President's Letter

Investing in health care

Mark Ostow

Mark Ostow

The Yale Alumni Magazine publishes a letter from President Peter Salovey ’86PhD in every issue. In this letter, the president discusses the pandemic. View full image

I have often thought of my mother during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was a nurse who provided care in hospitals and nursing homes for fifty years, all while raising three children. She put so much of her heart and soul into the health and well-being of others while parenting my brother, my sister, and me. From her, we learned about the rewards and strains of health practitioners. So, throughout the pandemic, my thoughts have been especially with the medical, nursing, and public health experts and other health care professionals working directly to save lives and prevent the spread of the virus.

As I write this letter in mid-March, we have just passed the pandemic’s second anniversary. In just two years the world has seen so much—more than six million deaths worldwide, but also innovative and coordinated efforts that have saved millions of lives. The losses are tragic and deeply saddening, even while the efforts of scientists, doctors, nurses, and public health professionals are inspiring—indeed, heroic.

COVID has placed enormous strain on the workforce in these fields and increased the need for public health and health care professionals worldwide. During the pandemic, our colleagues from Yale School of Medicine (YSM), Yale School of Nursing (YSN), and Yale School of Public Health (YSPH) have been at the forefront of scientific discovery, influenced government decision making, and formed innovative multidisciplinary collaborations such as the one between YSPH and Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science to monitor local sewage for COVID surveillance.

The expertise of health professionals is critical as we recover from this pandemic and prepare to face adverse health outcomes from new and existing infectious and chronic diseases, health care inequities, resource scarcity, and other pressing challenges. Always, but especially today, the world needs leaders educated in medical, nursing, and public health principles and practice, including the interventions made possible through transformative basic research in the field.

I am thrilled that we are responding to this global need by creating endowment funds totaling $250 million to support the development of future leaders in medicine, nursing, and public health. Yale will provide $50 million of unrestricted funds each for YSM, YSN, and YSPH when each school raises this amount in new endowment gifts. These investments will support financial aid and other educational initiatives at YSM, and an array of student, faculty, and programmatic needs at YSN and YSPH. They also address some of the challenges made obvious by the pandemic: shortages of health professionals and the goal of increased diversity among those delivering care. The distribution from these endowed funds enhances student financial aid and thereby increases access to Yale’s three professional schools focused on improving health, fostering advancements in health equity, and enhancing the quality of health care.

Historically, YSPH was organized as a department within YSM. We are transitioning YSPH into a self-supporting, independent professional school and providing a $100 million addition to YSPH’s endowment to eliminate its structural deficit and the need to rely on a subsidy from YSM. We are now searching for the dean who will lead the school through this next phase. This evolution caps more than a century of innovation in public health at Yale—ranging from Charles-Edward Armory Winslow’s work in the 1920s catalyzing public health reform in Connecticut and across the country, to more recent innovations like the rapid development of saliva-based COVID-19 testing, and new approaches to preventing infectious diseases like Ebola, HIV/AIDS, and tick-borne illnesses. Today, the school offers fifteen different joint degree programs with other fields of study, such as the School of Management, School of Nursing, and School of the Environment. The changes ahead will support YSPH’s contributions worldwide.

The need to educate the next generation of doctors, nurses, and public health experts has never been as clear as it is now, and I am so proud to know that Yale’s health professional schools will continue to meet our changing health challenges. I opened this letter by mentioning my mother, a registered nurse, and I close by noting that my wife, Marta, graduated from YSPH in 1984. We met when she was studying for her MPH, and her Yale education led her to a lifetime of public health service in community-based organizations, state government, consulting, and teaching focused primarily on the needs of underserved women and children.

We owe so much gratitude to our colleagues on campus who have lessened the impact of the pandemic and prepared us for a brighter future. With these new investments and because of the creativity, dedication, and collaborative spirit that our clinicians, researchers, and educators bring to their work, I am confident that we will continue helping individuals in and well beyond our community live better and healthier lives for decades to come.  

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