President Drew Faust announced the appointment of Sue J. Goldie, Roger Irving Lee Professor of Public Health and director of the Center for Health Decision Science at the Harvard School of Public Health, as the director of the Harvard Institute for Global Health.

Courtesy of Sue J. Goldie

Science & Tech

Faust calls global health one of her main priorities

8 min read

Appoints Sue J. Goldie director of HIGH; Paul Farmer, David Cutler to round out leadership team

Declaring the University’s efforts to improve the state of global health knowledge, education, and capacity building to be one of her “very highest priorities” as president of Harvard, Drew Faust today (May 18) announced the appointment of Sue J. Goldie, Roger Irving Lee Professor of Public Health and director of the Center for Health Decision Science at the Harvard School of Public Health, as the director of the Harvard Institute for Global Health (HIGH).

Faust also announced that the work of HIGH is so integral to the long-term focus and goals of Harvard that the organization that began its existence as an experimental faculty “initiative” has been granted permanent institute status.

“I believe that this is truly a moment of special possibility for global health, both in the world and here at Harvard,” said Faust. “If we needed to be reminded of this, we have been this past year, first with the global H1N1 pandemic, and then when the earthquake struck Haiti and we saw the world come together.

“We need to engage and equip our students, who are telling us in ever increasing numbers that they want to engage in the global health effort,” Faust continued. “We need to support the very best researchers and the work of our outstanding faculty, in fields stretching across the spectrum of inquiry from immunology to epidemiology, health policy, history, molecular biology, and philosophy. I have every confidence that Sue Goldie, who has already demonstrated her outstanding scholarship, leadership, and collaborative skills, is the person to lead this special effort.”

The appointment of Goldie, a MacArthur Foundation “genius award” recipient, marks the end of a yearlong, international search for a new director for HIGH. Goldie has been involved with HIGH since 2007, and as co-director of the executive committee worked to bring faculty from all parts of the University together, consistently advocating on behalf of junior faculty interested in global health.

Because HIGH is above all a collaborative organization dedicated to educating and training the next generation of global health leaders, Faust also appointed two faculty leaders to direct the critically important educational and training efforts.

Paul Farmer, the Maude and Lillian Presley Professor of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School (HMS), will oversee global health medical education and physician training. Farmer, also a MacArthur Fellowship winner, is chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at HMS, professor in the Department of Global Health and Population at the Harvard School of Public Health, chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and is perhaps best known internationally as a co-founder of the global nonprofit Partners In Health.

David Cutler, the Otto Eckstein Professor of Applied Economics in Harvard’s Department of Economics and a member of the faculty of the Harvard Kennedy School, will direct undergraduate and graduate programs in global health. Cutler, who worked on health care reform in the Clinton administration and served as a health care adviser to the Obama campaign, is a member of HIGH’s faculty executive committee, served as HIGH’s interim director for the past year, and led the effort to create a secondary concentration in global health at Harvard College.

Goldie said, “Strong leadership in global health already resides in the faculty of the Medical School, School of Public Health, and academic hospitals. As the faculty director for the Harvard Institute for Global Health, I see myself principally as a coordinator, facilitator, and collaborator. With a leadership team comprised of myself, Paul Farmer, and David Cutler, I am confident we can create a University-wide community that is bound by a sense of shared mission.”

“Global health is an intellectual and practical topic of tremendous interest to our undergraduate and graduate students,” said Michael D. Smith, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and John H. Finley Jr. Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “Professors Goldie, Farmer, and Cutler are exactly the kind of seasoned leaders we need for such an important, University-wide institute. I am also thrilled that each brings to the institute a deep commitment to Harvard’s extensive educational offerings in global health.”

Harvard Provost Steven E. Hyman said that granting institute status to HIGH and appointing Goldie “mark a very significant step along what has been a 15-year journey toward a truly collaborative and more interdisciplinary Harvard. Global health is an area in which we already have world-class researchers, clinicians, teachers, and students,” Hyman said. “By bringing them all together as parts of a coordinated whole, without boundaries or silos, we expect to have far more impact than we would expect from the already considerable sum of the many parts of our global health effort.”

“It is my conviction that for Harvard to remain a leader in the burgeoning field of global health, we must invest heavily in linking service to training and research,” Farmer said. “Since global health is not a discipline, but rather a collection of problems, we need to draw on the strengths of the Medical School, the School of Public Health, and the teaching hospitals — and especially on the work of our partner sites — to help tackle the biggest challenge of our time: understanding and improving delivery of services in this country and in others. Global health is a new paradigm and very different from its predecessor paradigm, international health. Boston is on the globe, too,” Farmer noted.

Cutler said he sees HIGH coordinating the teaching and training of students at all levels. “For undergraduates, this means having courses for those who want to learn a little, up to those who want to make global health their life’s focus,” he said. “It also means providing students with the ability to interact with the world and practice what they learn. For graduate students, this involves direct training in global health issues, access to people and research sites, and integration of the skills of many different disciplines. It will take a collaboration of faculty all across Harvard to make this happen. I know the faculty are eager to participate, and I look forward to helping organize them.”

The global health leadership appointments were praised by both Julio Frenk, dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, and Jeffrey Flier, dean of Harvard Medical School.

“Sue Goldie, Paul Farmer, and David Cutler are uniquely qualified to lead HIGH to a new stage of development,” Frenk said. “The key to achieving successfully the institute’s mission will continue to be the ability to build bridges across the amazing intellectual capital of the entire University. Professors Goldie, Farmer, and Cutler have exceptional skills in team building and mentoring. They are also deeply committed to the educational mission of HIGH, as demonstrated by their crucial role in expanding the course offerings in global health and by their own dedication to teaching.”

Flier said, “This is a signal moment in our effort to bring together under a single banner the disparate parts of a world-class program in global health. I have no doubt that Sue Goldie, Paul Farmer, and David Cutler have the vision, collaborative instincts, and determination to bring people together in this common cause, and that together they will create a truly collaborative, interdisciplinary program that will benefit not only all the world’s peoples, but also will benefit Harvard as a university.”

Trained as a physician, decision scientist, and public health researcher, Goldie has broad interests that include using evidence-based policy to narrow the gap between rich and poor, leveraging science and technology as tools for global diplomacy, strengthening capacity through sustainable nonexploitative partnerships, and fostering innovation in education locally and globally. Drawn to health problems in the most vulnerable populations, she conducts rigorous analysis using the methods and tools of decision science, which uses mathematics to solve resource problems, to inform complex and difficult policy decisions. Her analytic work relates to a wide range of topics — from vaccine-preventable diseases to maternal mortality — in many settings, from disparities in the United States to broad failures of public health delivery in the poorest countries.

An accomplished scientist, Goldie has published 150 original research papers and has been principal investigator on awards from the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Doris Duke Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation, which in 2005 awarded her its grant “for genius and creativity” in applying the tools of decision science to combat major public health problems.

She has received numerous teaching and mentorship awards, including the Harvard School of Public Health mentoring award and the Everett Mendelsohn Excellence in Mentoring Award from Harvard University. She serves on the Standing Committee on Health Policy, teaches one of the largest classes at the School of Public Health in decision science, and this year also taught a new undergraduate class as part of the Gen Ed curriculum.

A member of the Institute of Medicine, Goldie is a graduate of Union College and Albany Medical College. She completed her internship and residency in internal medicine at Yale-New Haven Hospital, Yale University School of Medicine, and earned her M.P.H. from the Harvard School of Public Health in 1997. She joined the faculty of the School of Public Health in 1998.