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DLSPH Open: End of Year Recap

December 3/2020

Dear Colleagues,

We are nearing the final months of the most eventful year in modern history. It’s hard to sum up what 2020 has meant for our School, but I’ll attempt to share just a few of the highlights.

A drawing of Adalsteinn Brown

Dean Adalsteinn (Steini) Brown

We recognized internal leaders at DLSPH. Prof. Audrey Laporte became IHPME’s new director; Prof. Arjumand Siddiqi the new division head of Epidemiology; and Prof. Dionne Gesink the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs. And we welcomed new faculty members, including Assoc. Profs. Beverley Essue and  Asst. Prof. Aya Mitani, who join Assoc. Prof. Xiaolin Wei and Assoc. Prof. Erica Di Ruggiero as permanent faculty.

Amidst the incredible research and teaching around COVID-19 that has echoed around the world, we are still engaged in public health, health systems and policy work in other areas, encouraged by our Research Office’s critical seed grants. Just one example of this ongoing excellence: U of T researchers led by Prof. Robert Schwartz received $4 million in federal funding to help curb smoking and vaping.

This year, we opened new programs and Institutes like the Investigative Journalism Bureau, the much-anticipated Doctor of Public Health, the Centre for Global Health and the Institute for Pandemics, thanks to our generous supporters.

But most of all, I want to acknowledge our inspiring students for working very hard during these challenging times – and reminding me that the future of public health and health systems is in good hands. Our students have been asked to perform virtually at unprecedented levels of stress. For those starting the program with us this year, I know that we will meet in person sometime soon. I would like to thank the IHPME GSU and DLSPH’s PHSA for offering virtual programming that will allow students to connect virtually.

For those of you who have already been with us since last year, please know that your efforts are noticed and appreciated. You have already made it this far. You are truly prepared for the road ahead. I have been pleased to see many of you contributing to the conversation on COVID-19 related issues through dashboards, data and advocacy.

To the DLSPH staff: thank you for keeping our school operating and thriving. You are the foundation of DLSPH’s success and during these challenging times, you have set the standard in maintaining flexibility and stability during massive operational changes – pivoting online in just two weeks. I know most of you are working while maintaining personal obligations and I am deeply grateful for your work.

Lastly, to our faculty, I take this time to thank you for your commitment to academic rigour while being an important source of information for the media, government and the public at large. You have brilliantly taken up the challenge of teaching online while maintaining your research, your work and even family obligations. In particular, I am deeply grateful for being surrounded by many incredible scholars who continue to speak truth to power on issues pertaining to equity and health.

This year has been a revealing time for our School. Halfway through the year, we condemned anti-Black police violence and all other forms of structural racism. Our faculty members have been vocal about the continued inequities that some communities face. Now, we are working as a school to address inequities internally. You will hear more about these efforts early in the new year. Two examples: Our School has developed a structured plan to ensure that staff, faculty and students will be receiving foundational anti-bias training early in the new year. We are actively recruiting for the new position of Black Health Lead. And there will be additional health leads to support Indigenous and 2SLGBTQ+ health. I humbly acknowledge that there is much more to be done, and I am committed to doing better.

This upcoming holiday season, I encourage the DLSPH community to take a break. It’s been a long year and you have earned the right to rest. The road ahead will be difficult, but the end is near. Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones.

Yours truly,

Steini Brown