Emergency medicine physicians care for our most acute health problems—immediately and without appointment or regard for the type of medical problem, or the age or gender of the patient. In many ways, this lightning fast approach is the opposite of public health. With its focus on resuscitation and stabilization of individuals in the current moment, emergency medicine doesn’t treat the upstream causes of the health crises that come through the E.R., nor does it contend with the more downstream consequences of those crises, which often reverberate through families and communities long after physical wounds have healed.
Dr. Megan Ranney will tell you however, that an emergency department is the perfect place to learn about, and practice, public health. “It’s really the place where you see public health problems before the rest of society and the rest of our country sees them,” she said. On the front lines of the overdose crisis, the firearm injury epidemic, and emerging disease outbreaks, emergency nurses and physicians witness firsthand many of society’s deepest challenges. As the only part of the United States’ health care system open to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay, emergency departments function as the “safety net of our health care system,” Ranney said. Her work in the emergency room helps keep her attuned to the “reality of health care” and “all the ways in which … society does not promote health.”
For much of her nearly two decades at Brown University, and in true Brunonian fashion, Ranney has straddled the fields of medicine and public health. She arrived at Brown in 2004, completing her medical residency in emergency medicine, followed by a fellowship in injury prevention research. She has served as an attending physician at the Miriam Hospital and Rhode Island Hospital in Providence since 2008, the year she joined Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School faculty in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She earned an MPH from Brown in 2010, and in 2013, became an assistant professor in the Department of Health Services, Policy and Practice in the School of Public Health.
In 2019, Ranney founded the Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health, where creative minds from Brown and its affiliated hospital partners collaboratively design, test, and
deploy digital solutions to challenges that affect the health of patients and populations.
Inspired by her experience caring for victims of firearm injury, Ranney also co-founded the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine (AFFIRM) at the Aspen Institute, and was chosen by former Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo to co-chair the state’s gun safety working group.
When the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, Ranney was quick to respond, leading advocacy for the working conditions of health care providers, and co-founding GetUsPPE.org. The organization matched donated personal protective equipment to those who needed it most, delivering more than 17 million pieces of PPE to health care providers by the time it ceased operations in July 2021.
Now a leading public voice on urgent topics ranging from COVID-19 to firearm injury, from mental health to staffing challenges in health care, Ranney provides expert analysis through testimony to Congress, appearances on broadcast news, op-eds in major media outlets, and guidance to non-governmental organizations.
In her current role as deputy dean of the School of Public Health, from which she departs effective July 1, 2023, Deputy Dean Ranney “has been a tireless advocate for patients, students, fellow faculty and medical practitioners—and for advancing creative ideas and approaches to public health,” said Interim Dean Ronald Aubert. “Her scholarship has had a significant impact on real-world issues facing patients, and she’s inspired and informed everyone from students at Brown to people across the country who count on her expert analysis on timely health issues. She’s been a champion for the mission of the School of Public Health, and we’re grateful for the extensive impact she’s had on our community.”
Ranney says she will bring to Yale both great excitement about the opportunities ahead, along with lifelong memories from Brown, the university she has called home for the better part of two decades. “What an honor to have been part of this institution for 20 years, and to have been with the School of Public Health since its formal inception and throughout its journey,” she said. “I am immensely grateful to my colleagues and teachers in emergency medicine and at the School of Public Health, and to President Christina Paxson, whose model of leadership is part of what inspired me to move into higher education leadership.
“I feel so lucky to have not only completed my training here, but to have spent my academic career at a place as innovative and open-minded as Brown,” Ranney said. “This is a place that cares deeply about making a positive impact and partnering with communities. Collaboration across disparate fields is core to who we are as Brown faculty, and I hope to bring that Brunonian ethos with me moving forward.”
Based on prior reporting by William Porayouw of the Yale Daily News and by Corrie Pikul of News at Brown.