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State of the School

Healthier and Safer Communities Powered by Public Health

We are advancing population health, well- being and social justice locally, nationally and globally. With this vision and mission Milken Institute SPH has continued to be intentional about our efforts outlined in the plan towards making the GWSPH one of the best schools to receive a public health education in the country, equipping our students to face the ever- shifting landscape surrounding public health challenges. So far, our efforts are proving to show their returns as we recently unveiled our Public Health Rising campaign to acknowledge Milken Institute SPH’s climb to the No. 12 ranked school of public health in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report.

We’ve made tremendous progress towards achieving our programmatic goals—activities that directly advance the mission of the school, including innovating our curriculum, expanding our interdisciplinary research portfolio, and positioning Milken Institute SPH as a premier school for applied public health education, scholarship and practice in the nation. Simultaneously, we’ve made headway toward achieving our facilitating goals— activities that support the achievement of our programmatic goals that include the creation of a diversity and inclusion action plan that will support the very foundation of our strategy, improving the student experience, deepening a culture of service that supports the academic mission of the school, strengthening our financing capacity at Milken Institute SPH through investing in a restructure of the administration and finance entities, and continuing to develop and strengthen alumni relationships.

In parallel Milken Institute SPH is working very closely with university leadership towards the institution’s newly launched strategic planning process, led by President Tom LeBlanc, with a focus on four key pillars: world-class faculty, undergraduate programs, graduate programs and research. Members of the Milken Institute SPH community are poised and eager to support this effort in helping to shape these pillars and paving a pathway for the university to achieve its goal of preeminence as a comprehensive global research university.

Leadership Lends Expertise to Milken Institute Conferences

As a panelist for a discussion on “How Drug Trafficking Is Fueling the Opioid Crisis,” Dean Goldman explored the various approaches public health officials are taking to reduce opioid misuse and save lives while drug trafficking and money laundering are fueling this crisis.

2019 Global Conference

In May, Dean Lynn R. Goldman was among the innovative thinkers and leaders convened at the 2019 Milken Institute Global Conference to discuss collaborative solutions to some of the great challenges of our time. As a panelist for a discussion on “How Drug Trafficking Is Fueling the Opioid Crisis,” Dean Goldman explored the various approaches public health officials are taking to reduce opioid misuse and save lives while drug trafficking and money laundering are fueling this crisis. She also served as a panelist for a discussion on “Disaster Preparedness and the Role of Philanthropy,” exploring ways to coordinate and optimize resilient response to disasters.

2018—Future of Health Summit

Among the speakers at the 2018 Future of Health Summit in October were Dean Lynn R. Goldman and William Dietz, MD, chair of the Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness at Milken Institute SPH. Dean Goldman lent her expertise to a panel discussion that explored the health risks of social isolation as well as solutions, including new care models and technology to strengthen social connections and improve health outcomes. Meanwhile, Dietz served as the moderator for a panel discussion on what can be done differently to address the obesity and diabetes epidemics in the U.S.

New Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Department to Expand School’s Quantitative Research and Education

Milken Institute SPH expanded its academic portfolio this year with the creation of two new and distinct departments: the Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics and the Department of Epidemiology. The Department of Epidemiology, which formerly included the biostatistics curriculum, will continue its mission of advancing epidemiologic research and education. Alan Greenberg, MD, MPH, who was chair of the former Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, will serve as chair of the Department of Epidemiology.

Meanwhile, the Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics will meld the interdisciplinary science of analyzing complex biological data with statistical research and will put Milken Institute SPH at the forefront of a rapidly growing field that analyzes and manages big data with the aim of providing solutions to some of the world’s most pressing health problems. The new Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics elevates the school’s commitment to the quantitative sciences and supports GW’s university-wide focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), says Dean Lynn Goldman. “It is exciting new territory for us.”

