IN PUBLIC HEALTH WE FOCUS ON PROTECTING AND PROMOTING the health and well-being of communities locally, nationally, and around the world. As we celebrate and reflect on the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health’s first six decades with this special issue of our magazine, I would like to take a moment to focus on our own community — FSPH students, faculty, staff, graduates, collaborators, and supporters.
Our UCLA Fielding community includes more than 11,000 individuals from more than 70 countries who have come to our school to learn, study, and apply public health concepts and skills before going on to positions of leadership. Working tirelessly — and, all too often, with little public recognition — these FSPH graduates have advanced health in profound and often incalculable ways.
Each fall since UCLA Fielding opened its doors in 1961, our community has benefited from an influx of talented and committed students who enroll at FSPH. Hailing from diverse backgrounds and harboring wide-ranging goals, they bring infectious enthusiasm and optimism into our community, enriching all of us with their lived experiences, new perspectives, and determination to reimagine what can be achieved. Along with those entering our established programs, I am excited to welcome students into our newest academic offerings this fall: the initial classes of our new Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science undergraduate public health degree program, as well as the first cohort of students in our Master of Data Science in Health degree program.
Students are drawn to UCLA Fielding by the world-renowned experts who have populated our faculty since the beginning. Ranging from scholars who provide the evidence that identifies problems and informs solutions, to the leaders in public health practice who turn research into action, FSPH faculty and staff have addressed the most pressing public health issues since day one. In addition to preparing the next generation of public health practitioners and academics, they have produced pivotal research as well as partnering with policymakers, community leaders, and experts in other fields to translate the best evidence into initiatives that promote stronger communities and better health.
Building on the impactful work that got us to this point, our FSPH community has never been more vital. In early 2020, when a novel coronavirus began to spread across the globe, UCLA Fielding faculty, students, and staff stepped up to provide leadership and guidance wherever it was sought. In the face of the worst pandemic in a century, they moved quickly and, from the start, have consulted with university, community, and governmental leaders; delivered evidence-based advice through the news media and public forums; and ushered new public health workers into the fold through training in California and abroad. They shed light on the disproportionate burden of COVID-19 on low-income and BIPOC communities, fueled by racism, xenophobia, and structural inequities. When effective vaccines emerged, they educated the public and local leaders about the urgent need for access among traditionally overlooked communities.
Even as the COVID-19 pandemic remains with us, we must prepare for the inevitability of other emerging and reemerging infectious diseases. Our faculty continue to collaborate at home and abroad on efforts to prevent, detect, and control these outbreaks. Of course, other daunting challenges loom before us — and there, too, UCLA Fielding is at the forefront, whether it’s addressing the unacceptable disparities in health; finding ways to ensure that everyone has access to evidence-based, high-quality, affordable healthcare; or confronting the urgent threat to public health posed by the escalating climate crisis.
Tackling these and other seemingly intractable problems requires diverse teams of dedicated experts capable of looking at these issues through multiple lenses, gathering input from a variety of sources, and working together on innovative, evidence-based solutions. In this way, our community is well positioned to push the boundaries of what is possible. I am particularly heartened by the infusion of early-career faculty we have recruited to join UCLA Fielding in the last several years. With their energy, collaborative spirit, and the diversity of backgrounds and expertise they have brought to our school, I’m more confident than ever in our ability to successfully take on the pressing issues before us.
So many individuals comprise our FSPH community — graduates, some of whom are years removed and miles away from UCLA Fielding, along with current students and members of our faculty and staff; valuable partners who collaborate with FSPH on policies and programs, or facilitate field experiences for our students; as well as supporters whose financial contributions enable innovative research to be conducted, or allow a student to overcome economic barriers that might otherwise prevent them from enrolling.
Our UCLA Fielding community encompasses all of these people and so many more. We are diverse in our backgrounds, experiences, and interests, but we also share certain characteristics. More than any community I know, ours is filled with people who are caring, selfless, and united in a common mission to contribute to a healthier, more equitable world. We appreciate and value everyone who is part of FSPH, and if you are just becoming acquainted with the people and work of our school, we hope you will join us. Together, our community has achieved so much over these 60-plus years. I can’t wait to see all that you make possible in the years ahead.