Yale Daily News

After a months-long search, the Yale School of Public Health has a new leader — and members of the YSPH community are ready for her to take the helm.

Megan Ranney, a professor of behavioral and social science at Brown University and deputy dean of the Brown School of Public Health, was announced as the next YSPH Dean in a University-wide email from President Peter Salovey on Tuesday. Students and faculty at YSPH greeted the appointment with excitement. 

As the inaugural dean of YSPH during its transition to independence from the School of Medicine, Ranney takes over from interim dean Melinda Pettigrew and Sten Vermund, the former dean of YSPH who stepped down from the position last June. 

“I was pleased to read President Salovey’s announcement of Dr. Ranney’s move to YSPH,” Vermund wrote to the News. “She will lead us in an exciting and historic time as the university invests in our future. Dr. Melinda Pettigrew and our school leadership are launching Dr. Ranney’s deanship with the school stronger than ever.”

With her term beginning on July 1, 2023, Ranney arrives at Yale from Brown University, where she has served as a faculty member since 2008. At Brown, Ranney is also a professor of emergency medicine and the founding director of the Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health — an establishment designed to facilitate digital innovation in healthcare sectors.

According to Howard Forman, professor of radiology and biomedical imaging, Ranney’s appointment was announced to YSPH students and faculty on a virtual call with “at least 260 members” in attendance. 

“Dr. Ranney is an accomplished scientist, clinician, educator and a respected leader in public health advocacy and communication,” Amy Bei, assistant professor of epidemiology at YSPH, wrote to the News. “She comes to us with a wealth of leadership experience which will be so important as the Yale School of Public Health embarks on a new era. I know that she will build upon the amazing leadership of Dean Sten Vermund and Interim Dean Melinda Pettigrew and will boldly lead our school to achieve its mission. “

Ranney’s arrival to Yale corresponds with YSPH’s transition from a department within the School of Medicine to an independent professional school. As the dean responsible for leading the transition, Ranney will have autonomous responsibility over the YSPH budget. 

As part of the shift toward independence, the University has pledged a one-time $100 million contribution to YSPH’s endowment upon the new dean’s arrival, helping to eliminate reliance on the subsidy that it currently receives from the School of Medicine. However, according to Vermund, while that endowed amount covers approximately $5 million per year in subsidies, it does not enable the dean to “hire a new chair or retain faculty members.”

Therefore, the University has also pledged $50 million as an incentive-match program from 2021 to 2026. The extra $50 million provided by the University would match independent fundraising by YSPH. Rather than being tied to donation-specific requests, according to Vermund, the $50 million fundraising incentive provides an extra $2.5 million annually in discretionary income under the auspices of the Dean. Without that bonus, Vermund added, YSPH’s finances may not be “adequately sound.”

Ranney’s peers, however, have faith in her ability to manage the transition. 

“This is an inspired choice,” Harlan Krumholz, professor of medicine and director for the Center of Outcomes Research and Evaluation, wrote to the News. “She is an ideal inaugural Dean, with the smarts, the savvy and the sense of mission that will enable this School to build on a remarkable history to make ever greater contributions to the greater good of the world. It is go time for this new School, and I am confident that she will do an amazing job.”

According to Forman, Ranney is already an “accomplished public health professional” that understands the “challenges that Yale has faced and will face.” Forman added that he had great respect for Ranney and believes that her leadership will be refreshing as the school continues to expand. 

Ranney also enters the public health deanship in the midst of a series of public health crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, a prevalence of noncommunicable diseases and vast disparities in health equity across the globe. 

“Dean Ranney’s arrival comes at a critical juncture when the pandemic is fading away, yet the health challenges we face globally remain daunting,” Xi Chen, associate professor of public health, wrote to the News. “I look forward to seeing our school, under the strong leadership of Dean Ranney, further our deep commitment and leadership to address major public health issues both here and abroad, with special attention to those that plague underserved or marginalized populations on a global scale.”

Trained as an emergency medicine physician, Ranney counts gun violence among the public health crises she aims to address. As a “leader in pioneering strategies to mitigate gun violence at local and national levels,” according to Alison Galvani, the Burnett and Stender Families Professor of Epidemiology, Ranney has served as a co-founder and senior strategic advisor for the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine at the Aspen Institute. Ranney also serves on the board of directors for the Non-Violence Institute in Providence, Rhode Island.

“She has deep policy experience, especially regarding firearm violence,” Krumholz wrote to  the News. “She was a clear voice of reason during the pandemic in communicating to the public — and is skilled and respected as a communicator — and she is a kind and compassionate individual who seeks to elevate everyone around her.”

As Ranney enters the inaugural position, students at YSPH are optimistic — but they hope that her plan for the school remains inclusive of the city around her. Ranney’s achievements “speak for themselves,” according to Maame Boateng SPH ’23 and Neal Patel SPH ’23, the president and vice president of the Student Association of the Yale School of Public Health, but their “immediate concern” is how Ranney will work with the community around her. 

“[Ranney] has a proven track of working with diverse communities,” Boateng and Patel wrote to the News. “As she begins to develop a vision in building the newly independent Yale School of Public Health, my hope is that she incorporates both current student and alumni input in certain decision-making processes, to build a sense of community and investment beyond the four walls of the School of Public Health.”

The Yale School of Public Health is located at 60 College St. 

Giri Viswanathan is a Science and Technology editor for the News. Previously, he covered the Yale School of Public Health and was also a Photography Editor. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, Giri is a junior in Timothy Dwight College majoring in Global Affairs as a Global Health Scholar.