Scott Evans, PhD, MS, an internationally known expert in clinical trials, infectious diseases and biostatistics, was named founding chair of the new department. Evans will continue in his role as the director of the Biostatistics Center at Milken Institute SPH, a center with a long history of leadership in coordinating practice-changing clinical trials and biostatistical research. The Computational Biology Institute will also be housed under the new department. “It is truly an exciting time as we embark on a new era of biostatistics and bioinformatics,” Evans says. “These critical sciences are foundational for public health research and decision-making and essential to the education of the next generation of leaders in public health and medicine.”

Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Founding Chair Spotlight

Evans came to Milken Institute SPH in 2018 from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH), where he was a senior research scientist and a member of the Steering Committee for the Center for Biostatistics and AIDS Research. In addition, Evans served as the director of the Statistical and Data Management Center of the Antibacterial Resistance Leadership Group at HSPH, a group that he brought to Milken Institute SPH.

Evans’ scholarly contributions include applied and methodological research, published in top journals including The New England Journal of Medicine,
The Journal of the American Medical Association, Clinical Infectious Diseases, Statistics in Medicine, and others. His methodological developments impact the design, analyses and interpretation of studies in infectious diseases and beyond by obtaining better benefit/ risk assessments of interventions and diagnostics. He has authored three books since 2015, including a textbook on clinical trials and two statistical methodology books. Evans is currently the editor-in-chief of Statistical Communications in Infectious Diseases and the co-editor of a new section of Clinical Infectious Diseases, entitled Innovations in Design, Education, and Analyses. He also serves as the executive editor of CHANCE, a publication of the American Statistical Association (ASA).

His many honors include the Mosteller Statistician of the Year Award from the Boston Chapter of the ASA, the Robert Zackin Distinguished Collaborative Statistician Award for contributions of statistical expertise to HIV research in the AIDS Clinical Trials Group, a Recognition Award for contributions of statistical expertise to the HSPH Institutional Review Board, and elected Fellowship from the ASA and from the Society for Clinical Trials (SCT). Evans is a member of the Board of Directors for the ASA and SCT, and he is a member of the Steering Committee for the Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative (CTTI). He also is a member of an FDA advisory committee, the chair of the Trial of the Year Committee of SCT, a team leader on the Real World Evidence Project for the CTTI, and the chair of the Committee on Data Monitoring Committees and Benefit/ Risk Assessment for the Quantitative Sciences in the Pharmaceutical Industry. In addition, Evans serves on several data safety and monitoring boards for government and industry-sponsored clinical trials.

New Distinctive Degree Programs

As part of its efforts to prepare students to enter the field of public health, Milken Institute SPH launched several new degree programs this year. The new offerings help expand the breadth and depth of the school’s training in public health knowledge.

PhD in Health Policy

The PhD in Health Policy is designed to develop scholars who are skilled at critically assessing the political, economic, legal and social aspects of health policy and management. They will learn to apply innovative research tools to analyze processes and outcomes in the health
care delivery and public health settings to inform policy decision-making. Special emphasis is placed on U.S. health policies, systems, and population health.

PhD in Environmental Health

The mission of the PhD program in Environmental Health is to develop a new cadre of public health researchers to address key environmental health challenges of the future. Environmental Health PhD students will develop very specific expertise with knowledge of quantitative or laboratory- based disciplines through an individualized program of study built on core knowledge and field specific electives. Research areas including environmental and occupational epidemiology, environmental exposure science, risk science and policy, climate change and public health, environmental microbiology, the role of the social and built environments on health and global environmental health science will be available to students.

MPH in Humanitarian Health

The mission of the Humanitarian Health Program is to prepare a well-versed corps of global health professionals as humanitarian practitioners to address health and related issues in humanitarian settings. This program will equip students with the necessary knowledge, attitudes and self- efficacy/skill sets to assess needs, design and implement programs, and contribute to better decision-making, performance efficiency, and sound policy-making . The main strength of this program is in its breadth in building a wide range of skill sets and to address the implementation challenges in humanitarian aid.

Undergraduate Minor in Bioinformatics

Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary minor offering focused training that integrates concepts in health, biology, statistics and computer science. The program develops and integrates skills across the core competency areas in bioinformatics, including computation, biology, statistics/mathematics, and foundational knowledge in bioinformatics.

