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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Columbia Commencement Speaker Addresses Graduates on Leadership and Service

Dr. John Rowe, chair of Columbia Mailman School’s Board of Overseers and the past president of Mount Sinai and CEO of Aetna, delivered the commencement address to graduates of the Class of 2014. Dr. Rowe, who is a faculty member in the department of health policy and management, reflected on the value of leadership and offered advice on how to be a good leader.


[Photo: Dr. John Rowe]

Leadership can be learned, suggested Dr. Rowe, and there is no single way to lead. “Whatever your personal style, it is fully compatible with leadership.” Dr. Rowe went on to define management and leadership as distinct: the former is concerned with administration and the short term, while the latter is about innovation and looking to the future. “In short, managers do things right, and leaders do the right things,” said Dr. Rowe.

The Mailman School is one of the only schools of public health or medicine to teach leadership and innovation—skills, according to Dr. Rowe, that will serve the graduates well in the current employment landscape. Changes in the health care system are bringing about a convergence of medicine and public health. As a result, said Dr. Rowe, there is increasing demand “for professionals with expertise in the principles and practice of public health.”

Dr. Noe’ Duran Romo, a pediatrician and 2014 Master of Science graduate in epidemiology, delivered remarks on behalf of the graduating class, reflecting on perspectives gained through a public health education, particularly the understanding that health is more than the sum of individual behaviors and biology.

“Now we see the inequities of our time that divide. Now we see the fundamental determinants of who is healthy and who is ill, and of who lives and who dies,” said Dr. Romo. This perspective obligates us to challenge the system that neglects agents of disease “simply because they appear beyond our reach or because they call into question the very fabric of our society,” he added.

Among the new graduates was the first full class to complete the new Columbia Master of Public Health curriculum. Introduced in the fall of 2012, the curriculum was designed to prepare students to address complex health challenges and provide an interdisciplinary education that more closely matches the reality of the workplace. The curriculum’s features include a new interdisciplinary core, a program in leadership and innovation, and a case-study-based course that marries public health theory and practice.

Adding to their professional capacity, MPH students in the Class of 2014 were able to select from more than 20 certificate programs, and many chose an area distinct from their area of major specialization. Graduates earned certificates in such interdisciplinary fields as climate and health, health of an aging society, public health, and humanitarian assistance.

A total of 47 Master of Science and 34 doctoral degrees were also conferred. Curricula for these programs have also been transformed in recent years.

The commencement ceremony concluded with a recitation of the Public Health Oath, which Dean Linda Fried noted is “but one of many innovations of the Mailman School in its 90 years of history.”