Date: March 22, 2022
TO: The NYU School of Global Public Health Community
FROM: Andrew Hamilton, NYU President and Katherine Fleming, Provost

If ever there was a moment when excellence was needed in public health leadership, this is surely it. And so it is with great pleasure and excitement that we announce the appointment of C. Debra M. Furr-Holden — the C.S. Mott Endowed Professor of Public Health, associate dean for Public Health Integration, and the director of the NIH-funded Flint Center for Health Equity Solutions at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine — as the new dean of NYU’s School of Global Public Health, effective July 1, 2022.

Seldom have public health challenges felt more pressing. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than 6 million deaths worldwide and created enormous disruption, often in ways that have added to — or were exacerbated by — pre-existing inequities in health systems. The pandemic also sharpened the picture of what our School of Global Public Health needed in its next dean.

Debra Furr-Holden — an epidemiologist and public health professional with expertise in health disparities and health equity research, policy and practice, drug and alcohol dependence epidemiology, psychiatric epidemiology, and prevention science — fits the bill perfectly. She has extensive experience working with local and national policymakers to improve data-driven decision-making and health equity across a broad range of health issues. Her scholarship, expertise, and commitment has led to her service on the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities, the Greater Flint Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Inequity, the Flint Community Task Force on Public Safety, and the New York City African American COVID-19 Task Force, among other organizations. Those who know her — both within academia and through her community-based, public activities — laud her ability to listen, her charisma, her skill at team-building, her success as a mentor, her ability to identify priorities and drive equity-centered solutions, her energy, her exceptional talent as a communicator on public health and health equity issues, and her deep level of personal involvement with the causes, communities, and organizations to which she commits — characteristics which made a very positive impression on the search committee.

She joined the faculty at MSU in 2016 as an endowed professor. Prior to that, she was an assistant (2007) and later associate (2011) professor at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, where she has retained an appointment as an adjunct professor. Before Johns Hopkins, she had been a research scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (a global non-profit research organization) and a faculty member at Morgan State University.

Debra is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including The White House Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (2006), the Society for Prevention Research Service Award (2021), the National Clean Water Collective Change Maker Award (2021), the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine Junior Faculty Mentoring Award (2021), and the Meeting the Moment for Public Health Award by Research!America, awarded to the Michigan Coronavirus Taskforce on Racial Disparities of which she is a founding member (2021). She is a widely published scholar; her writings include more than 120 peer-reviewed papers in high impact journals. In 2021 she published a seminal article in Addiction that highlighted racial disparities in opioid overdose deaths over the past two decades.

She received her BA from Johns Hopkins University’s Krieger School of Arts & Sciences, and her PhD from Hopkins’ School of Hygiene and Public Health (now the Bloomberg School of Public Health).

We want to express our deep gratitude to all the members of the search committee, and especially its chair, Melody Goodman, associate dean for research and associate professor of biostatistics. Their many hours of effort in helping to identify candidates for the deanship was a great service to the University and to the GPH community in particular. Their work has led to the appointment of a wonderful new dean. We thank them.

We also want to thank Founding Dean Cheryl Healton. Few tasks are more demanding than being the founding dean of a new school at a university. It falls to that person to set the tone for the school, to establish and cultivate its reputation and traditions, to summon students and scholars to an entity that did not previously exist. NYU’s School of Global Public Health was truly fortunate to have Cheryl as its founding dean; her energy, experience, and determination turned an idea into reality and was vital to securing the school its home on Broadway; together, this provides an excellent foundation for Debra Furr-Holden to build upon.

Please join us in congratulating Debra on her appointment as dean, and in welcoming her to NYU. We could not be more delighted to have her join us.