Julio Frenk, an eminent authority on global health who served as the Minister of Health of Mexico from 2000 to 2006, will become the new dean of the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH), President Drew Faust announced today (July 29).
Frenk is expected to assume the deanship in January 2009, succeeding Barry R. Bloom, who will step down as dean at the end of December following a decade of distinguished service.
A former visiting professor at the HSPH, Frenk was the founding director-general of the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico, one of the leading institutions of health education and research in the developing world. He also served as an executive director of the World Health Organization (WHO), where he focused on bringing scientific evidence to bear on health policy. He is currently a senior fellow in the global health program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as president of the Carso Health Institute in Mexico City and chair of the board of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
“Julio Frenk is admired worldwide for his leadership, vision, and remarkable record of accomplishment in public health,” Faust said. “He is a highly influential figure at the crossroads of scholarship and practice, known for his profound concern with how scientific evidence can foster improvements in health systems and policy in societies around the world. He has a highly multidisciplinary outlook, a strong commitment to reducing disparities in health, and a deep understanding of the power of education and research to change lives for the better. His leadership experience in government, in the academy, at WHO, and beyond, along with his longstanding connections to the HSPH, holds great promise to serve Harvard well. This is an unusually exciting moment for the field of public health, and I am delighted that Julio Frenk has agreed to guide us forward in such an important domain.”
“I am deeply grateful to President Drew Faust for the honor of appointing me as the next dean of the Harvard School of Public Health,” Frenk said. “For the best part of my professional life, I have maintained intense contact with the School and have benefited enormously from interaction with its faculty. I see this appointment as a unique opportunity to continue to advance the notion that has inspired my entire career, namely, that science and scholarship represent the enlightened way to guide purposeful social transformation for the benefit of every human being. The School is in a very strong position, thanks to Barry Bloom’s outstanding accomplishments as dean. With this formidable foundation, it will be possible to take the School to new heights. We are at the threshold of a new era in public health, and Harvard offers the breadth of disciplines, the depth of knowledge, and the wealth of faculty and students to lead this process of renewal, which holds so much promise for the world.”
Frenk’s appointment as dean follows his service in a series of prominent leadership positions in public health, spanning nearly 25 years. From 1984 to 1987, he was founding director of the Center for Public Health Research in Mexico’s Ministry of Health. Then, from 1987 to 1992, he served as the founding director-general of the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico, guiding its emergence as one of the developing world’s most respected and innovative centers of education and research in public health.
He was a visiting professor at Harvard’s Center for Population and Development Studies from 1992 to 1993. He went on to serve from 1995 to 1998 as executive vice president of the Mexican Health Foundation, as well as the director of its Center for Health and the Economy. There he led a critical analysis of the Mexican health system that laid the foundations for his later reform efforts while Minister of Health.
From 1998 to 2000, he served as a senior official in the World Health Organization. In that role, as executive director of evidence and information for policy, he focused his efforts on developing a strong base of scientific evidence to inform health policies and on building the capacity of different countries to enhance the performance of their health systems.
As Minister of Health of Mexico from 2000 to 2006, Frenk pursued an ambitious agenda to reform the nation’s health system, with an emphasis on redressing social inequality. He is perhaps best known for his work in introducing a program of comprehensive national health insurance, known as Seguro Popular, which expanded access to health care for tens of millions of previously uninsured Mexicans. Mexico’s wide-ranging health-systems reform efforts during Frenk’s tenure as Minister of Health are featured in a six-part series in the leading medical journal The Lancet.
“Julio Frenk is recognized as one of the great visionaries of global health,” said Bloom, who has served as HSPH dean since January 1999. “From his academic career to his policy work at WHO to putting his innovative ideas into practice in Mexico, he has shown the highest level of commitment to creating effective health systems focused on improving prevention and care for everyone, particularly the poor and underserved. Harvard is privileged to have him return to our community.”
After completing his six-year term as Minister of Health in 2006, Frenk accepted an appointment in February 2007 as a senior fellow in the global health program of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He has also served, since 2007, as president of the Carso Health Institute in Mexico, a nonprofit organization focused on health-systems innovations in Latin America, and as chair of the board of the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which aims to improve the health of the world’s populations by providing the best information on population health.
“Julio Frenk is an extraordinary leader, and his appointment is great news for global health,” said Patty Stonesifer, chief executive officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We will miss our friend and colleague, but look forward to working closely with him in his new role to improve health worldwide.”
“Julio Frenk is an ideal choice as the next dean of the Harvard School of Public Health,” said Harvey V. Fineberg, president of the Institute of Medicine, who was the HSPH dean from 1984 to 1997 before serving for four years as Harvard’s provost. “No one today has a firmer grasp on the multiple dimensions of public health, from the generation of new scientific knowledge to the implementation of large-scale programs on the ground. As a visionary leader, insightful analyst, institutional innovator, and pragmatic problem solver, Julio Frenk has every qualification to lead Harvard to new levels of achievement in public health.”
Frenk holds a medical degree from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, as well as three advanced degrees from the University of Michigan: master of public health, master of arts in sociology, and a Ph.D. in medical organization and sociology.
A member of the U.S. Institute of Medicine and the National Academy of Medicine of Mexico, he has published widely, having written or co-written more than 100 articles in academic and professional journals as well as numerous books and monographs, book chapters, and publications in the popular press. He has also served on the editorial boards of more than a dozen publications, and over the years has been associated with the faculties of the University of Michigan, the School of Public Health of Mexico, the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the National Institute of Public Health of Mexico, Iberoamerican University, and the Harvard School of Public Health. His own research has focused on health systems, the relationship of globalization and health, and the policy implications of shifts in the dominant patterns of health and disease. Past president of the Mexican Society for Quality in Health Care, and former vice president for Latin America of the American Public Health Association, he previously served on the visiting committee for the Harvard School of Public Health and was the School’s commencement speaker in both 2001 and 2007.
In announcing the appointment, Faust expressed her appreciation for the broad-ranging input offered during the search. “I’m very grateful to the many members of the HSPH community who offered helpful advice,” Faust said, “and especially to the members of the faculty advisory group, who were generous and open in their thoughtful counsel about the School and its future leadership. I’m also deeply grateful to Barry Bloom, who has been a valued colleague since I arrived at Harvard in 2001 and who I know will remain a vital presence in our own community and in the public health community worldwide.”
One of Harvard University’s 11 graduate and professional schools, the Harvard School of Public Health, established in 1922, aims to advance the public’s health through learning, discovery, and communication. Its highly multidisciplinary faculty, comprising some 400 members, ranges across the biological sciences, social sciences, and quantitative sciences, including the core public health disciplines of epidemiology and biostatistics. Harvard’s degree programs in public health enroll more than 1,000 students from around the world. Areas of scholarly interest within the HSPH range from the molecular biology of AIDS vaccines to the epidemiology of cancer; from risk analysis to violence prevention; from maternal and children’s health to quality of care measurement; from health care management to international health and human rights. For more information, see http://www.hsph.harvard.edu.