SPH Digest

SPH Digest

Expect the sound of music to emanate soon and often from the school’s new Letorneau organ, a gift from the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance. “It’s an unorthodox piece of equipment for a public health school,” admits SPH Senior Associate Dean Martin Philbert, who studied organ at London’s Royal College of Music before becoming a toxicologist. “But we’re delighted to have it as a focal point for recitals and other concerts by members of the university’s community of musicians—including those in SPH.” The 702-pipe organ arrived in the school’s Community Room in late September and took workmen seven days to install. “The organ is the most recent, and obviously most conspicuous, of several measures we are taking in developing an informal program of public health and the arts,” said SPH Dean Ken Warner. The instrument will have its SPH premiere on December 4.

Thanks to a new exchange program between the SPH Office of Public Health Practice and the Tianjin (China) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SPH students will have the chance to do extensive field work in China and vice versa. Xiexue Wang, director of the Tianjin CDC, expects the program to infuse new ideas into the Chinese public health system and to give American students first-hand exposure to problems they’re not likely to encounter at home. “We worry about avian flu arriving here,” says SPH Associate Dean Matthew Boulton, who coordinates the program for SPH. “It has arrived in China.” Julie Vaishampayan, a preventive medicine resident, is the first SPH student to go to Tianjin; catch her blog at www.sphchina.blogspot.com. The program’s first Chinese CDC scholars, physicians Wenti Xu and Jiang Ho, began a three-month rotation in Ann Arbor in November.

During a UM–sponsored National Summit on Coping with Climate Change in May, public health experts reported on four areas: heat stress and ambient air pollution, weather-related disasters, vector-borne diseases, and food and water security. Among their recommendations: WHO and the U.N. Millennium Development program need to pay more attention to climate change, scientists need to focus more attention on energy-efficient cooling and sustainable technologies that can mitigate the impact of heat waves and weather-related shifts in air pollution, and policymakers need to look hard at the impact of current agricultural policy on food distribution and to frame issues in terms of human rights as well as vulnerability. “Many specific ideas will fill a workshop report and serve as the basis for future research,” said Howard Hu, professor and chair of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, which helped organize the event. “The summit brought together some of the best minds in the world to address an issue that threatens every one of us.”

Ninety-four SPH students kicked off their Labor Day weekend by pulling weeds and hauling compost at a community garden in westside Detroit. The garden—part of the Catherine Ferguson Academy, a public school for pregnant and parenting teens—was one of the stops on the second annual SPH Practice Plunge, sponsored by the school’s Office of Public Health Practice. The day-long program lets first-year students see how public health is practiced in Detroit.

When KaiserEDU.org issued a call for student essays outlining a health-policy platform for a 2008 presidential candidate, SPH health management and policy student Ian Randall rose to the challenge with a program he dubbed “Healthy America.” Noting that eight of 10 voters support an expanded government role in guaranteeing access to health care, Randall called for an expansion of Medicaid eligibility, changes in policy to allow the re-importation of prescription drugs, and a reinvigoration of the National Health Service Corps—among other measures. He’d clearly absorbed a few lessons from the past. “Healthy America will be introduced as a packaged proposal, in a single piece of legislation, to avoid the plan’s death by a thousand special-interest cuts,” Randall wrote. His essay won second place in the graduate-student category. Read Randall’s essay at Read Randall's essay at KaiserEDU.org/.

Next fall the School of Public Health will launch its first-ever online certificate program in the foundations of public health. The interdepartmental program will offer coursework in each of the five major disciplines of public health and is designed for students wishing to earn graduate credit—including working professionals who want to take the first step toward an MPH, health- sciences students who’d like to enhance their public health knowledge, public- and private-sector employees who deal with the public health system, and lifelong learners. UM SPH faculty will teach certificate courses via distance learning, and coursework may be transferable to a degree program within UM SPH or to other schools or programs of public health.


  • Courses are taught by UM SPH faculty via distance learning
  • No travel to campus is required
  • Sixteen graduate college credits
  • Five courses
  • Coursework in each of the five major disciplines of public health
  • Certificate coursework may be transferable to a degree program within UM SPH or to other schools or programs of public health.

The SPH community mourns the loss of alumnus George W. Comstock, MPH ’51, who died at age 92 this summer. Widely considered the world’s foremost expert on tuberculosis, Comstock conducted studies in the 1950s that led the health profession to adopt use of the drug isoniazid (INH) to treat tuberculosis. At one point, Comstock and his family took INH themselves as part of the study. The CDC’s guidelines on INH therapy still use Comstock’s data today.

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Sicko: A Diagnosis

sicko posterAt a roundtable following a private SPH premiere of Michael Moore’s latest film, Sicko in June, faculty in the school’s Department of Health Management and Policy had this to say about the Michigan filmmaker’s polemic on the American health care system:

“It’s selective, there’s no question. And it should be. To be effective, the film needs to have an emotional impact.”
Peter Jacobson

“I think what he did capture well were the values and priorities we have as a society. He’s right about that, we have a broken system. Do we value having health care for everyone?”
— Paula Lantz

“What we really need to think about—and I think Michael Moore really tried to get at this point in the movie— is how we create an environment for young children, children of color, low-income children, in which they can get a good education, they can have decent housing, their parents can have good jobs, they can live in an environment that has healthy air and water. Those are all things that are going to lead to better health, and we really haven’t addressed that issue if we’re only talking about creating a universal health care system.”
— Richard Lichtenstein

“The system works well for millions of people, that’s why it exists. It was left out of the movie that this is the land of medical miracles. For many people, the system does well by them.”
Leon Wyszewianski

“Moore has founded the whole film on the ‘free lunch’ principle, and there is no free lunch. The film ducks too many hard issues.”
John Griffith

Watch a vodcast discussion of Sicko by SPH faculty.