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University of Miami Names Harvard Dean Julio Frenk as Its Sixth President

April 13, 2015
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Dr. Julio Frenk, current dean of faculty at
the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public
Health and Mexico’s former minister of
health, will serve as the University’s sixth

The University of Miami announced that Julio Frenk, current dean of faculty at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Mexico’s former minister of health, will be the University’s next president. Frenk will succeed Donna E. Shalala, who has led the University of Miami since 2001 and served under President Bill Clinton as the longest-serving U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.

“Today, the University of Miami selected a world-renowned scholar and leader as its next president,” said Stuart A. Miller, chair of the University’s Board and chief executive officer of The Lennar Corporation. “Dr. Frenk has been called ‘a visionary, an insightful analyst, an institutional innovator, and a pragmatic problem solver’ and, speaking for the entire board, we could not agree more. The entire University of Miami community looks forward to welcoming him, his wife, Harvard health economist Dr. Felicia Knaul, and his children to Miami as we jointly embark on the next great chapter at the University.”

“President Frenk is an eminent authority on global health and is admired worldwide for his scholarship and leadership, both within and outside academia. He is proven to be an agent for change as attested by his many accomplishments. He is exceptionally and uniquely suited to build upon the successes that the University has achieved during President Shalala’s tenure,” said Presidential Search Committee Chair Richard Fain, who is also vice chair of the University’s Board and chairman and chief executive officer of Royal Caribbean Cruises. 

During his six-year tenure as the Harvard School of Public Health’s dean of faculty, Frenk quadrupled fundraising for the school from $26 million in 2010 to $103 million in 2014 and steered a transformative $350 million naming gift for the Harvard School of Public Health – the largest single gift in Harvard’s 378-year history.

“I feel honored and humbled by the extraordinary opportunity to lead this great university in one of the most important cities in the world. I have been greatly impressed by the strategic vision that has driven President Donna Shalala and the upward momentum she has created during her outstanding presidency,” said Frenk.

As dean, Frenk reconceptualized the mission of the school; managed an annual budget of $335 million from an initial deficit to near balance; diversified a large portfolio of approximately $230 million of annual sponsored research; launched a comprehensive educational reform effort; actively participated in the early adoption of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and development of “flipped classrooms;” increased the admissions yield while maintaining a selective admissions rate thereby increasing tuition income; and participated in the planning, design, and implementation of a university-wide capital campaign launched in the fall of 2013.

As Mexico’s minister of health from 2000 to 2006, Frenk pursued an ambitious agenda to reform the nation’s health system and introduced comprehensive universal health insurance known as Seguro Popular, which expanded access to health care for tens of millions of uninsured Mexicans.

“Julio Frenk is a gifted and dedicated leader. His capacity to build consensus and strengthen institutions were evident during his service as Minister of Health of Mexico. I am certain that he will further transform the University of Miami as a leading educational force for the Americas and for the world,” said former President of Mexico Vicente Fox.

Frenk said, “I greatly appreciate the value of Miami’s privileged geographic location as the gateway connecting Latin America and the Caribbean with the United States. While I pride myself on being a global citizen, Latin America is my region of origin, and I welcome the opportunity to continue building lasting academic bridges across our Hemisphere.”

Frank was previously the founding director general of the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico and founding director of the Center for Public Health Research, where he led an eight-year process to establish a new academic institution, create new educational programs, secure budgetary allocations, recruit faculty and staff, and build a state-of-the art campus in Cuernavaca, Mexico. During his academic career, Frenk has also held various honorary, visiting and adjunct professorships, as well as research positions.

His administrative roles have included positions at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland as the executive director of Evidence and Information for Policy, and at the Carso Health Institute in Mexico City as its president. As a Senior Fellow in the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s global health program, Frenk helped secure $105 million of initial funding for the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, subsequently becoming its founding board chair.

Frenk’s scholarly works include more than 140 articles in academic journals and many book chapters and books, including two best-selling novels for young adults, explaining the functions of the human body. Frenk has been recognized by his peers in academia, receiving numerous notable awards and scholarly distinctions, including an honorary degree from the Universite de Geneve, Geneva, Switzerland, as well as the Clinton Global Citizen Award for changing the way practitioners and policy makers across the world think about health. He is currently a member of the U.S. Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the National Academy of Medicine of Mexico.

“It’s clear from their choice that the University of Miami’s trustees share Julio’s own qualities of wisdom and foresight, and that they have discovered in him the remarkable leadership capacity and vision with which he has graced Harvard these past six years,” said Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust.

Frenk, who is the son of German and Spanish immigrants to Mexico, is the first Hispanic president of the University of Miami and comes to Miami by way of Mexico, Michigan and then Boston. He earned his medical degree from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, as well as a Master of Public Health, a Master of Arts in Sociology, and a joint PhD in Medical Care Organization and Sociology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

“I have known Dr. Frenk for more than two decades,” said President Shalala. “He is an extraordinary, highly respected leader in global public health. I warmly welcome him and his family to the university and our community.

“The University of Miami is a very special place, and I hope to build on the many accomplishments of my esteemed predecessor. I am fully committed to our common purpose to transform lives through education, research, and service,” said Frenk.

Frenk will begin his University of Miami Presidency on August 16, and Executive Vice President and Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc will serve as interim president. To learn more about President Frenk.

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