AT THE CLOSE OF THE STRANGEST, most challenging academic year any of us has experienced, we find ourselves at a moment of inflection, balanced between hope and fear. Hope, as an unprecedented vaccination campaign begins to bend the curve of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States—for good this time. Fear, as we watch coronavirus devastate other parts of the world, which remain largely unvaccinated and terribly vulnerable. The pandemic has underlined the critical importance of public health, and brought renewed attention to the immense challenges we face in fostering health equity and communicating about science, risks, and tradeoffs.
Six months ago, I noted the need to recast and reinvigorate the field of public health, by breaking down disciplinary silos to engage with rapidly evolving research, and by making a genuine commitment to expanding the diversity of our students. We have since begun expanding our recruitment efforts and look forward to welcoming our most diverse MPH class this fall, as well as building new mentorship and leadership programs to begin addressing legacies of bias and exclusion.
This issue of Continuum describes how, working together with collaborators from oncology, radiology and even anthropology, Brown faculty are leveraging improvements in both the quality of medical imaging and in computing power to develop remarkable new methods for analyzing the shape of tumors and the texture of brain tissue to forecast the course of disease with more accuracy than conventional biopsies, and without the need for surgery.
Amy Nunn, executive director of the Rhode Island Public Health Institute and a professor of behavioral and social sciences at the School, has mobilized a different kind of collaboration, working with Black churches and mosques across the country to encourage HIV testing and reduce stigma. The U.S. has taken strides toward controlling the HIV epidemic, but has failed to address structural inequities and disparate racial impacts—challenges made greater by the pandemic and the trauma of police killings of George Floyd and other Black Americans. Through her Faith in Action initiative, Professor Nunn has partnered with Black faith communities to improve the health of marginalized members of our society.
We must continue to expand the toolkits of public health and medicine, and redress health disparities. The Brown University School of Public Health is uniquely committed to both excellence and collaboration, and as Dean, I look forward to continuing to tackle the hard problems of public health with you.
Ashish K. Jha MD, MPH
Dean, School of Public Health