Public Health Dean to Step Down

Michelle Williams led the School of Public Health during the pandemic.

Michelle Williams
Michelle WilliamsPhotograph by Kris Snibbe/Harvard University

Michelle Williams, dean of the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH), announced November 10 that she would step down from the position on June 30. After a one-year sabbatical she will return to teaching and research as a member of the school’s faculty. Williams became dean seven years ago, when she was appointed in early 2016 by former Harvard president Drew Faust. At that time, she became the first African American leader of one of Harvard’s faculties.

Williams, who formerly chaired the department of epidemiology, led the school through the most trying parts of the coronavirus pandemic. In her letter to the community, Williams, the Angelopoulos professor in public health and international development, thanked “our faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors, and all our collaborators around the globe for coming together to make sure and steady progress toward our shared vision of world with health, dignity, and justice for all.” And, she added: 

I will always be proud of how our community mobilized to meet the moment, producing research and guidance that saved countless lives and shifting our vital educational programs online without missing a beat. Many among us continue to work on critical projects to help the world identify and respond to future pathogens more effectively and deliver vaccines and treatments more equitably. This is public health at its best.

President Lawrence S. Bacow described Williams as “A champion of collaboration, [who] has strengthened connections and programs with other Harvard schools as she has explored new and creative avenues for, as she memorably put it, ‘purposeful action,’ including the launch of the Apple Women’s Health Study.” He continued: “Under Michelle’s leadership during the historic public health crisis posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty proved themselves to be an invaluable resource to governments and the public at large.”

The president’s letter also indicated that the search for Williams’ successor, which will be led by Bacow and provost Alan Garber, will begin soon. 

Read more articles by: Jonathan Shaw

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