PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — One of Brown University’s most prominent academics is leaving College Hill to accept a leadership role at a rival Ivy League school.
Dr. Megan Ranney, deputy dean at Brown’s School of Public Health and a regular commentator on national television, was named Tuesday morning as the new dean of Yale University’s School of Public Health.
“I think this is an opportunity that I couldn’t refuse,” Ranney told 12 News in an interview ahead of the public announcement. She described the offer as “an extraordinary opportunity for leadership at this moment when we so desperately need lots of great places that are doing great work in public health.”
Ranney arrived at Brown nearly two decades ago as a medical resident, and has served on the faculty since 2008. She initially became known for her work on gun violence, then rocketed to greater fame early in the pandemic by co-founding GetUsPPE.org, which helped collect badly needed personal protective gear for medical personnel.
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“Megan has been a tireless advocate for patients, students, fellow faculty and medical practitioners — and for advancing creative ideas and approaches to public health,” said Ronald Aubert, interim dean of Brown’s School of Public Health.
In an email to students and staff, Yale President Peter Salovey said, “Professor Ranney is an internationally recognized public health leader, investigator, advocate, and clinician-scientist. She brings to Yale a distinguished track record of driving innovations in public health teaching, research, and practice.”
Ranney will arrive at Yale as its School of Public Health is being formally established as a separate institution from the medical school there.
“It is a chance to build an independent and dynamic School of Public Health growing off of their excellent tradition and bringing with me many of the great things that I’ve learned and done here at Brown,” she said.
Ranney’s departure comes amid some uncertainty about the School of Public Health’s future leadership.
Dr. Ashish Jha — who, like Ranney, became a fixture of national television during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic — has been on leave as the school’s permanent dean since he went to the White House last March as the president’s coronavirus response coordinator.
Asked Monday for an update on Jha’s status, Brown spokesperson Brian Clark said, “While we do not yet have a specific timeline, he has told us that he intends to return as dean of Brown’s School of Public Health when that temporary assignment is complete.”
Fundraising has slowed in Jha’s absence. Clark said donors contributed $23.5 million to support the School of Public Health in the 2021-22 fiscal year, down from nearly $30 million the prior year.
“In this current fiscal year, there’s been continued momentum in engagement with donors, and we hope to keep pace with or exceed last year’s totals,” Clark said.
Ranney expressed optimism about the outlook for the school, which opened a decade ago, and described her departure as “bittersweet.” She said she initially threw her hat into the ring for the Yale job proactively, then withdrew, only to agree to reconsider at the request of the New Haven school’s leaders.
“I will leave here with pride for all of the terrific stuff that we’ve done as a community over the last 19 years and with confidence that Brown is going to continue to do great work in the public health and health care community,” she said. “And I’m looking forward to creating new visions down at Yale and not being too far away.”
Ranney starts at Yale on July 1. She said her children will continue to attend Rhode Island public schools to avoid disrupting their educations.
Ted Nesi (email@example.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook