Yale continues search for new Dean of School of Public Health

Melinda Pettigrew has been named acting dean of the Yale School of Public Health as university president Peter Salovey continues to search for a new dean.


Collaborating journalist


Yale Daily News

The School of Public Health has begun the 2022 academic year under the leadership of Acting Dean Melinda Pettigrew, who previously served as Associate Dean, as the search for a new Dean for the institution continues.

Outgoing Dean Sten Vermund’s term ended on June 30, after he was reportedly expelled from his post last October. While the President’s Office and the Search Advisory Committee struggle to find a replacement, Pettigrew will oversee the school for the foreseeable future.

“As Acting Dean, I will strive to create and sustain an environment in which our faculty, staff and students feel part of a community and are empowered to discover, innovate and effect change,” said said Pettigrew in a message sent to the School of Public Health. community during the summer.

Salovey continues to search for Vermund’s replacement with the help of a search committee chaired by Associate Dean for Research Melinda Irwin.

Salovey also tapped search firm Isaacson Miller, which helps source candidates for the job.

“The Search Advisory Board has been focused on identifying candidates to lead YSPH,” Salovey wrote in an email to the News. “Committee members have been in contact with YSPH faculty, students, staff and alumni to gather recommendations on qualities and qualifications to be considered.”

According to Vermund, an outgoing dean would usually be asked to stay on until a new dean arrived.

However, Vermund was not asked to stay on after his term ended and instead resigned without a replacement.

“I think the logic was that if everyone knows I’m leaving, maybe it’s not so good to have a lame duck, to have someone who’s not particularly self-sufficient because he won’t live with the decisions he makes,” Vermund said.

Vermund added that Pettigrew previously served as assistant dean of the School of Public Health and is expected to return to that position after a new dean is chosen, providing some continuity in leadership.

“Professor Pettigrew has been at the school for over 20 years and she knows the details of the school extremely well,” Vermund said.

In addition to Pettigrew’s experience as assistant dean, Vermund highlighted her prior experience as senior associate dean for academic affairs. In her previous position, she was responsible for the school’s curriculum and got to know the faculty, departments and programs. Vermund also pointed to Pettigrew’s important qualifications to be supported by the NIH as an active investigator.

This future leadership change will take place as the School of Public Health prepares to transition to an independent school, a change that has been announced in February.

According to Vermund, the biggest implications of the transition will be financial, as the School will no longer be financially tied to the School of Medicine. Without the financial lifeline of medical school, Vermund says it will be important to find new sources of income and be more frugal with resources.

“The committee takes into consideration Yale’s major investment in YSPH and the fact that it will become an independent school under the direction of the next dean,” Salovey told The News in an email.

Salovey also noted that the committee has benefited from submissions to a web formwhich is open to anyone wishing to give their opinion on the qualifications of the new dean or to propose specific candidates.

Vermund speculated that the announcement of a new dean could coincide with the transition of the School of Public Health to an independent school. He suggested the start of the 2023-2024 school year as a plausible time for that announcement, but stressed he had no formal knowledge of when the transition would actually take place.

Vermund also noted that it will likely take several months to completely separate the finances of the School of Medicine and the School of Public Health. Although Brown, Pettigrew and Strobel are already planning ahead, he said many of the School of Public Health’s final decisions could be made once the new dean arrives.

“The medical school was always very strict with us, trying to keep us lean and mean and making sure we weren’t in a substantial deficit, but it wasn’t uncommon for us to be in a deficit at the end of the year. any given year, and the medical school would help us out,” Vermund said.

Beyond the financial changes, the School will also have more autonomy once it becomes independent.

Vermund explained that the dean of the School of Public Health currently has the authority of the chair of the medical school department, so decisions such as promotions, grants, and sabbaticals must be approved by the ‘Medicine School. Once SPH becomes independent, the new dean will have authority more similar to that of Yale’s other graduate schools.

“Peer deans told me they never understood why Yale [School of Public Health] was not a complete school,” Vermund said. “So I think that’s put us off a bit in our community, and it’s plausible that we do better in the national rankings.”

Although Vermund does not know which people are being considered for the position, conversations with the search committee have assured him that there are several highly qualified candidates.

The School of Public Health was founded in 1915.

Amanda J. Marsh