Public Health

Lessons learned

Alfred Sommer, SPH '73, dean emeritus of the Bloomberg School of Public Health, has been working in the epidemiology of international health since the 1970s, and his 10 Lessons in Public Health: Inspiration for Tomorrow's Leaders (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013) offers a brisk primer on the field. Using anecdotes from his own fieldwork, Sommer's chapters offer calibrating examples for researchers that he presents as no-nonsense aphorisms: "Forget the Job Description," "Use Data to Set Policy," "Go Where the Problems Are," etc. Like The New Yorker's medical writer Atul Gawande, Sommer is deftly able to explore his field's big ideas by directly following ordinary human stories, which not only makes the lessons easy to understand but foregrounds the reasons why to do it in the first place.