Courtesy of Stephanie Ewens

Megan Ranney, a professor of behavioral and social sciences at Brown University, will serve as the next dean of the Yale School of Public Health. 

In a Tuesday email to students, University President Peter Salovey announced that he had selected Ranney to succeed interim dean Melinda Pettigrew as the first dean of an independent School of Public Health. Ranney, a graduate of Harvard College who went on to receive her M.D. from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, currently serves as the deputy dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University, where she received her M.P.H. She will begin her term on July 1.

“I think that this moment is ripe for a redefinition of what it means to be a public health practitioner in the world as we go into the late phases of the COVID pandemic,” Ranney said. “We need to be leaders not just in scholarship, but also in communication and in practice.”

Ranney’s tenure comes during the School of Public Health’s transition into an autonomous professional school. Last February, Salovey announced that the school would receive $50 million to support its financial aid and educational initiatives, as well as an additional $100 million to eliminate a structural deficit.

While Ranney believes that there will be challenges in the transition to an independent school, she is confident that the school will “navigate that well.” Some of these challenges, she said, include creating new administrative structures that may help support the school academically and financially.

Ranney said that she has already spoken to several Yale students, and will spend the coming months “getting to know the folks at the school.” In the longer term, however, she wants to take advantage of Yale’s reputation and build on existing relationships with the larger community to tackle a wide variety of public health challenges.

There are also specific areas that Ranney said she has deep personal investment in and hopes to explore in her deanship, including work on violence prevention as well as health policy.

And for students, Ranney also said that her administration will work on promoting diversity, equity and inclusion — areas which have been recently highlighted as priorities for the Schools of Medicine and Nursing. She promised to work to make the composition of the incoming class  “more diverse in every way,” as well as to collaborate with community organizations.

“If there’s anything I learned over the last decade of my career it’s that the work that we do in academia, in public health, only matters as much as it is trusted by and created in collaboration with the population and communities who are affected,” Ranney said.

Melinda Irwin, a professor of epidemiology who chaired the search committee for the YSPH dean, approved of Salovey’s choice.

“I’m delighted that Dr. Megan Ranney will be our next YSPH dean,” Irwin wrote in an email to the News. “Her scientific accomplishments and leadership related to some of the most pressing public health challenges [including firearm injury, substance use, mental health and infectious disease risk] combined with her extraordinary ability to communicate effectively, will propel YSPH forward as a leader in tackling these and other public health problems.”

In late Spring 2022, the search for the next YSPH dean began, according to Irwin. Isaacson Miller, an executive search firm whose clients in higher education range from the University of California, San Francisco to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, conducted a listening tour with YSPH alumni, students, faculty, staff and the YSPH Leadership Council. 

By last August, the search had reviewed over 100 potential candidates, with over 60 submitting applications. Irwin told the News that just over ⅓ of applicants identified as underrepresented minorities, while over 50 percent identified as female.

Irwin and the committee interviewed 11 applicants and submitted a shortlist to President Salovey in the following months, and final candidates were screened before Salovey picked his final choice.

“[Ranney] brings to Yale a remarkable track record of driving innovations in public health teaching, research, and practice,” Salovey wrote in his email announcement. “Her career is distinguished by a deep commitment to working with communities to identify and address complex public health challenges, especially those that burden historically underserved or marginalized populations.”

Ranney joined the Brown University faculty in 2008.

Correction,  Feb. 1: This article has been corrected to reflect Ranney’s proper degrees at Columbia and Brown. 

William Porayouw covered Woodbridge Hall for the News and previously reported on international strategy at Yale. Originally from Redlands, California, he is an economics and global affairs major in Davenport College.