Department of Preventive Medicine welcomes students to fall semester

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man in front of USC Soto building
Associate Dean for Health and Population Science Programs Richard Watanabe, PhD

The Department of Preventive Medicine welcomed incoming graduate students during orientation on Monday, for what is sure to be a very different type of fall semester. The virtual session was hosted by Associate Dean for Health and Population Science Programs Richard Watanabe, PhD, after which students broke off into separate program sessions.

Newly appointed Department Chair Howard Hu, MD, MPH, ScD shared a notable experience on the receiving end of public health service after unknowingly working with asbestos in a shipyard as a young man. Alluding to the scope of public health and population health, he reminded students that while COVID-19 dominates the headlines, Public Health must remain vigilant where other health threats are concerned, referring to the many “slow-moving pandemics” that affect populations. It’s a task that demands more professionals to do the work in a field that, until recently, received little public recognition. In his closing, Hu remarked that “the whole world now understands that what you’re training for, these careers, are among the most important careers of all.”

man in office on zoom
Flora L. Thornton Chair Howard Hu, MD, MPH, ScD

Both Hu and Watanabe discussed the important role public health plays in the health and well-being of populations, and the vital impact students will have the opportunity to make. And to students pursuing their public health education at what is both an apropos and strange time, Watanabe stressed that faculty and staff are available to help. “We understand that life gets in the way,” said Watanabe, encouraging students to get in touch with student affairs, faculty, or himself early and often with concerns. “Your educational problems are my educational problems. I am happy to address issues for any of you.”

— by Carolyn Barnes

Students can stay updated on the fall semester at USC by visiting