ankles, I knew that he would lose his footing. He added: “As the world has responded to COVID with brilliant solutions at a breathtaking pace, it has left Sandy behind, where his iniquity has literally endangered life and limb.”

Ghosh acknowledged that many innovations have brought greater fairness to the world. For example, telehealth helps people avoid having to take unpaid leave to see a doctor, and mail-in kits allow people in rural communities to get tested for colon cancer without traveling long distances to get tested.

But some say that while the innovation generated equity, it was often unintentional because the motive behind it was profit, Ghosh said. “We have failed to innovate around the principles of social justice and economic equity,” he said. “Where was the innovation to protect those who couldn’t physically distance while working in factories and meatpacking plants? What innovations could have spared Sandy the horrible choice between COVID and her feet?

New Harvard Chan School graduates can help change the narrative, Ghosh said, noting that “innovation must be driven by the philosophy of improving equity, not an accidental byproduct of it.” .

Liberate yourself, shape the future

Mamphela Ramphele
Mamphela Ramphele

Ramphele was co-founder, with Steve Biko, of the Black Consciousness Movement which reignited the struggle for freedom in South Africa. She is co-chair of the Club of Rome, a global coalition that promotes holistic solutions to global threats; and is a co-founder of ReimagineSA, which works in South Africa towards systemic change in several areas that cut across public health.

The human race itself is responsible for the “multiple planetary emergencies we are experiencing,” including COVID-19 and climate change, Ramphele told graduates. “The world has received and will continue to receive harsh lessons from Mother Nature about the interconnectedness and interdependence of everything with everything else in the web of life,” she said.

She noted that science has clearly demonstrated a causal link between climate change and humanity’s overconsumption patterns. And pandemics, she said, “are signifiers of sacred barriers broken between us and zoonotic pathogens in our biosphere. We are encroaching more and more on ecosystems that are not inhabitable for humans.

Ramphele explained how she and other student activists of the 1960s were inspired to reflect on the importance of “self-liberation” by Frantz Fanon, an Algerian psychiatrist. “He helped us understand the importance of breaking free from inferiority complexes imposed by racist supremacists as a prerequisite for becoming high-impact leaders,” she said. “We have come to understand that mental slavery is more powerful than physical slavery because its victims come to believe that they deserve no better than oppression. He helped us embrace our authentic selves as Black people and proud free agents of the change we wanted to see in the world.

She said her country, South Africa, and the United States have not yet sufficiently acknowledged the “wounds and scars of our violent historical legacies: slavery, racism, sexism and other chauvinism which are embedded in the psyche of our nations”. Both countries, she added, need “national healing processes to unleash the inner people in all of us to fully become what we were created to be – free people capable of shaping the future to which we aspire”.

The most important resource in the public health toolbox – people

Trichan Panch
Trichan Panch

Panch, co-founder of Wellframe, a digital health company that uses technology to improve chronic disease management, recognized the many challenges in public health, including addressing multimorbidity and aging, structural and physical violence, and change. climate; cultivating wellness and nutrition; and overcoming pandemics.

“While these challenges are broad and deep, there have never been so many tools to solve these problems, from machine learning to a new science of teamwork,” he said. “And yet, the most important resource in the public health toolbox remains its people – you.”

Karen Feldscher

Pictures:
Kent Dayton, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health
Josh Levin
Ben Gebo Photography

Additional coverage

Graduation ceremony 2022: Laureates
Jesse Bump and Nancy Turnbull receive first Sastry Awards for Outstanding Teaching (Harvard Chan School news)

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