Global Public Health Expert: Dr Franklin White

For this week’s alumni profile, we spoke to MSc Social Medicine alumnus, Dr Franklin White. Dr White, a medical graduate (1969) from McGill University, Montreal, chose to study at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine after completing an internship and a year of public health training in Canada. He graduated with an MSc Social Medicine in 1973 and since then has held leadership roles in several academic, service and voluntary organizations, including President of the Canadian Public Health Association (1986-88), Director of the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (PAHO/WHO; 1989-95), and Chair of Community Health Sciences, Aga Khan University, Pakistan (1998-2003).

In 2003 Dr White launched Pacific Health & Development Sciences Inc., a consulting firm based in Victoria, British Columbia, which focuses on international health monitoring and evaluation (M&E). The firm has undertaken key roles in evaluation of Amref Health Africa, International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (icddr,b), Pakistan’s Lady Health Workers Programme, and the Multilateral Organization Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN) evaluation of the World Health Organization (WHO), among others.

Dr White remains active in scholarly work and is an adjunct full professor at Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia. He has been a frequent visiting professor at Kuwait University for over a decade and a lead consultant for the design of their Faculty of Public Health, which was launched in 2014. He serves as a public health educational consultant to the International Advisory Board of Qatar University. In addition, Dr White is an awardee of the Environmental Foundation of Canada, the (US) Academy for Educational Development, the Government of Sindh, Pakistan, and the Medal of Honor, which is the highest award for staff of PAHO/WHO.  A prolific writer, Dr White is the senior author of the textbook Global Public Health – Ecological Foundations, which was published by Oxford University Press in 2013.

“I discovered while studying medicine at McGill that most illness results from how people live, that many come to attention too late for effective intervention, and that better solutions lie in the direction of preventive strategies at community level. I was influenced by sound advice from my father (an Australian mining engineer), and from J Corbett McDonald, then McGill’s Chair of Epidemiology and Health, to diversify my education and try if possible to avoid the trap of developing only within one culture, whether this be institution or country. LSHTM was highly recommended, so I applied and – to my surprise – was accepted into a new MSc in Social Medicine, under the leadership of Jerry Morris. This innovative programme blended mainstream public health disciplines such as epidemiology with the social sciences, and was among the first in the world to do so: a progenitor of what today is referred to as the “social determinants” approach.”

“I enjoyed the curriculum, especially as about a third of it was contributed by LSE – a true multidisciplinary effort. All my professors were excellent guides, but even greater value came from discovering that LSHTM was at the crossroads of international and global public health with an ongoing stream of visiting lecturers, many leaders in their own right, as well as a highly diverse student body. My favourite “social memory” was lunches at SOAS, where the tastiest and best value meal was vegetable curry spiced with cross-cultural conversation. It was this quality at all levels, from faculty to student body, that helped form my emerging professional values, skills and interests, and which steered me eventually, and perhaps inevitably, towards international and global health.”

“Fellow alumni pop up in every part of the world where I have been active. They of course represent different cohorts, and funnily enough increasingly more of them are younger than me! On a more meaningful note, numerous alumni and faculty have been among my active colleagues on research, development and educational initiatives. Also, I often recommend LSHTM to aspiring students for their formal public health education, whether full time or distance-based. The amazingly diverse and talented student body will help sustain the impact and reputation of the institution over the longer term. It is to a large extent through the work of its graduates that LSHTM will continue to grow as a force for health, felt almost everywhere.”

“I am not much of an “old school tie” person, and do not own any LSHTM paraphernalia. My degree certificate remains in its cylindrical box, never framed. However, I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to study at the school, and greatly value the association. I consider LSHTM to be the most international of all schools of public health, and as a standard bearer for our vital field of endeavour.”

Feature image courtesy of Dr Franklin White

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