Public health experts and virologists warned us for decades that a major pandemic was on the horizon. Two principal sources, they observed, would likely be influenza or coronaviruses. As science journalist Debora MacKenzie recalled in 2020: “Every disaster movie starts with someone ignoring a scientist.”
As of October, the pandemic is still upon us and millions of people around the world, and many, many in the U.S., remain unvaccinated. Hospitals and healthcare workers are stretched thin. Yet dedicated workers carry on while striving to find ways to protect their own health and well-being, as our cover story describes. Public health continues to struggle with effective messaging and insufficient funding as we try to turn the tide of the pandemic (see page 28).
And as we were preoccupied with COVID, our field came face to face with a deeper, more entrenched challenge: our neglect of and even complicity in the biggest health threat in our history — racism. In July, we launched our Strategic Plan for Antiracism (see page 3) and dedicated our school to act against racism and for justice in all we do.
“A lesson of the past 18 months of sickness, deaths, and roller-coaster emotions is the power and importance of resilience — the capacity to experience adversity by facing it, learning from it, and coming back stronger and wiser.”
I have no illusions about the challenge ahead of us individually and collectively as we seek to transform our culture, as generations have before us, and battle the pandemic. I am certain that we, through public health, will do our very best to be a leader in building health and wellness for all.
This is my last message for Advances. I’ve been associated with this school for more than 41 years as a doctoral student, staff and faculty member, associate dean, interim dean, and finally dean for the past 17 years. I can’t tell you how fast the time has gone, and how deeply I respect the commitment and accomplishments of you, our leaders, faculty, staff, students, and alumni. As I retire and our 8th dean joins us, I know the School of Public Health is in caring hands that will lead it to an even brighter future. Thank you, everyone!
John R. Finnegan Jr., PhD
Dean and Professor