The public health challenges facing the world are daunting – obesity, emerging infectious diseases, and health disparities among them. But there is reason for optimism. Yale School of Public Health Dean Paul D. Cleary told the nearly 140 new public health professionals receiving their degrees this week that their work and commitment to creating a healthier world gave him hope.
“It is really inspiring to work with you, and I have developed a tremendous sense of optimism for the future,” he said.
[Photo: Dean Paul D. Cleary and Ms. Cecile Richards]
The graduates will join the ranks of YSPH alumni – some 4,000 health professionals – who are working in nearly 70 countries around the world on a wide variety of health issues and problems. The ceremony drew hundreds of family and friends of the graduates who traveled from around the country, and in many cases internationally, in order to attend Monday’s ceremony in Yale’s beautiful and historic Battell Chapel.
They heard Ms. Oluwayimika Taiwo-Peters, who delivered the student address, talk about her childhood in Nigeria and how her mother, who was in attendance, valued education above all else. Graduating with an MPH is a dream come true. “I never thought I would end up at a renowned institution like Yale,” she said.
Ms. Taiwo-Peters made a point of thanking her mother as well as the many teachers at Yale and those who came before who shaped her interest in public health and desire to learn. She also thanked the many other people at Yale who played a role in her MPH education, including the service workers who provide a variety of essential amenities.
Keynote speaker Ms. Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, recounted for the graduates some key moments in public health, including the struggle to make birth control readily available for women. She cited the “relentless” work of Ms. Margaret Sanger and how her efforts led to the legalization of birth control in the mid 1960s. “This radically altered life for women in America,” Ms. Richards said.
But many barriers remain in women’s health and for health in general, she told the audience. There was, for instance, resistance to having birth control coverage included in the Affordable Care Act, and a desire to roll back recent health care advances remains strong in some quarters. She told the graduates that it would be up to them to protect these advances and to accomplish others.
“You get to build the world you want to live in,” Ms. Richards told the graduates. “You’ve got a lot of work to do. Let’s get to it.”