The University of Toronto will throw open the doors to a new School of Public Health this September, following a $20-million gift from Paul Dalla Lana, the founder and chairman of NorthWest Healthcare Properties REIT.
The Dalla Lana School will be a hub for health researchers and educators dedicated to preventing disease and promoting public health. Research and instruction at the school – the largest of its kind in Canada – will focus on issues such as obesity, the West Nile virus and the performance of the health-care system, among other public health concerns.
The school’s first director will be Canadian-born epidemiologist Dr. Jack Mandel, who currently serves at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health as chair of the department of epidemiology. “I’m proud to help launch such a vital new Canadian institution that will tackle international challenges and opportunities in public health,” Mandel said at an event in April to announce the creation of the school. “U of T is uniquely positioned to be a leader in this field.”
Although often associated with the prevention and control of infectious diseases, the field of public health covers a wide spectrum of common diseases and conditions – including Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes and stroke. Mandel’s research specializes in the connection between certain cancers and the environment, work and lifestyle. Clinical trials he conducted have demonstrated the benefits of colorectal cancer screening in reducing the number of cases and deaths from the disease.
The school will work with the faculties of dentistry and nursing, the department of health policy management and evaluation and U of T’s affiliated hospitals, as well as local, provincial and national governments and public health agencies. It will offer graduate programs in biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental and occupational health sciences, public health administration and global health. Professor Catharine Whiteside, dean of the Faculty of Medicine, said the school will become an important centre for public health research in Canada and set a high standard for educational excellence. “The appointment of Jack Mandel as the Dalla Lana School’s inaugural director builds on a rich tradition at U of T of attracting international leaders, creating new knowledge and providing a peerless educational experience for our students.”