Dean’s Welcome

We define success at the UMass Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences (SPHHS) by how well we achieve the school’s mission to optimize the public’s health and quality of life through innovative education, research, outreach, and practice using approaches that integrate the core areas of public health and health sciences.

By all measures, both qualitative and quantitative, we are realizing our mission. Our successes are fueled in great part through the efforts of dedicated faculty and remarkable students. Our student numbers have increased again, rising to 2,533 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in fall 2016—nearly 500 higher than it was only five years ago. We will have 80 full-time tenure and nontenure track faculty in our ranks by January 2017, including two senior hires joining in January 2017, a chair of environmental health sciences, and a director for a new center being created to focus on equity, health, and population well-being.

The SPHHS continues to produce exciting and creative research and outreach initiatives. Despite lower success rates for grant awards nationally, particularly in the science and engineering disciplines, SPHHS faculty have generated a 69 percent increase in expenditures for sponsored activity over the past five years, rising from $8.6 million in 2012 to $14.5 million in 2016. While expenditures may be the best indicator of current success in obtaining external funding, the grant proposal submission rate may be a better barometer of future success. With a 68 percent increase in the last five years, including a phenomenal $109 million in new proposal submissions for FY16, SPHHS faculty are well positioned for continued excellence in research in FY17 and beyond.

The SPHHS’ reputation for academic excellence remains high, and is clearly manifested in the accomplishments of our students. As I write this message at the start of a new academic year, we have just learned that three SPHHS students and recent graduates have been awarded Fulbright scholarships. One will travel to Romania to investigate the role of environmental exposures on cervical cancer in Romanian women; one to Russia to conduct a public health project on dating culture and sexual health in university-age Russian and foreign students; and one to Spain to teach elementary school children. In addition, two of our doctoral students have been awarded prestigious fellowships from the American Association of University Women, and three have been awarded funding through National Institutes of Health programs to promote diversity in health-related research.

The school continues to lead the conversation on many important public health concerns, including the potential health implications involved with legalizing marijuana which is an important topic nationally, but of particular consequence in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, where a referendum will appear on the November ballot. The Social and Economic Impacts of Gambling in Massachusetts study continues its efforts to establish baseline economic and social indicators of gambling ahead of the introduction of casino gambling in the state. We are committed to bringing issues of health equity and disparities into the spotlight through outreach efforts like the Western Massachusetts Health Equity Summit in November 2016, organized and sponsored by the SPHHS.

You’ll learn more about some of these achievements and many more in the pages ahead. These highlights are short, but notable examples of the ways in which we strive to achieve the SPHHS mission. We appreciate all the alumni and friends who support the SPHHS and its current and future initiatives in innovative education, research, outreach, and practice.

With warm regards,

C. Marjorie Aelion, Dean
School of Public Health and Health Sciences