Jun. 09 2015

Tow Scholars Debut

In this year’s State of the School address, Dean Linda P. Fried announced a new prize to support public health research by mid-career scholars. Four faculty from the Mailman School of Public Health were named Tow Scholars in recognition of outstanding and innovative research and thought leadership: Katherine Keyes, Jeffrey Shaman, Yuanjia Wang, and Patrick Wilson. Each will receive $25,000 annually for three years to support innovation and exploration along with mentoring and training in leadership and development.

Running with Run DMC

Tow Scholar Patrick Wilson shakes hands with Dean Linda P. Fried as Tow Scholars Jeffrey Shaman and Yuanjia Wang look on

The Tow Foundation, which was founded by Mailman School Board of Overseers member Leonard Tow and his late wife Claire Tow, funds the award, which reflects the Foundation’s commitment to vulnerable populations and health equity. In addition to support for the Tow Scholars, Emily Tow Jackson, the Foundation’s executive director and president, has been an outspoken advocate of many of the Mailman School’s initiatives to study the social determinants of health, including the 2014 conference, “A Public Health Approach to Incarceration: Opportunities for Action.”

The Tow Scholars match scholarly productivity with original thinking.

Unusually prolific, Katherine Keyes, assistant professor of Epidemiology, has authored more than 130 peer-reviewed publications, including first-authored papers in top-tier journals. A study published in Pediatrics documented precipitous declines in nightly sleep times among teenagers over the last 20 years. A paper in the American Journal of Psychiatry debunked the notion that women initiate alcohol use at a later age and become dependent more quickly. She authored a textbook on epidemiological methods published in 2014, and has another textbook due in 2016.

Jeffrey Shaman, associate professor of Environmental Health Sciences, develops computer models to predict the spread of infectious diseases. For the last three years, he has produced seasonal flu forecasts for cities across the United States. Last June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention chose Shaman’s method as the winner of its “Predict the Influenza Season” challenge. In the first months of the Ebola epidemic, Shaman was invited to expand his system to anticipate the growth of the outbreak in West Africa. 
According to her nomination by Biostatistics chair DuBois Bowman, Yuanjia Wang’s research productivity is “astounding,” placing her at the top 2 percent nationally for biostatistics scholars in her cohort across all specialty areas. Wang, an associate professor, uses data-driven approaches to assist discovery of disease origins and increase diagnostic capabilities for conditions like Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, as well as psychiatric disorders.

In his research, Patrick Wilson, associate professor of Sociomedical Sciences, aims to address health disparities affecting diverse and marginalized populations. Two years ago, Wilson launched the SPHERE Lab, where he has an active and growing portfolio of research projects investigating the psychological, socio-cultural, and institutional factors that shape HIV-related health outcomes in minority gay men and other men who have sex with men as well as HIV-positive youth and adults. 

“These four faculty have demonstrated a unique capacity for original research,” says Dean Fried. “I am grateful to The Tow Foundation for their vision and generosity in creating this program to help our scientists realize their full potential to improve population health.”