Professors Mercedes Becerra and Salmaan Keshavjee will serve as the new faculty deans at Adams House, Danoff Dean of Harvard College Rakesh Khurana announced today. Their appointment begins July 1.
“I was struck by their warm and thoughtful nature, their kindness, and their commitment to building a sense of inclusion and belonging in everything they do. This fall, as we bring our full community together again, these attributes will be more important than ever,” Khurana said in a message to the Adams House community Tuesday.
Becerra is a professor of global health and social medicine at Harvard Medical School (HMS). Keshavjee is also a professor of global health and social medicine at HMS, as well as an affiliate professor in the Department of Anthropology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
“We are really looking forward to getting to know the students, learn about their aspirations, and ensure that Adams House can continue to be a space for sharing ideas and experiences more broadly than what already happens in the classroom. We want to build on the tradition where every student who leaves Adams House feels enriched for having been there,” said Keshavjee, who holds a master of science degree from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a Ph.D. from Graduate School in Arts and Sciences in anthropology and Middle East Studies. At FAS, he co-teaches GenEd 1093, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Cares? Reimaging Global Health.”
In addition to his teaching, Keshavjee is the director of HMS’ Center for Global Health Delivery and an attending physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, where he serves on the faculty of the Division of Global Health Equity. He is the author of “Blind Spot,” an ethnographic account of the political economy of health care reform in post-Soviet Central Asia.
As part of their global approach to medicine and healing, both Keshavjee and Becerra have collaborated since the 1990s with the nonprofit Partners In Health, working to improve care for tuberculosis and other diseases that disproportionally affect impoverished communities. In 2014, they joined colleagues to co-found Advance Access & Delivery, a nonprofit focused on overcoming barriers to medical care. They have also been extensively involved in supporting the Zero TB Initiative, an international alliance of local coalitions working to drive down rates of tuberculosis.
Becerra, who has taught at HMS since 1999, is a 1991 graduate of Harvard College. With a master of science and a doctor of science degrees from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, her epidemiology work has focused on effective treatment strategies for tuberculosis. She co-founded the Sentinel Project on Pediatric Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis, a network of researchers and clinicians working to improve care for children.
Reflecting on her own time in Currier House, Becerra said: “I had wonderful roommates and friends — and we remain close friends 30-plus years later. Most memorable were the many hours spent sitting together in the dining hall or in common rooms, just chatting and laughing, sometimes until your stomach hurt. At Currier we had wonderful faculty deans, Greg Nagy and Olga Davidson, and they nurtured an inclusive and quirky community that was truly a home for all of us. In my senior year, two of my resident tutors (outside my concentration) were the ones who helped me see my unique path that led to a career in global health. I don’t think I would have applied for the faculty dean role if I didn’t have these strong emotional memories of what I know a House can be.”
The couple enjoy music and debating ideas about society, history, and health care. Becerra practices yoga, and Keshavjee loves going for long walks and hikes. Both are excited to celebrate the many House traditions, including Drag Night and Carpe Noctem.
“This is going to be quite an interesting year as we all come back to campus; in fact, two-thirds of the students in the House will be physically living in Adams for the first time. It is going to be a big transition for all of us, and we are eager to work with students to sustain that warm community that has been the hallmark of Adams House. We know that Judy and Sean Palfrey have been such incredible faculty deans and stewards of the community, and we will do our best to support and nurture the Adams community of the future,” Keshavjee said.
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