SPH Celebrates 45 Years of Research, Scholarship, and Practice
On November 18, the SPH community marked the impactful contributions of the school to public health since its founding in 1976—and redoubled a commitment to the critical work ahead.
A community, guided by compassion and humility, in pursuit of a healthier world.
United by this common goal, more than 320 School of Public Health faculty, staff, students, alums, and friends of the school gathered to mark 45 years of research, scholarship, and practice at the the school’s 45th Anniversary Celebration on Thursday, November 18 at the Mandarin Oriental in Boston.
The celebration took place at the most consequential time in the school’s history—and in modern public health—as the world continues to grapple with the widespread physical, economic, and social disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It is striking that our school should mark a milestone year just as we are facing an historic public health crisis,” said Sandro Galea, SPH dean and Robert A. Knox Professor.
“That we are able to be here today is thanks to the extraordinary advances we have made through vaccines, through a better understanding of the disease, allowing us to gather safely, to live,” Galea said. “But the pandemic reminds us of how much we still have to do. It reminds us of how much we all value our health and how central the mission of public health is to our country and our world. That is why we are here today—to redouble our focus on our mission and to celebrate our school’s progress on the occasion of our 45th anniversary.”
Drawing guests from former long-time SPH dean Robert Meenan to Boston University President Robert Brown, the celebration was the culmination of SPH’s 14-month campaign, Public Health. Now is the time., launched last year to showcase the research, scholarship, advocacy, and activism of faculty, staff, students, and alums.
“In a comparatively short history, the School of Public Health has emerged as a global leader in research, advocacy and the preparation of field practitioners whose expertise is transformative—whether down the street from where we are tonight, in Appalachia, or in rural India,” said President Brown in remarks to the audience.
Brown highlighted SPH’s vital role in informing BU’s return to campus after the nationwide shutdown in the early months of the pandemic, calling the reopening “the greatest emergency effort the university has ever taken.
“A key part of reopening was asymptomatic testing of everyone to find infected people and remove them from the community into isolation, and fast contact tracing at a scale that I don’t think had been done before,” he said, noting that BU’s testing facility has delivered more than 1.7 million tests to date. “If we did not have a top school of public health and a top biomedical engineering department, I don’t think we would have had the expertise to pull this off.”
The event also highlighted the work of six SPH student scholarship recipients who shared in pre-recorded remarks how the awards advanced their education and public health goals. And in honor of the 32 tables of guests at the event, Zubeen Shroff, chair of SPH’s Dean’s Advisory Board (DAB) and whose family has supported the Dean’s Scholarship Fund, announced that the Shroff family was contributing another $32,000 to the school in support of student education.
“We are so fortunate to have such eager, energized individuals willing to take on the most important challenges in these turbulent times,” said Shroff. “We are inspired by the mission, vision, and accomplishments of BUSPH, and we all know we need to do more.”
Galea also presented the Beyond Health Award, the school’s highest honor, to three organizations that have made a lasting contribution to improving the conditions that shape health: Rosie’s Place, Massachusetts Immigrants and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, and Mothers Out Front.
Susan Garfield (SPH’11), incoming DAB chair and chief public health officer, Americas at EY, announced the plan for a commissioned piece of art that will celebrate the school’s contributions to the public health field during the pandemic and throughout its history. The artwork will be displayed in the Talbot Building on the medical campus next spring.
“The piece will pay homage to the public health practitioners, families, and students who have fought through the COVID crisis and commemorate BUSPH’s 45th anniversary,” said Garfield, who also co-chaired the event. The artwork depicts blossoms reflecting the coronavirus circle and spike proteins, she said, “but instead of a virus we’ve transformed it into a flower with people surrounding each, connecting with each other across the dimensions represented. The piece represents the duality of what has been and what is to come.”
The anniversary celebration was also co-chaired by Gloria Respress-Churchwell, author and documentarian, and Kevin Churchwell, president and CEO of Boston Children’s Hospital, and both of whom are parents of alum Katherine Churchwell (SPH’18); Gary Cohen (SPH’06), co-founder, senior advisor, and director of Humantics Corporation, and chair of idea hub’s Advisory Council; and John Sullivan (MET’82), senior managing director of equity research and healthcare investment strategist at SVB Leerink.