Courtesy of Megan Ranney

Though the debate over the best pizza in New Haven is long and ongoing, Dean of the School of Public Health Megan Ranney has a clear favorite. “It’s Sally’s,” she said, with her other favorite restaurant in the city being Gioia, located right across the street from the famous pizza restaurant and its rival, Pepe’s. 

Ranney was appointed dean on July 1, 2023, and is settling well into her new position. Pizza aside, she is enjoying her new life in New Haven; Some of her favorite things about the University campus and city area include the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Rose Walk and the proximity to old friends from high school and college with whom she has been able to reconnect. But most importantly, Ranney has enjoyed the “enthusiasm” of the wider Yale and New Haven community, who, she notes, have all been extremely welcoming.

“My favorite part of the School of Public Health deanship has been getting to know this outstanding community,” Ranney wrote in an email to the News. “The faculty, students and staff are all outstanding humans with big, transformative goals. I’m beyond impressed by their energy, brilliance, humanity and unflagging commitment to health for all.”

Ranney previously served as deputy dean of the Brown University School of Public Health and professor of behavioral and social sciences and health services at Brown. At Yale, she succeeded Interim Dean Melinda Pettigrew and former Dean Sten Vermund, who returned to teaching and research on July 1, 2021.

Ranney came to Yale last year with two major goals in mind — first, to get to know the School of Public Health, Yale and the New Haven community, and second, to successfully transition the School of Public Health to an independent model, which would organize the School of Public Health as a free-standing professional school instead of a department within the School of Medicine. While Ranney projects that both these goals will take years to accomplish, she believes that she has made good progress on both.

Ranney has kept extremely busy getting to know the community. On any given day, she meets with people across the Yale and New Haven communities, including University leadership, Yale New Haven Health, the Mayor’s office, the New Haven Health Department and various health initiatives and programs, such as the Wu Tsai Institute.

Ranney also holds monthly student and faculty breakfasts and lunches. Still, with hundreds of students and staff in the School of Public Health, Ranney acknowledged she has  “a lot more meeting and learning to do” if she wants to fully understand the community she is leading.

However, Ranney believes that the biggest challenge in her deanship is overseeing the School of Public Health’s transition to an independent school simply because there is so much to do. In the past year, Ranney and her team revamped the School’s budget model, started planning for a new building, hired new faculty and redesigned faculty governance and faculty tracks.

Nevertheless, Ranney said that there is much more to the transition beyond advanced planning and hiring.

“There are operational projects, but there’s also the ‘soft side’ of transition, where we’re working to transform our community and our culture into that of an independent school,” Ranney wrote. “It takes relationships, time, trust, and trial and error. And we need to pace ourselves, because none of this will happen overnight! The theme of transformation and transition will likely carry throughout my entire first term as dean.”

Additionally, Ranney hopes to continue to take steps with “space planning” at the School of Public Health, noting that she wishes for the new building to serve as the “emotional and intellectual center of our public health community.”

Of everything she has learned in the past nine months as dean, Ranney said that learning about the history of Yale and New Haven has been the most important.

“A mentor once told me that the most important job of a leader is to weave an organization’s past into its future,” Ranney wrote. “The wealth of knowledge of people across this university, and their generosity in sharing their experience and stories, has helped me to be better at this core work.”

Mahrokh Irani is the current chief of staff and director of strategic initiatives at the School of Public Health. She previously worked with Ranney at Brown University, serving as the associate director for dean’s initiatives and special projects at its School of Public Health. Irani said she “didn’t hesitate a moment” when she had the opportunity to work with Ranney at Yale.

Irani also praised Ranney for her commitment to the Yale community and the field of public health at large.

“Despite the whirlwind of transitioning to an independent school and crafting a forward-thinking vision for the School of Public Health and the field of public health, Megan’s commitment to being there for our community has never wavered,” Irani wrote in an email to the News. “She goes the extra mile, reaching out to people within the school, university, and throughout New Haven, nurturing strong relationships and paving the way for a brighter future.”

Melinda Irwin, the associate dean of research and Susan Dwight Bliss Professor of Epidemiology at the School of Public Health, chaired the search committee for the new School’s new dean. She believes the School of Public Health is “lucky” to have Ranney leading the School during this “critical time in public health.”

“Her attention to detail, organizational strengths, ability to communicate effectively, and her vision will propel us to do even more impactful research, education and practice for our local and global communities,” Irwin wrote in an email to the News.

Ranney is the seventh dean of the School of Public Health.

Jessica Kasamoto covers the Yale School of Public Health for the SciTech desk. She is a graduate student in computational biology and bioinformatics.