For more information on these and other Milken Institute SPH programs, visit publichealth.gwu.edu/academics/programs

New Summer Institute Engages Students and Professionals Across the Globe

Striving to advance population health, well-being and social justice around the world, Milken Institute SPH launched a weeklong Summer Institute, offering two short graduate-level classes taught by leading research and global health faculty. The institute offers working professionals and students from all over the world a chance to deepen their understanding and sharpen their skill set here in the nation’s capital, says Dean Lynn Goldman. “Such knowledge and skills will be essential for public health leaders who must tackle a wide variety of threats to the public health,” she adds.

The inaugural institute featured two classes exploring the commercial determinants of health and responsible conduct of research. In the first course, taught by Assistant Research Professor Nino Paichadze, students looked at what public health professionals can do to control negative health impacts of commercially marketed products like tobacco, sugar and alcohol. The second course was taught by Paul Ndebele, research regulatory specialist, and covered ethics topics that are critical for anyone who does research with human subjects and was designed to promote a research culture based on high ethical and professional standards.

Participants could choose to take one class or both, making the institute accessible for working professionals in the W ashington, DC, area.
“We are trying to offer this academic institute in a way that can be very flexible for people trying to improve their knowledge and skill set,” says Adnan Hyder, senior associate dean for research and professor of global health, who led the school-wide initiative and hopes the program will continue to grow over the next few years as new courses are added. “If we offer different courses over the next several years, we hope some participants will continue coming back to build their knowledge and advance their skills in public health,” he says.

Dean Lynn Goldman Testifies Before Congress on Federal Disaster Response

For many years, we have failed to adequately prepare for major disasters across the United States. We need to change from a culture of disaster and response to a culture of preparedness and resilience.

Several months after Milken Institute SPH researchers published a groundbreaking study on excess deaths in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, Dean Lynn Goldman headed to Capitol Hill to testify before members of Congress about the report’s findings. The hearing by the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform was held to evaluate the federal government’s response to the 2017 hurricane season, including lessons learned and opportunities to improve the federal natural disaster response.

“We did find that the communities in Puerto Rico were not adequately prepared for a category 4 hurricane,” Dean Goldman told the committee and added that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had made preparations for only a category 1 or 2 storm. “Clearly Puerto Rico was vulnerable.” The Milken Institute SPH study, undertaken in collaboration with researchers from the University of Puerto Rico Graduate School of Public Health, estimated there were 2,975 lives lost in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria—with the poor and the elderly being hardest hit.

Goldman said that the problems with response and recovery in Puerto Rico, and the resulting increase in deaths, did not evolve overnight. “For many years, we have failed to adequately prepare for major disasters across the United States,” she said. “We need to change from a culture of disaster and response to a culture of preparedness and resilience.”

The independent report published by a team of Milken Institute SPH researchers, including Dean Goldman, included a set of recommendations aimed at helping Puerto Rico and other vulnerable coastal areas worldwide prepare for extreme weather like Hurricane Maria. To read more about the report, visit prstudy.publichealth.gwu.edu.

New Podcast Bridges the Gap Between Science and Everyday Health Decisions

Milken Institute SPH’s new podcast, “Healthy You,” explores the public health landscape and how it impacts listeners’ personal health and well-being. Through interviews with school faculty, students and alumni, episodes explore research on environmental health, exercise techniques, nutrition decisions, community wellness, health legislation, global trends and more.

Whether you’re looking to start a career in public health, make a change in your life, or just learn some- thing new, take a listen to “Healthy You,” available on iTunes, Google Play and Stitcher!

Health Policy Expert Named New Senior Associate Dean for Academic, Student and Faculty Affairs

Jane Hyatt Thorpe, JD, first joined Milken Institute SPH as an adjunct lecturer in 2004 and became full-time faculty in 2009. Over the years, she served as interim chair of Milken Institute SPH’s Department of Health Policy and Management and vice chair for academic affairs. In July, Thorpe stepped into a new role at Milken Institute SPH: senior associate dean for academic, student, and faculty affairs, where she oversees the school’s educational mission and provides leadership and support to all faculty and students.

