At a Monday town hall forum, Dr. Sten Vermund, incoming dean of the Yale School of Public Health, addressed the faculty and staff of the school for the first time.
Vermund, who is currently a professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health, will assume the position of dean on Feb. 1, 2017. During the meeting, Vermund addressed issues ranging from the importance of interdisciplinary work to the diversity of the school’s students and faculty.
The forum began with a short presentation in which Vermund highlighted what he considered to be the school’s current strengths, in addition to areas with potential for improvement. He noted several examples of the school’s “breadth and depth of expertise” but underscored in particular the school’s expertise in behavioral change and biomedical interventions. Vermund also emphasized the strength of the school’s global and community partnerships and its involvement in interdisciplinary initiatives.
“I think we have natural sister schools and it’s a no-brainer that [schools of] medicine and nursing should be partners for many of our endeavors and joint interdisciplinary efforts,” Vermund said.
He then suggested potential improvements for the school and expanded on his vision for its future. In particular, Vermund said that the school needs more endowment and scholarship funds, adding that these could be provided by centers such as The Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health. According to the center’s website, it aims to train the next generation of students to address global health needs.
Additionally, Vermund emphasized the importance of focusing on programs for distance learning, classes conducted completely or partially off campus, as well as interdisciplinary study and joint-degree prospects. He added that he was already involved in pursuing larger classroom spaces within the school and potentially gaining access to medical school auditoriums. He expressed his commitment to ensuring an open dialogue at the school as well as working towards increasing “diversity and inclusivity.”
After concluding his presentation, Vermund opened up the floor to audience questions.
Kaveh Khoshnood SPH ’89, a professor of epidemiology at the school, asked how Vermund would encourage faculty to work more collaboratively when “promotions and recognition [are] primarily focused on individual accomplishments.” Vermund responded that substantial inroads have been made in this regard. He added that appointment and promotion committees are increasingly realizing that in addition to exclusive roles in minor initiatives, substantive roles in major initiatives should also be appreciated.
Other questions focused on the importance of open-access publications, administrative priorities and on Vermund’s personal experiences in the field of public health.
Paul Cleary, the current dean of the School of Public Health, praised the event, stating that he agreed with “virtually everything” that Vermund said.
“I thought it was a nice way of engaging the community, and it went very well.” Cleary said. “[Vermund’s] personal style will be a very nice fit for our community.”
Robert Alpern, dean of the Yale School of Medicine, characterized the meeting as an opportunity for the faculty to meet Vermund, adding that it is “not uncommon for a new leader to have a faculty meeting” before formal assumption of his or her new post.
According to Steven Lao SPH ’17, the president of the Student Association of the Yale School of Public Health, Vermund is due to meet with the association on Nov. 1.
The forum was held in Laboratory of Epidemiology and Public Health at 60 College St.