Jennifer Leaning, a public health expert with extensive field experience in human rights crises, has been named director of the University’s François-Xavier Bagnoud Center for Health and Human Rights at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).
Leaning, currently a professor of the practice of global health in HSPH’s Department of Global Health and Population and co-director of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, was chosen after an international search for a successor to Jim Yong Kim, who was named president of Dartmouth College earlier this year. She assumes her new position on Jan. 1.
“Jennifer’s experience on the ground in hotspots from Afghanistan to Somalia gives her a unique perspective on the connection between human rights and public health,” said Steven E. Hyman, provost of Harvard University. “We are excited to think about the ways in which the FXB Center and its commitment to children’s health will evolve under her leadership.”
Leaning, a 1968 graduate of Radcliffe College with an HSPH master’s degree and a degree in medicine from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, will also become François-Xavier Bagnoud Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights at HSPH. She said she would focus on the well-being of children and expand the involvement of faculty based at the Boston and Cambridge campuses.
“I also intend to build on the center’s relationships to develop research and experiential training opportunities, especially for students,” Leaning said.
The FXB Center was founded in 1993 with the support of philanthropist Albina du Boisrouvray as the first academic center to focus exclusively on the dynamic between the issues of health and human rights, combining the academic strengths of research and teaching with a commitment to service and policy development.
HSPH Dean Julio Frenk expressed gratitude to du Boisrouvray for her generous support of the center, which places special attention on the rights of children. “The FXB Center represents an extraordinary commitment to improving the lives of children living in vulnerable circumstances around the globe,” Frenk said. “I am confident that Dr. Leaning will increase that commitment and strengthen the center’s sense of mission.”
In addition to her academic work, Leaning has served over the years on the boards of Physicians for Human Rights, of which she was an early founding member, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Oxfam America. She currently serves on the boards of the Humane Society of the United States and the Massachusetts Bay Chapter of the American Red Cross.