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Calling immunologist Barry R. Bloom "a major figure at the intersection of science and worldwide health policy," President Neil L. Rudenstine presented the new dean of the School of Public Health (SPH) to that faculty in June. Bloom needed no introduction. "He is widely known," said Rudenstine, "for his passionate commitment to understanding and combating infectious diseases worldwide. He is also a leading thinker and compelling speaker about the future of public health education and research."
Bloom holds a bachelor's degree in biology from Amherst and a Ph.D. in immunology from Rockefeller University. He joined the faculty of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City in 1964, became a full professor in 1973, and served as chairman of microbiology and immunology from 1978 to 1990, the year in which he was also appointed an investigator by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He has written some 350 articles on topics ranging from ethical issues in the search for AIDS vaccines, to the engagement of developing countries in the pursuit of global health, to the pathogenesis of tuberculosis. His laboratory at Albert Einstein has played a key role in recent breakthroughs in tuberculosis research. In leadership positions on various committees, Bloom has also been extensively engaged with the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, the National Research Council, and the Pan American Health Organization.
Addressing the faculty, Bloom began by referring to a Boston Globe four-part series, "Harvard: The Cost of Excellence" (May 31-June 3), and observed that his appointment put the lie to the Globe's charges that Rudenstine is risk-averse.
Bloom believes this to be a critical time for the field of public health. National resolve is uncertain; although there is bipartisan and general support for the idea of perhaps doubling the budget of the National Institutes of Health over the next five to 10 years, he said, the budget of the Centers for Disease Control has been in jeopardy. Furthermore, the World Health Organization has been in disorder for almost a decade and has been somewhat discredited. Bloom hopes that SPH may serve as a sort of think tank for WHO, now under the management of alumna Gro Brundtland, M.P.H. '65, LL.D. '92, former prime minister of Norway, who became director-general in July.
Bloom told the faculty that it would be arrogant and foolish of him to speak of a vision for the school until he had been in place for a time. He began his transition to Harvard this summer and expects to take up his new duties full time before the end of the fall term. He said he thought the school in "extraordinarily good shape academically, financially, and administratively," for which he thanked his predecessors, including Harvey V. Fineberg '67, M.D. '71, M.P.P. '72, Ph.D. '80, dean of the school from 1984 until last year, when he became provost of the University.
The job of the human immune system, on which survival depends, is to recognize and thwart with a vast arsenal of antibodies and white cells every known germ on earth, said Bloom. Immunologists have sought the generator of diversity (the acronym for which is GOD) of the immune system. Bloom finds, he says, an almost unbelievable diversity of interests and expertise in the people of the Harvard School of Public Health, which gives the enterprise, like the immune system, great strength.
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