Galea appointed inaugural Margaret C. Ryan Dean of planned WashU School of Public Health

Couple endows deanship in honor of late daughter

Washington University in St. Louis announced today that Sandro Galea, MD, DrPH, one of the world’s most influential public health leaders, will become the inaugural Margaret C. Ryan Dean of the university’s planned School of Public Health, effective Jan. 1.

Sandro Galea

In this critical leadership role, Galea will help shape and launch WashU’s first new school in 100 years. The school is part of WashU’s 10-year strategic plan to make both the university and St. Louis a global hub for solving society’s deepest challenges.

“Sandro Galea’s choice to come to WashU is an endorsement of the strengths, opportunities and potential offered by our university and St. Louis,” said Beverly Wendland, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. “His insights into the complex interplay between social, environmental and health factors will be crucial as we seek to usher in the next era of public health in partnership with our community.” 

With the launch of the new school, WashU will build on its existing public health strengths in research, teaching and clinical practice, and expand its commitment to the field. The school will concentrate on researching and advancing solutions to pressing issues and building partnerships for real-world impact in critical areas such as infectious disease; mental, global and environmental health; and dissemination and implementation science.

Galea currently is dean of Boston University’s School of Public Health and the Robert A. Knox Professor. He also is a professor of family medicine at Boston University’s Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine.

At WashU, he will hold the newly endowed Margaret C. Ryan Deanship at the School of Public Health. Tony and Ann Ryan, of Boston, made a gift to endow the deanship in honor of their late daughter, Maggie Ryan, AB ’16, who demonstrated a strong commitment to leadership and global health. 

“Sandro Galea is a trailblazer in the field of public health, and we’re grateful that the Ryan family’s generosity has allowed us to bring his visionary leadership to WashU as the inaugural dean of our School of Public Health,” said Chancellor Andrew D. Martin. “With Sandro leading the way, we’re poised to elevate community health to new heights in St. Louis and worldwide.”

A physician, epidemiologist and author, Galea is one of the most cited social scientists in the world, having written more than 1,000 scientific journal articles, 75 chapters and 24 books. His books “Epidemiology Matters” and “Public Health: An Introduction to the Science and Practice of Population Health” are widely used as textbooks in public health and epidemiology courses. Thomson Reuters has named Galea among “the world’s most influential scientific minds.”

Galea’s research focuses on the behavioral health ramifications of trauma, including those caused by firearms. He has documented the consequences of trauma and conflict worldwide — examining the massive toll of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa, and the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also is known for his research linking health to social disadvantages such as poverty and lack of education. His research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and philanthropic foundations. 

Kruk to join WashU Medicine faculty

Galea’s wife, Margaret E. Kruk, MD, MPH, also is joining the WashU faculty. Kruk is a professor of health systems at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and director of the QuEST Centers and Network, a multicountry research consortium generating evidence to build high-quality health systems. Her research focuses on how health systems can produce better outcomes for people living in low- and middle-income countries. Working with global research and policy partners, Kruk develops new measures of health system quality and evaluates the effects of large-scale health-care reforms. 

Margaret Kruk

At WashU, she will serve as a distinguished professor in health systems and medicine in the Department of Medicine and as director of the universitywide QuEST Center. The center will expand the consortium’s work to new areas, including inequities in health-care quality in the U.S. Prior to Harvard, Kruk was an associate professor of health policy and management and director of the Better Health Systems Initiative at Columbia University.

“We are so pleased that Margaret Kruk will be coming to Washington University in this important leadership role,” said Victoria Fraser, MD, the Adolphus Busch Professor of Medicine and chair of the John T. Milliken Department of Medicine at the WashU School of Medicine. “Her emphasis on implementation science and use of novel methods to determine and measure large-scale health-care reforms will be of enormous benefit regionally, as well as globally. Her commitment to equality and access as it pertains to health care is unwavering, and we look forward to welcoming her to St. Louis.”

Ryan, Kahn gifts provide transformative support

In making their generous gift to the university, the Ryans are setting WashU on a trajectory of excellence in the field of public health, and paying a lasting tribute to their daughter.

“Our gift endowing the deanship ties together the two things that Maggie was so passionate about in terms of public health — service to others and leadership. It’s a tremendous way to leverage her vision and honor her legacy,” Tony Ryan said. 

Ann and Tony Ryan
Ann and Tony Ryan

“Dr. Galea’s knowledge, experience, energy and commitment to public health and education, combined with his record as a leader, positions the new school for great success right out of the box,” he added. “This is a huge win for the university to bring in a leader of his caliber.”

The Ryans’ investment will help attract and retain the best academic public health leaders both now and into the future. Additionally, the dean can use annual payouts from the endowment to pursue the highest priorities for the planned school.

Galea also will hold the Eugene S. and Constance D. Kahn Distinguished Professorship in Public Health. The endowed position was recently established by a commitment from Washington University Emeritus Trustee Gene Kahn and his wife, Connie. The distinguished professorship will provide increased support for the dean’s strategic goals.

“As some of Washington University’s earliest champions of public health, Connie and I are honored to support the efforts to create a School of Public Health,” Gene Kahn said. “Our gift celebrates WashU’s transdisciplinary approach to public health and its deep commitment to making an impact locally and globally. Having a distinguished leader of Sandro Galea’s caliber and accomplishment will accelerate our progress and help us catalyze change for population health.”

The next era

Galea’s innovative leadership and deep understanding of public health challenges will shape WashU’s efforts to launch a future-focused school of public health. The planned school is a central component of the university’s “Here and Next” strategic plan, developed through 18 months of listening, outreach and work sessions involving thousands of students, faculty, staff, alumni and community partners.

