To the Mailman School community,
It is my great pleasure to announce the appointment of Professor Terry McGovern as Chair of the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health. Professor McGovern, a well-respected health and human rights scholar, lawyer and leader, has served as the Interim Chair of the department since January 2017. In that role, she has effectively led a strategic planning process of significant curricular reform, and set goals for substantial interdisciplinary collaboration across our school and beyond.
Professor McGovern began her career as a young lawyer focused on addressing widespread disparities for low-income women and communities of color with HIV—making significant and lasting impacts in the field. In 1989, she founded the HIV Law Project, the first and only legal agency providing comprehensive services exclusively to low-income people living with HIV/AIDS in New York City. During her ten years as its first Executive Director, Professor McGovern litigated numerous landmark cases against the federal, state and local governments arising from discriminatory practices, including S.P. v. Sullivan, a class action case that forced the Social Security Administration to expand HIV-related disability criteria for women and others with a range of HIV-exacerbated conditions.
Through her legal work, Professor McGovern has also helped to ensure access to HIV/AIDS treatment for all who were routinely excluded from trials of HIV/AIDS and other medications. She served as lead counsel on T.N. v. FDA, which eliminated a 1977 FDA guideline restricting the participation of women of childbearing potential in early phases of clinical trials, and authored the 2001 federal regulation authorizing the FDA to halt any clinical trial for a life-threatening disease that excludes women. She also worked to ensure that treatment was available for all globally and served as an appointee of President Clinton to the National Task Force on the Development of HIV/AIDS Drugs.
Professor McGovern stepped down from her leadership post at the HIV Law Project in 1999 to join the Mailman School. As an Open Society Fellow, she focused on health impacts of fundamentalist violence and in particular, worked with women in Rwanda, Sri Lanka, and India to change discriminatory norms, policies and laws. She led the Women’s Health and Human Rights Advocacy Project, which worked to improve reproductive and overall health of low-income women.
From 2006 to 2012, Professor McGovern was a Senior Program Officer in the Ford Foundation’s Gender, Rights and Equality Unit. There, she created the first largescale HIV intersectoral funding initiative in the U.S. Deep South, built the Foundation’s funding related to gender—and led a global team addressing HIV and human rights in the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America, Southern Africa and the U.S. She also co-led the first global cross-initiative funding collaborative for LGBT rights.
In 2013, Professor McGovern was recruited to the Mailman School to co-direct the Health and Human Rights Certificate Program and has continued to expand her human rights scholarship and impact. In 2015, she co-edited Women and Girls Rising: Progress and Resistance Around the World, which considers the history of the modern global women’s movement and underscores the work that remains. She is active in many high-level Commissions and bodies, including the 2016 Lancet Commission on Adolescent Health and Wellbeing, led the inequalities section for the Standing Commission on Adolescent Health and Wellbeing, and co-led the Law and Human Rights section of the Lancet Commission on Humanitarian Assistance and Forced Migration. She has served as an appointee to the UNAIDS Human Rights Reference Group, the HIV Immigration Task Force, and the Global HIV Prevention Task Force, and works extensively with UNFPA, UNDP, UN Women and WHO.
Professor McGovern’s experience in diverse settings and positions of global prominence enables her to grow the global eminence of the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health, which is unique among programs at other schools of public health in its focus on global governance, health systems thinking, and the impact of life course exposures with a lens on justice perspective, family and individual level. The department’s scholarship, research and teaching aims to prevent and disrupt the impacts of a multitude of negative life course exposures exacerbated by injustice, such as forced migration crises, climate change and environmental injustice, gender based violence, and racial and gender disparities. By combining knowledge of the impact of law and global governance on health delivery systems at the local level with implementation science, the department addresses public health threats in low-income, vulnerable, unstable and inequitable environments.
With the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health’s history and positioning, and Professor McGovern’s leadership, I am also thrilled to announce a new school-wide Program on Global Health Justice and Governance. This program will bring together the department and School’s extensive expertise to address systemic and individual inequities that prevent individuals from reaching the highest level of attainable health. More information about this exciting new program will be shared soon. Given Professor McGovern’s history of successful leadership and the School’s strength and strong reputation in the field, I have no doubt that she will build this program to be a robust and vitally important addition to the global health landscape.
Please join me in congratulating Professor McGovern on her appointment as Chair of the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health, and on the launch of this innovative and impactful program.
Linda P. Fried, MD, MPH
Dean and DeLamar Professor of Public Health
Mailman School of Public Health
Senior Vice President
Columbia University Medical Center
Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine