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NEH grant to Center for History and Ethics of Public Health at Columbia's Mailman School

January 5, 2010 -- The National Endowment for Humanities (NEH) has awarded a Challenge Grant to The Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. The Challenge grant in the amount of $725,000 will help extend the Center's intellectual mission to bring the insights of the humanities to bear on understanding the challenges facing public health through knowledge of its political, social cultural, and economic roots. This is the first NEH Challenge Grant given to a school of public health and the first NEH Challenge grant awarded to Columbia University in a decade.

The Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health, created in 2002, is co-directed by David Rosner, PhD and Ronald Bayer, PhD. The only program in history and ethics within an accredited school of public health, the Center is housed in the Department of Sociomedical Sciences, led by Amy L. Fairchild, PhD, chair. The Center presents a unique collaboration of historians and those involved in the examination of the ethics of public health. Students and faculty rely on historical methods and ethical analysis to investigate critical and complex public health issues.

Until now, the Center's faculty has primarily focused its teaching and research on public health in the U.S., undertaking pioneering work on the history of environmental and occupational hazards, the ethics of public health surveillance and childhood immunization and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The Center has been vital in developing the field of public health ethics and has made protecting vulnerable populations a priority.

Recipients of Challenge grants are required to match NEH funds and the Challenge grant awarded to The Center for History and Ethics of Public Health will set the stage for a $3,000,000 endowment campaign for the Center to support a junior faculty chair, an annual lecture and seminar series, and doctoral students.

"With this Challenge Grant the National Endowment for the Humanities recognizes the importance of bringing to bear the insights of history and ethics to the vast contemporary problems faced by public health both globally as well as domestically, and the extraordinary intellectual ability of the faculty of The Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health to lead in this arena," said Linda P. Fried, MD, dean of the Mailman School of Public Health. "We see the Center as playing a critical and innovative role at the Mailman School of Public Health and believe that this endowment campaign will lay the foundation for extending and strengthening this thought leadership for the public good."

"Our Center's research and teaching activities confront the challenges facing public health by understanding their ethical dimensions," says Dr. Bayer. "The Challenge grant will inspire historical research into the ethical challenges of contemporary public health. Such research will in turn help reframe our policy options."

David Rosner underscores that "This is truly an extraordinary opportunity to solidify and build the collaboration between professional and liberal arts education, between the Mailman School of Public Health and the Department of History. Here we have two of the nation's leading intellectual units joining in an effort that will prove to be a model for other universities. We owe the NEH our gratitude for their support and foresight."

"On behalf of the entire Mailman School faculty I congratulate Drs. Bayer and Rosner and their colleagues on receiving this highly coveted award," says Dr. Fried.


Contact: Stephanie Berger
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

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