I can think of no more important time to create a school of public health than today. And I can think of no better place to do so than at Washington University, with this institution’s deep and rich tradition of excellence in scholarship and in thought.

Sandro Galea

The planned school, set to launch in fall 2026, was announced in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which revealed great American distrust in the health-care system. Additionally, people in the U.S. experience the worst health outcomes overall of any high-income nation, according to a Commonwealth Fund 2022 report on U.S. health care. This is due to a combination of factors, including health-care access; social determinants of health such as income inequality and education gaps; unhealthy lifestyle behaviors; a fragmented health-care system; and high health-care costs.  

“I can think of no more important time to create a school of public health than today,” Galea said. “And I can think of no better place to do so than at Washington University, with this institution’s deep and rich tradition of excellence in scholarship and in thought. All of the pieces are in place to do wonderful things, both for WashU, but also for the world. WashU is remarkably positioned to make a strategic contribution to the field of global health.”

About Sandro Galea

Galea was born in Malta and emigrated to Canada with his family at the age of 14.  After earning a medical degree from the University of Toronto, he served as a field physician in Somalia with Doctors Without Borders. He emigrated to the U.S. in his late 20s and went on to earn graduate degrees from Harvard and Columbia universities, and he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Glasgow. 

Prior to his appointment at Boston University, Galea served as the Gelman Professor and chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. He previously held academic and leadership positions at the University of Michigan and at the New York Academy of Medicine.

Galea is past chair of the board of the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health and past president of the Society for Epidemiologic Research and of the Interdisciplinary Association for Population Health Science. He served as chair of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Community Services Board and as a member of its Health Board. He currently serves as chair of the Boston Public Health Commission Board of Health, and he is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine.

Galea has received several lifetime achievement awards for his research, including the Rema Lapouse Award from the American Public Health Association and the Robert S. Laufer, PhD, Memorial Award from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. He is a regular contributor to media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Harvard Business Review, The Boston Globe and TEDMED.

Galea and Kruk are the parents of two children, Oliver, 20, and Isabel, 18.

A tribute to Maggie Ryan

Tony and Ann Ryan are longtime supporters of Washington University. The endowed deanship is the latest in a series of gifts from the couple inspired by their daughter’s example. Maggie Ryan died in a car accident just two days after earning her bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and in women, gender and sexuality studies, both in Arts & Sciences.

Maggie Ryan
Maggie Ryan

The Ryans previously made gifts to Arts & Sciences and the Maggie Ryan Endowed Memorial Scholarship, which the university established in Maggie’s honor. The scholarship helps talented students follow Maggie’s lead and become agents of positive change.

In 2020, the couple established the Maggie Ryan Endowed Service Leader Scholarship, which is awarded to undergraduate students who demonstrate leadership and commitment to improving the health and well-being of others through their actions at the university or the community in which they live. 

Upon learning of the plans for the new public health school, Tony Ryan said he and his wife realized creating an endowment was the perfect opportunity to carry on their daughter’s energy and dedication to helping others while ensuring the school’s success.  

“We wanted to make the deanship as attractive as possible to encourage the best talent to come in and take on this extraordinary opportunity of leading a new school at WashU,” Tony Ryan said. 

“To solve challenging global issues, you need to bring together many different disciplines,” he continued. “The collaborative vision underlying the school resonates with our operating philosophy as a family and as individuals. We’re very encouraged by how it’s being planned and the leadership that’s being provided by the provost and others.”

The Ryans are members of the William H. Danforth Leadership Society, which acknowledges benefactors whose lifetime contributions to the university total $1 million or more. They previously served as members of the Washington University Parents Council.

Tony Ryan is partner, president and chief executive officer at Arrowstreet Capital, an investment management firm based in Boston. Under former President George W. Bush, he served as assistant secretary of the treasury for financial markets from 2006-08 and acting under secretary of the treasury for domestic finance from 2008-09. 

Ann Ryan has served extensively at Boston Children’s Hospital, including as a member of its Philanthropic Board of Advisors. The Ryan family established the Maggie Ryan Endowed Fellowship in Global Health at the hospital in 2018. 

About Gene and Connie Kahn

The Kahns have provided generous gifts to WashU’s Brown School, where they previously established the Eugene S. and Constance Kahn Family Professorship in Public Health and the Kahn Family Master’s Research Fellowship. The couple also established the Kahn Leadership Program in Public Health and Social Work, which provides a cohort of master’s of social work/master’s of public health dual-degree students with enhanced scholarship support, advanced training and expanded opportunities to prepare them for leadership roles in their careers. They also support the Brown School Annual Fund.

Gene and Connie Kahn
Gene and Connie Kahn

Gene Kahn is former chief executive officer of Claire’s Stores Inc. and a former chairman and CEO of the May Department Stores Co. He joined WashU’s Board of Trustees in 1999 and served on multiple board committees. He is a member of the Brown School National Council and the Institute for Public Health National Council. Additionally, he is a member of the board of Barnes-Jewish Hospital, where he chairs the Washington University School of Medicine Relationship Committee and served on the board of the Goldfarb School of Nursing.

Connie Kahn is active with St. Louis cultural and charitable organizations and is an honorary member of the Women’s Society of Washington University.

The couple are sustaining charter members of the Danforth Circle Chancellor’s Level of the William Greenleaf Eliot Society, with Gene Kahn serving as Danforth Circle chair. They are also members of the William H. Danforth Leadership Society.