For Tomorrow's Leaders, A Short Course in Public Health

In a First, the Mailman School Brings Public Health to World Economic Forum Global Leadership Fellows

July 20, 2012

Prime Minister, President, CEO of a Fortune 500 company. These are a few of the jobs one can expect to see on future resumes of the Global Leadership Fellows. On July 18, some of this group, who are enrolled in a highly selective Master’s program run by the World Economic Forum, received an intensive one-day introduction to public health led by Dean Linda P. Fried, MD, MPH and faculty from the Mailman School.

Dean Linda P. Fried, MD, MPH

The Mailman School session was the first time this group of future leaders had received formal training in public health. The day was part of a three-year educational expedition that has taken the Fellows, most in their 20s and 30s, to schools in China, Singapore, the United States, and the U.K. Since 2010, Columbia has helped round out the business-oriented curriculum with instruction by faculty from the School of the Arts, later joined by the Earth Institute. The Mailman School became part of the lesson plan this summer.

“The complex problems of the 21st century that affect the health of all—and especially the most vulnerable among us—will only be solved through sustained and committed leadership across all sectors," said Dean Fried. "Our goal is to provide the foundational knowledge for the world's future leaders to be able to play their roles effectively for the public good.”

Awareness of the public health field is especially crucial for groups like the Fellows, the Dean emphasized. “Public health must be part of any meaningful response to issues like global aging population and climate change. It’s vital that tomorrow’s leaders in the public and private sectors have the right tools to meet these challenges.”

The day’s lessons were chock-full of big-picture issues. In the morning, John Rowe, MD, led a lesson on societal myths of aging. Waafa El-Sadr, MD, MPH, and Mary Gamble, PhD, brought home the complexities of global health interventions.

Left to right: Claire Wang, MD, ScD, and Thomas Farley, MD, MPH

A midday panel on obesity prevention was the setting for a lively back and forth between New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley, MD, and Derek Yach, MPH, Senior Vice President of Global Health and Agriculture Policy at Pepsi, and others. Afternoon activities centered on designing a successful health intervention and working through case studies on ethical issues related to global economic disparities.

It left an impression.

Abigail Noble, a Fellow interested in socially conscious entrepreneurship, was struck by the extent to which the public health field is committed to get at the root causes of problems and find a way to make a difference. “This day with the Mailman School of Public Health has just been incredible. It really opened my mind.”