“I am extremely pleased to see Jane step into this position,” says Dean Lynn R. Goldman. “Her astute insights, passion, attention to detail and warm heart have been a true gift to our school, and I know she will now be an invaluable resource to all of the students and faculty in our community.”
Thorpe is an expert in health care law and policy, with expertise in Medicare, Medicaid, health care delivery systems and financing, health information exchange and technology, and corporate compliance. Her research focuses on legal and policy issues related to health reform implementation on health care quality, delivery and payment. She is the director of the Healthcare Corporate Compliance Program, which is a partnership with GW’s College of Professional Studies.

Before she joined Milken Institute SPH, Thorpe was the deputy director of the Office of Policy for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). She was also a senior adviser in the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology within HHS from July 2012 to July 2015.

“I’m excited to work with our remarkable faculty and brilliant students to advance our school’s commitment to improving public health on a local, national and global level,” Thorpe says.

Distinguished Tobacco Control Expert Joins Milken Institute SPH

Carla J. Berg, PhD, MBA, joined the George Washington University in August as the associate center director for population sciences and policy for the George Washington University Cancer Center (GWCC) and a professor of prevention and community health at Milken Institute SPH. A clinical psychologist, Berg’s research expertise is on multilevel determinants of health, with an emphasis on high-risk populations like teens and minorities. A recognized expert on implementation of tobacco control policies and health disparities, Berg has significantly contributed to research focused on reducing the international toll of tobacco, which is the world’s leading cause of preventable death, killing more than seven million people worldwide every year. Her research has also informed regulatory work in the United States on tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, hookah and small cigars.

In 2013, Berg’s work as a U.S. Fulbright Scholar in the Republic of Georgia led to research funded by the National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center to conduct ongoing research in Georgia and Armenia. This work, conducted with Georgia’s National Center for Disease Control and Public Health and Armenia’s National Institute of Health, involved community-level strategies to promote smoke-free air policies and reduce secondhand smoke exposure. Berg has also worked internationally in China, India and other countries.

Berg most recently served as an associate professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University and as the associate director for population sciences at Emory University’s W inship Cancer Institute. Berg received her PhD in clinical health psychology from the University of Kansas and completed residency training at Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School in behavioral medicine and completed postdoctoral training at the University of Minnesota. She earned an MBA from the Goizueta Business School at Emory University. “I am eager to join such an excellent community of engaged scholars,” Berg says. “I look forward to working alongside my colleagues at GW to truly make a difference in cancer prevention and control, and in public health more broadly, globally and in our immediate community.”

Faculty Lend Expertise to Federal Advisory Committees

Milken Institute SPH faculty serve on a number of federal advisory committees, offering expertise and advice to government agencies.

NIH NIAID AIDS Research Advisory Council and the NIAID Council AIDS Subcommittee, Epidemiology Associate Professor Amanda Castel

Healthy People 2020 Secretary of Health & Human Services Advisory Committee, Prevention and Community Health and Global Health Professor Doug Evans

FDA Advisory Committee on Medical Devices and Radiological Health, Biostatistics and Bioinformatics Chair and Professor Scott Evans

NIH National Advisory Environmental Health Sciences Council and External Scientific Advisory Board for the NIH Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) study (chair), Advisory Committee to the Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2012-2019) & FDA Science Board (2012-2018), Milken Institute SPH Dean Lynn Goldman

National Institute of Mental Health National Advisory Mental Health Council (2017-present), Epidemiology Chair and Professor Alan Greenberg

Board of Scientific Counselors of the National Toxicology Program, Environmental and Occupational Health Professor David Michaels
NIH Advisory Committee on Research on Women’s Health, Health Policy and Management Policy Research Professor and Director of the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health Susan F. Wood

EPA FIFRA Scientific Advisory Panel, Epidemiology Professor and V ice Chair Heather Y oung

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