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Jamaica-born epidemiologist to head Harvard's School of Public Health

Published:Tuesday | February 23, 2016 | 2:51 PM
Jamaica-born American epidemiologist Michelle Williams will be the first black person to lead a graduate school at Harvard and the first woman to head the public health school.

Jamaica-born American epidemiologist, Michelle Williams, is to take over in July, as head of the School of Public Health at the world-renowned Harvard University in the United States.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Williams immigrated to New York with her family at age 7, the Boston Globe reports.

The report noted that Williams will be the first black person to lead a graduate school at Harvard and the first woman to head the public health school.

“Michelle Williams is an eminent epidemiologist, an outstanding teacher and mentor, and an energising leader and institutional citizen, impassioned about the power of public health to change people’s lives for the better,” said Harvard President Drew Faust in announcing the appointment.

Williams has been the Stephen B. Kay Family Professor of Public Health and chair of the Epidemiology Department at the Harvard Chan School since 2011.

She told the Harvard Gazette she was "honoured" by the appointment.

“I am honoured and excited by the opportunity to lead the Harvard Chan School, and grateful to President Faust for inviting me to serve in this role at such a crucial moment for public health in the United States and around the world,” said Williams.

Noting that Williams is the co-author of more than 400 published research papers, the Gazette says Williams' scholarship is "especially known for its creative integration of epidemiological, biological, and molecular approaches to a range of public health challenges."

Her "teaching and mentoring have been recognised with awards from Harvard, the University of Washington, the American Public Health Association, and the White House."

In 2011, US President Barak Obama declared Professor Williams one of America's 'outstanding mentors in science, math and engineering'.

The graduate of Princeton and Tufts University earned her doctor of science degree in epidemiology from the 380-year-old Harvard University in 1991.