Auld on Michigan

Auld on Michigan

Cleveland-born Elaine Auld, MPH '78, fell in love with Ann Arbor 32 years ago when she came to SPH to study health behavior and health education, and she's stayed in close touch with both the town and her alma mater ever since. As chief executive officer of the Society for Public Health Education in Washington, D.C., Auld regularly hires and mentors interns from SPH and whenever possible encourages staffers with an interest in a public health degree to consider Michigan. She's a past chair of the UM SPH Alumni Society Board of Governors and the newest recipient of the school's Distinguished Alumna Award, an honor she says is "the most special" of the 12 awards she's received to date. We asked Auld what makes Ann Arbor—and SPH—so special:

"When I think about Ann Arbor, I think about what a wonderful, small-town community it is, and yet it's so eclectic. There's wonderful culture and sports—anything you could want—but yet you don't feel you're lost in a huge city. Going back to SPH, I still get that intimate community feeling, even though it's in a very large university.

SPH is like an oasis in the big campus, because it's a place where all of us can come together, and we share this common paradigm, this common commitment to advancing global health—not just the health of Ann Arbor, or of Michigan, or of the U.S. When I urge prospective students to apply to Michigan, I tell them they have to consider the richness of the environment they'll have there. So many pioneers of public health have come out of Michigan they're coming out of Michigan now.

I have a lot of special memories of football Saturdays, but what really makes Michigan special is the people—the connections you make with the big names in the field you never thought you'd meet, being able to be among those who are at the leading edge of thought in all the disciplines. And obviously the new physical environment at SPH is so conducive to what we are trying to stress in public health today—interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary connections—because we're not going to be able to solve the health problems of the world by talking just among ourselves. We have to be working with housing and environmental science and sociology and criminal justice and many other disciplines in order to address the social determinants and root causes of disease and social inequities. And the state-of-the-art facilities at SPH foster that interaction. It really is a place where people come to meet, and that's a very big attraction.