A global effort to improve health care

For the new Public Health dean, it’s all about access.

Courtesy Sten Vermund

Courtesy Sten Vermund

Pediatrician and epidemiologist Sten Vermund takes over as dean of the School of Public Health in February. View full image

In the 1980s, when Sten Vermund was just out of medical school, working as a pediatrician in New York City’s Washington Heights, he decided not to let himself be disheartened by “so much preventable disease.” Instead, he went back to school to figure out how to make health care—and information about health care—more accessible. “When everyone else went to get an income,” says Vermund, the newly appointed dean of Yale’s School of Public Health, “I went to pay tuition again.”

After getting his master’s at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and his PhD in epidemiology at Columbia, Vermund spent the next few decades attacking disease from every angle he could think of. “I developed an intellectual interest in the complexity, in the multidisciplinary approach: everything from medical entomology and malacology [the study of mollusks] to community mobilization and social context.”

He will take up his Yale post in February, leaving Vanderbilt, where he is a professor of pediatrics, medicine, health policy, and obstetrics—as well as the Amos Christie Chair in Global Health, director of the university-wide Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health, and the vice president for global health of the Vanderbilt Medical Center. He’s done extensive work in public health across the world, battling for wider access to health care. Two examples: in New York City in the 1980s he helped establish the first HIV clinic for at-risk adolescents, and in Zambia he initiated a major screening program for cervical lesions that now functions as a global training center.

He sees Yale as a place where the multidisciplinary approach is already in place and where he can be both a facilitator and catalyst for work going forward. “The globe is struggling to address extreme disparities in access to health care,” says Vermund. “We have to apply what we have already learned, taking public health innovation and discovery to scale in the real world.”

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