Letter From the Dean
Coming Together in a Pandemic
COVID-19 has done its best to pull us apart, disrupting nearly every aspect of how we live, learn, and work. Since the first reports of the new coronavirus, I have watched with gratitude as our community—students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends—joined together to face unprecedented challenges with grace, compassion, and resilience. I would like to express my sincere condolences to those of you who have lost loved ones during the course of this pandemic. Our thoughts are with you.
Early on, our faculty partnered across disciplines and sectors to answer vital questions about the virus and its spread, advise policymakers and the scientific community, guide Columbia’s university-wide response, support clinical care response, and inform the public through media and other outreach. In many cases the foundation for their work was developed years ago in anticipation of this moment. Our students responded to the pandemic in myriad ways, including volunteering with the CUIMC Student Service Corps, working as contract tracers, developing healthcare service-learning projects, serving as campus safety ‘ambassadors’, and raising awareness of critical health issues at the community level. Around the world, our alumni are working in hospitals, national health ministries, local health departments, scientific research organizations, and elsewhere to contain the virus.
The pandemic has awakened the world to the paramount importance of public health, which has seen declining investment in recent years. The disparate and devastating toll of COVID-19 on marginalized groups, including Black and Latinx communities in the U.S., and vulnerable and displaced populations around the world, has laid bare vast health disparities and inequities. The tragic violence in the U.S. against Black and Transgender communities, particularly Transgendered people of color, which is just the latest in a long line of violence, shows how much we need to do, individually and collectively, to create an antiracist and inclusive society. As ever, it is our mission as public health professionals to ensure every person’s right to health, dignity, safety, and wellbeing. We must act with renewed urgency. As the pandemic evolves and we establish a “new normal” I am confident that as a community we will continue to be there for each other and for the public whose health we work to protect.
Wishing you good health,
Dean Linda P. Fried, MD, MPH