As we get back in gear, we are reminded that we are all connected more than ever before

September 13/2016

Welcome back to another academic year, and for our new arrivals, welcome to the Dalla Lana School of Public Health and the University of Toronto.

I hope you all had a chance to refresh this summer or at least take a “breather.”  Promoting health begins with one’s own health, and for both mental and physical health, there is no substitute for rest, some quietude, and reflection on where one has been and where one needs to go.

Looking forward, I would like to remind you of two important processes in which Faculty-wide participation is needed.

The first is a reminder of Towards 2021 and Beyond, the Faculty’s first strategic plan as a cohesive unit that was launched in June 2016. This is a “living” document and I welcome your input and advice so the plan can be adjusted going forward, particularly given the dynamic nature of global public health as described above. I strongly encourage everyone to read the strategic plan, which is available in as an executive summary and full format on the website.

Secondly, I hope everyone has read the draft Self-Study 2011-2016, which is in the final stages leading up to the Faculty’s first U of T Quality Assurance Process (UTQAP) and external reviewer visit this November. In May, the draft self-study assessment was circulated for input. We are in the final stages of completing the self-study, but I encourage everyone to review the draft and send us your feedback before the end of September.

As we get into the swing of a new academic year, the world races on, with each headline associated with implications for public health and health systems.  The Olympics in Rio — largely a success and a spectacular visual feast for a global audience — and a miracle of its own, given the anxiety associated with the recent political and economic chaos in Brazil, fears about the Zika virus, water pollution and crime.  That somehow it all took place without a disaster occurring is no doubt attributable to an unseen army of professionals — many of them our international colleagues —and we look forward to hearing from them about lessons learned.

This summer’s earthquakes in Italy and Myanmar are a tragic reminder of the critical importance of emergency preparedness of our public health and healthcare systems.  The ever-worsening war and chaos in Syria, and terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Turkey and elsewhere — tragic to the extreme, and also a reminder of the public health consequences of hate, tribalism and the proliferation of deadly weapons around the world.

Finally, Canadians may feel aloof and fortunate to not be vulnerable to the political and social twists, turns, unrest and extremism on display in the U.S., but the results of America’s general election in November will have enormous consequences for Canada and the rest of the world. A cause for unrest closer to home is Canada’s struggle to lift up our Indigenous people and there is no greater reflection of historical and continuing injustices than an accounting of disparities in population health.

As we get back in gear, we are reminded that we are all connected more than ever before.  Our success will depend not only the skills we develop, the discoveries we make, the products we generate, but also our ability to connect, communicate, and collaborate.

I look forward to seeing you in our classrooms, meeting rooms, laboratories and beyond.  Welcome back to the DLSPH, and I wish you all great energy and joy as the year proceeds.

Howard Hu