|Gillings Gift gives means to anticipate, accelerate public health solutions|
|October 05, 2007|
What do you do with $50 million? "It's a great challenge to have -- the opportunity of a lifetime," says UNC School of Public Health Dean Barbara K. Rimer. "And believe me, we've had plenty of people give us their ideas about how to spend the money."
The largest gift ever made to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was pledged to the School of Public Health by former biostatistics professor Dr. Dennis Gillings, CBE (Commander of the British Empire), and his wife, Joan, a former staff member at the School. Gillings is now chairman and CEO of Quintiles Transnational Corp., the world's largest pharmaceutical services company.
In recognition of the donation, the School will be named the Dennis and Joan School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina, after a specified percentage of the pledge is paid.
"The words global public health reflect the fact that all public health is global, and that global health is public health," Dean Rimer says. "We are fully committed to North Carolina and its citizens, but we recognize the interconnectedness of all people in today's world. What we pioneer first in North Carolina may well have application in countries around the world. What we learn and apply in other countries will inform solutions to problems in this state and country. It is in the interests of North Carolina citizens that we help solve global problems, like AIDS, avian flu and lack of access to clean, safe water. We collaborate with and will continue to work with people all over the world to solve public health problems. Health threats do not recognize national borders -- global also is local."
Rimer appointed Julie MacMillan, MPH, to lead Carolina Public Health Solutions -- a new initiative funded by Dr. Dennis and Joan Gillings that is dedicated to accelerating public health impact across North Carolina and around the world. An alumna of the School's Department of Biostatistics, MacMillan was an executive at Quintiles for 16 years. For the past two years, she has served as a strategic planning consultant to the dean of the School of Public Health, and for several months, was acting associate dean for external affairs at the School.
"This gift is a great opportunity, and now, we must make the vision come true," MacMillan says. "We are committed to find the keys to accelerating solutions to public health problems across North Carolina and around the world. The Carolina School of Public Health is known for its outstanding research, teaching and practice. This gift is like jet fuel, giving us the means to achieve scale and have even greater impact."
One way the gift will help do this is through creation of competitively selected Gillings Innovation Laboratories (GILs), which will focus concentrated efforts on major public health concerns.
The first Innovation Lab funded is The Center for Innovative Clinical Trials, which will develop methodology, solve practical problems, and educate people within and outside the university about current issues in clinical trials. The purpose is to accelerate and improve trials that, in some cases, are inefficient, lacking or even flawed in their design, or use outdated methods. Dr. Joseph Ibrahim, Distinguished Alumni Professor of biostatistics, one of the world's foremost experts in Bayesian methods, leads this center.
Another Innovation Lab is an interdisciplinary collaboration to devise better ways to bring safe drinking water into homes of low-income populations. Technologies to treat water in the home exist, but they are not always available to people they are intended to help. People often are reluctant to adopt new methods, such as chemicals, heat or filters. This GIL will offer an ideal forum to solve this problem through collaboration between UNC's renowned programs in public health, and the Kenan-Flagler Business School.
"We are very proud and grateful that Dennis and Joan Gillings have made this commitment to the School of Public Health," Dean Rimer says. "I am extremely fond of Dennis and Joan, and have tremendous admiration for their vision of how public health can improve the quality of life here in North Carolina and around the world."
-- by Ramona Dubose
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Carolina Public Health is a publication of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health. To subscribe to Carolina Public Health or to view the entire Fall 2007 issue in PDF, visit www.sph.unc.edu/cph.
|Last updated August 28, 2008|