After a massive snow storm sent the Brown Corporation packing to avoid being stranded in Providence in early February, the group reconvened by teleconference a week later and formally approved the creation of the Brown School of Public Health, which the faculty had already endorsed by unanimous vote in November.Brown’s public health program has grown rapidly over the past decade, building strengths in such areas as geriatrics, addiction, and biostatistical research. Student enrollment—undergraduate and graduate—has increased from 75 to 261, while the faculty has increased to 210. At the same time, research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has doubled to more than $60 million, an amount on a par with major public health schools. Associate Dean of Medicine for Public Health at the Alpert Medical School Terrie “Fox” Wetle, the new school’s first dean, must now earn its accreditation from the Council on Education in Public Health.
Elevating the current public health program to the level of a school
is not just a matter of status, Wetle says. She points out that it will
help researchers compete for funding, such as Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention grants that are restricted to researchers in
accredited schools of public health. In addition, the expansion is
already helping attract top students and faculty. “When we’re
recruiting students, when we’re recruiting faculty, they often
express the wish to work in a school of public health connected
with a medical school,” Wetle says.
The aim of the new School of Public Health, Wetle says, is to gather the best faculty and students, not only to conduct research on urgent public health problems, but to change the world beyond. “We’re training people who will affect policy,” she says.