Excited for my new role

a portrait of the new dean sitting and smiling at the camera

Although I am only three months into my role as dean, I already feel deep pride and excitement about the work of our school’s outstanding faculty, staff, and students. Rollins is truly a wonderful place, and I feel privileged to be a part of this impressive community of people who are passionate about the public’s health.

In this issue we highlight some of the wonderful work of our people. Four years ago, Eri Saikawa, associate professor of environmental health, and a doctoral student identified high levels of lead in the soil in some yards and gardens in Atlanta’s Westside, a low-income, mostly minority community. Their discovery led to the area being classified as an EPA Superfund site. Saikawa and her team are continuing their studies, and they are now trying to determine the health impacts on children living in the area.

In this issue we also explore applications of genomics discoveries, a topic near and dear to my heart. Yue Guan and Colleen McBride co-lead the Emory Precision Public Health Research Program where they and other scientists explore ways to apply genomic discoveries in broad, population-based settings.

In July, Don Operario joined Rollins as the Grace Crum Rollins Distinguished Professor and Chair of the Department of Behavioral, Social, and Health Education Sciences. Operario is a social scientist who studies syndemics—the interaction between concurrent epidemics, such as the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the rising epidemics of violence and mental health issues.

I am joining Rollins during a challenging time for public health. In addition to the ongoing pandemic, we have faced the overturning of Roe v. Wade, continued gun violence, acts of racism, deteriorating mental health, newly emerging infections, natural disasters, wars, climate crises, and more. Public health education, practice, and research are needed now more than ever. We must be tenacious in our pursuit of public health. I am inspired by the work of our faculty, staff, and students and excited to work together to address these challenges.

Last, I want to thank the Rollins community for its warm welcome and generosity. I feel like I am inheriting a new family! I want to extend a particular thanks to Jim Curran, who has been wonderfully kind in sharing critical details and supporting my transition. He is an incredible leader, and I am grateful that he will continue to be a source of advice and support for the school for years to come.

M. Daniele Fallin, PhD
James W. Curran Dean of Public Health
Rollins School of Public Health
Emory University

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