Sten H. Vermund, M.D., Ph.D., an expert on HIV/HPV science and cervical cancer prevention, has been named dean of the School of Public Health. Vermund comes to Yale in February after serving since 2005 on the faculty of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, where he was professor of pediatrics, medicine, health policy, and obstetrics and gynecology; the Amos Christie Chair in Global Health; director of the university-wide Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health; and vice president for global health of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
“In the mid-1980s, Dr. Vermund helped establish an adolescent health clinic that provided some of the earliest care to HIV-infected youth in New York City,” noted Yale President Peter Salovey, Ph.D. ’86, and Dean and Ensign Professor of Medicine Robert J. Alpern, M.D., in a joint statement announcing Vermund’s appointment. “His work showed that HIV was a risk factor for cervical cancer, which motivated routine cervical cancer screening for HIV-infected women worldwide.”
Vermund received his medical degree from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1977. During his training in pediatrics at Columbia University, he was exposed to many cases of preventable illness in underserved minority populations. “The more preventable illness I saw, the more my passion for a public-health based orientation grew,” he says.
He pursued this interest by completing a master’s degree in community health in developing countries at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a diploma in public health at the Royal Institute of Public Health and Hygiene, and a Mellon Foundation-supported fellowship in clinical epidemiology at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center. He received his Ph.D. in epidemiology from Columbia in 1990.
Vermund served as chief of the Vaccine Trials & Epidemiology Branch in the Division of AIDS at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases from 1988 to 1994, a time when AIDS activism had a major influence on government policy. Recognizing the need for prevention approaches, his branch launched HIVNET (HIV Network for Prevention Trials), a major international research network that evolved into several NIH-sponsored networks focused on prevention.
For the past two decades, Vermund, who is a member of the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine), has focused on global health issues. In developing countries, where Pap smears are not routine, his team promulgated a simple technique to visually detect cervical lesions and built a major screening program in Zambia that has become a global training center.
In 2000, he founded the Centre for Infectious Disease Research, now one of Zambia’s largest NGOs, which currently supports more than 330 clinics that play an instrumental role in the prevention of maternal-fetal HIV transmission and the implementation of antiretroviral therapy. He also founded Friends in Global Health, an NGO in Mozambique and Nigeria that has provided HIV-related care to over 140,000 individuals.
Vermund has been a mentor to scores of individuals who have gone on to distinguished careers heading major programs, including Ann E. Kurth, Ph.D., C.N.M., M.P.H., dean of Yale School of Nursing. He has also written many grants through which hundreds of individuals have received training in public health science. He plans to draw upon this experience to work closely with interested faculty to help increase the number of Yale’s public health doctoral trainees.
He adds that he plans to work tirelessly to expand Yale’s research enterprise for highly relevant discovery and to support faculty who are at the leading edge of health policy and reform. He also looks forward to spearheading larger collaborative initiatives across the entire university, including climate change and population projects with the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, strengthening global health care systems with the School of Management, and collaborations on health ethics with Yale Divinity School.
“At Yale,” Vermund says, “the opportunities are immense to get involved with a variety of enterprises.”