Home News Michelle Williams, Jamaican, Named Dean of Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health

Michelle Williams, Jamaican, Named Dean of Harvard’s Chan School of Public Health

Harvard University has named highly esteemed epidemiologist Michelle Williams as the next dean of the university’s Chan School of Public Health.


The move follows a petition drive by 65 Harvard medical and dental students, calling themselves the Racial Justice Coalition, who are demanding greater diversity. They’re urging changes in the university’s curriculum, administration and admission process, according to Boston magazine. Williams is native of Kingston, Jamaica, who immigrated with her family to New York at age 7.

“I am honored and excited by the opportunity to lead the Harvard Chan School, and grateful to President Faust for inviting me to serve in this role at such a crucial moment for public health in the United States and around the world,” Williams told the Gazette.

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Williams, S.M. ’88, Sc.D. ’91, is a distinguished epidemiologist and award-winning educator known for her influential studies of maternal and child health around the world, according to Harvard’s Gazette. Williams’ appointment, dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, will become effective in July 2016.

A 1984 graduate of Princeton University, where she majored in biology, Williams went on to receive an M.S. in civil engineering from Tufts University in 1986. Continuing her studies at the Harvard School of Public Health, she earned her S.M. in population science in 1988 and her Sc.D. in epidemiology in 1991. After a postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Washington School of Public Health and Community Medicine, she joined the UW faculty as an assistant professor of epidemiology in 1992.

Emerging as an internationally recognized epidemiologist and educator, she rose through the UW faculty ranks, becoming an associate professor in 1996 and a full professor of epidemiology in 2000. While at the UW, she was highly active in the Center for Perinatal Studies at the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, rising to become co-director from 2000 to 2011, with broad responsibility for a multidisciplinary research program involving clinical investigators, basic scientists, and epidemiologists.

From 1992 to 2010, she held an appointment as an affiliate investigator at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and from 2008 to 2011 she held a joint appointment in global health at the UW.