Yale Daily News

After more than a century of operating within the financial and administrative confines of the School of Medicine, the Yale School of Public Health will soon exist on its own.

Yale’s central University has granted a total of $250 million in endowment funds to support the schools of Medicine, Nursing and Public Health, with each school set to receive $50 million to support its financial aid and educational initiatives, University President Peter Salovey announced on Thursday. The School of Public Health will receive an additional $100 million to eliminate its structural deficit and aid its transition to an autonomous professional school. The announcement comes after School of Public Health community members advocated for the school to be structurally and financially independent from the medical school. 

“We are creating endowment funds totaling $250 million to support medicine, nursing and public health in ways that recognize the critical importance of these fields and the critical moment for Yale to do even more in terms of educating the next generation of leaders in these fields,” Salovey told the News. “We hope that would attract potential applicants, potential faculty and potential philanthropic interests.”

In a press release to the School of Public Health community, University officials explained that the pandemic underscored the important role that public health plays in society.

“Our experiences with the pandemic and other public health crises, both past and present, make one thing clear: the world has a need for leaders educated in public health principles and practice, especially the interventions made possible through transformative research in the field,” wrote Salovey, University Provost Scott Strobel and School of Medicine Dean Nancy Brown.

Independent School of Public Health

Since its founding in 1915, the School of Public Health has produced several public health innovations, including recently developed saliva-based COVID-19 testing, research on health equity and insights into infectious diseases like Ebola, HIV and other illnesses. 

Throughout its 107-year history, the School of Public Health has operated as an entity within the School of Medicine, which has previously led faculty and students to call for more autonomy and support. With this announcement, SPH will begin its transition to a fully independent professional school with autonomous responsibility for its own budget and endowment fund. 

According to Salovey, the University plans for the YSPH transition period to occur over the next 12-18 months, with the next School of Public Health dean ultimately leading the transition.

“Yale University’s investments into both the fiscal and administrative coherence of YSPH really represents a historic day,” said current School of Public Health Dean Sten Vermund.

Announced last fall, Vermund’s term will end in June 2022. The school has begun its search for the next School of Public Health dean, with Melinda Irwin, associate dean of research and professor of epidemiology, serving as the chair of the search advisory committee. Upon the arrival of the new dean, Yale will provide a one-time $100 million contribution to the School of Public Health to eliminate the current subsidy it receives from the School of Medicine.  

The $50 million endowment fund provided to each school will support future teaching, research and practice needs. In addition, the three schools have announced their commitment to providing increased financial aid support for students and addressing the shortage of health professionals and the need for increased diversity in medicine, nursing and public health. 

Funding sources

According to Salovey, the 2021 endowment returns, as well as the University’s ongoing capital campaign, made the funding for the School of Medicine, School of Nursing and School of Public Health possible.

“Our endowment grew by more than 40 percent in the last fiscal year … and we are coming off the very best year of fundraising that the University has ever had,” Salovey said. “Financially, we feel the moment is now, and it joins the saliency of issues of health and illness that the pandemic has brought to our attention.”

Yale’s endowment reached $42.3 billion during the 2021 fiscal year, with a 40.2 percent rate of return. In a budget update released by the Office of the Provost last fall, Strobel explained that the University’s annual target spending rate is 5.25 percent of the endowment’s value. He furthered that the significant endowment return of fiscal year 2021 will provide an increase in operating funds beginning in fiscal year 2023, which starts on July 1, 2022. According to the update, the recent gains will “provide opportunities for significant investments in University priorities.”

Financial aid

Both Brown and Ann Kurth, Dean of the School of Nursing, emphasized the importance of making clinical education more accessible, especially to students of diverse backgrounds.

“In the School of Medicine, we are committed to getting to a point where a medical education can be debt free,” Brown said. “One of the goals of the campaign for us is to raise philanthropy to reduce the unit loan, eventually to zero.”

Brown added that decreasing the financial burden on students would also support the growth of more diverse cohorts. Currently, about 28 percent of students entering the School of Medicine are considered underrepresented in medicine and about 15 percent are first generation.

Kurth also highlighted efforts within the School of Nursing to support access and inclusive excellence, explaining the importance of having a nursing workforce that “reflects the populations” they serve.

“We would like to get to a place where we have a strong cohort of students who can graduate debt free, [who] can then be free to go out and serve in the world in a way that is not constrained by a burden of debt,” Kurth said. “These funds will allow us to plan for that possibility.”

Buildings

Salovey also underscored the importance of improving the School of Public Health’s facilities during the transition.

“The buildings that public health has now are suboptimal,” Salovey said. “The faculty and students are spread out over many buildings across New Haven, and the spaces for student gathering, teaching and learning are quite limited.”

In a press release, Salovey, Strobel and Brown explained that University administrators will work with the next SPH dean to identify opportunities to improve the school’s facilities in order to meet current and future teaching, research and practice needs.

According to Vermund, the School of Public Health plans to vacate three buildings and join existing public health and medical faculty at 1 Church St., decreasing the number of buildings from 12 to eight. 

“In the longer term, we would like to have close proximity of the School of Public Health relative to Medicine,” Strobel said. “We would like to be able to consolidate this school into as few buildings as possible, but that plan is one that we still need to develop.”

Broader impact

Salovey shared that the independence of the School of Public Health and School of Medicine and the new endowment support will further strengthen cross-disciplinary collaborations among the three schools. 

He added that the aims of this investment extend beyond supporting the three professional schools, to ultimately educating medical, nursing and public health professionals who will serve the greater New Haven and global community.

The Yale School of Public Health was established in 1915.

Correction, Feb. 24: A previous version of this article attributed a fact to Provost Scott Strobel that should have been attributed to YSPH Dean Sten Vermund. It has been updated.

BRANDON WU
Brandon Wu covers relations between the School of Medicine and the School of Public Health. Originally from Cupertino, he is a sophomore in Pauli Murray studying Computer Science and Humanities.
ALEX YE
Alex Ye covers endowment, finance and donations. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, he is a first year in Timothy Dwight majoring in computer science and mathematics.