Julio Frenk Begins Tenure as First Hispanic President Of University Of Miami

“Diversity is an antidote to inequality.”

The University of Miami has a new leader, which also happens to be the university’s first Hispanic president.  Dr. Julio Frenk, previously the Dean of Faculty at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Mexico's former Minister of Health, succeeded Donna E. Shalala who had led the University of Miami since 2001 and served under former President Bill Clinton as the longest-serving U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Frenk is married to Canadian-born Felicia Knaul, Ph.D., an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and the director of Harvard Global Equity Initiative. A global advocate for cancer control, she will also join the university’s family in the fall as a member of the faculty. She chairs the Lancet Commission on Global Access to Pain Control and Palliative Care and currently leads a major project for the Harvard School of Public Health on breast cancer education and awareness in China.  

Photo and Media Courtesy of the University of Miami

Photo and Media Courtesy of the University of Miami

"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,” Stuart A. Miller, Chair of the UM Board and Chief Executive Officer of The Lennar Corporation, said. “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," Presidential Search Committee Chair Richard Fain who is also Vice Chair of the UM Board and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Royal Caribbean Cruises said. 

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.

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 the 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," former President of Mexico Vicente Fox 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,” Frenk said. “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."

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 Ph.D. in Medical Care Organization and Sociology from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. 

"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," Frenk said.

"I have known Dr. Frenk for more than two decades," President Shalala said. "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," Frenk said.

Frenk shared his vision for the school during an interview with UM’s Robert C. Jones (UM News & Events). Noting that UM will be celebrating its centennial in 10 years, Frenk wants to prepare for that milestone now. “We have now the chance of preparing the University of Miami for its second century, to really use the proximity of the centennial ten years from now to envision what we would like the University to look like in its second century,” Frenk said. “Of course, there are great institutions that have been around for much longer. I find that as an opportunity to learn and also to leapfrog.”  This vision comes from his belief that “diversity is an antidote to inequality.” 

And it’s also a vision that he expressed in these words the day he took office as UM’s president: 

“I feel honored to serve as the sixth president of this great institution. Since being named by the Board of Trustees last April, I have spent time immersing myself in the University’s history. I have been impressed by the pivotal role it has played in the growth and prosperity of this city, this region and beyond. Equally impressive are the contributions that our faculty, staff, students, alumni and donors have made to advancing research, scholarship and mutual understanding around the globe. As the University launches into its tenth decade, I believe this is a perfect opportunity to look back at where we have been, to make a close assessment of where we are today and to use these vantage points to define a roadmap toward our second century. The University of Miami’s story—past, present and future—is a collective narrative told by the thousands of individuals who have developed the education, research, service and spirit of community that are our hallmark. As part of my first 100 days in office, I am initiating an intensive listening project, and I invite you to share with me your aspirations and hopes for the U. My first Town Hall meeting on September 10 will offer an opportunity to hear from you and to learn about the many ways in which we can build on our rich legacy to take the University of Miami to its second century. At that meeting, we will define a structured process to collect, collate and synthesize the suggestions from all members of our community.”

HO will be checking back with Dr. Frenk in 100 days to find out more about the direction he is taking UM and what progress he is making. Stay tuned! 

Article, photos and video courtesy of the University of Miami