Emory Report
January 29, 2007
Volume 59, Number 17

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January 29 , 2007
Rollins School of Public Health

by pam auchmutey

Venkat Narayan looks out on the world from a corner office in the Rollins School of Public Health. Narayan, who joined Emory last fall after a distinguished career at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Institutes of Health, is a leading expert in diabetes and obesity. Through his research, Narayan strives to change health habits and health policy to prevent and manage diabetes.

Like his RSPH colleagues, Narayan is acting to improve global health and the human condition. Initiatives resulting from the University’s strategic plan have created new opportunities for RSPH faculty and students to improve health locally and worldwide.

The RSPH’s strengths in global health helped lay a strong foundation for the Global Health Institute, a multidisciplinary initiative that extends Emory’s ability to address global health problems. Leading the institute’s formation is GHI director Jeffrey Koplan, vice president for academic health affairs and a faculty member in the schools of medicine and public health. RSPH Dean James Curran and Reynaldo Martorell, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of International Nutrition, serve on the GHI internal advisory board.

Two GHI projects are under way in the RSPH — a program directed by Martorell to expand collaboration between Emory and the Instituto Nacional de Salud Publica of Mexico and a community leadership program for nongovernmental organization leaders, led by Kate Winskell Enger, assistant professor in the Hubert Department of Global Health. Martorell and other RSPH faculty also are collaborating with Peter Brown of the Department of Anthropology to expand global health opportunities in Emory College.

Other faculty are using Emory’s strategic plan as a springboard to address health challenges that encompass different disciplines. Kenneth Thorpe, Woodruff Professor of Health Policy and Management, is interim director of the Institute for Advanced Policy Studies, which seeks solutions to U.S. policy issues, including health care. Michael Kutner, Rollins Professor of Biostatistics, is working to develop a bioinformatics center to support computational and life sciences research at Emory. Carol Hogue, Jules and Uldeen Terry Chair of Maternal and Child Health, co-chairs the Religion and Health Collaborative, a campus-wide umbrella that includes the African Religious Health Assets Program and the Religion and Reproductive Health Project. Both programs are based in the RSPH. Kathy Miner, Associate Dean for Applied Public Health, is helping to prepare engaged scholars by seeking more ways to connect students with faculty mentors through research and service opportunities.

The RSPH has developed an international reputation in global health. With approximately 160 full-time faculty, more than 1,000 graduate and doctoral students, and $45 million in research funding, the school is poised to become one of the world’s top five schools of public health. In accordance with its own strategic plan, the school seeks to increase faculty by 30 percent, double its research base and the number of doctoral students, and increase funds for scholarships.

Providing the space to accommodate those goals is a top priority. An architect has been selected to design a second building that will expand classroom and laboratory space, consolidate programs and faculty spread out in eight locations and provide a home for the Global Health Institute.

In many respects, the new building will enhance the school’s strengths as a global health leader in AIDS, nutrition, antibiotic resistance, diabetes and obesity, and safe water. “Improvement in global health not only saves millions of lives each year but also jump-starts poorer nations to become part of the world economy,” said Curran. “Paying attention to global health is the right thing to do.”

Partners in Predictive Health
Public health is fundamental to the success of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center’s Predictive Health Initiative, a key part of “Exploring New Frontiers in Science and Technology” in Emory’s Strategic Plan. Launched in 2005, the PHI serves as a new model of health care that emphasizes maintaining health rather than treating disease. Its programs encompass Emory researchers in medicine, public health and nursing, as well as scientists at Georgia Tech. RSPH faculty head six of the 18 research projects under way. Projects include cancer risk prediction and prevention, led by Roberd Bostick in the department of epidemiology, and models to predict Parkinson’s disease, led by Gary Miller in the department of environmental and occupational health.