Professors have said that the Ellison Medical Foundation, founded by Oracle CEO Lawrence J. Ellison, is in discussions with the University about funding the research of HIGH, led by Salstonall Professor of Public Policy Christopher J.L. Murray.
Andelot Professor of Demography Allan G. Hill, who teaches in the Department of Population and International Health at SPH, said that the Ellison grant is expected to fund at least five professorships in demographics distributed across the different schools of the University.
“That discussion isn’t over yet as to where they will fall,” Hill said.
University President Lawrence H. Summers would not comment on the specifics of the grant Monday, saying that the details remained unsettled.
In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle last week, Ellison said he met with Summers on March 16 and that he plans a major partnership with Harvard in the near future.
“There’s going to be a big announcement with Harvard very soon about a large database and journal we’re starting, basically assessing how government and private foundations do in measuring improvements to world health,” Ellison said on May 8.
Ellison could not be reached for comment yesterday. Murray is travelling this week and also could not be reached for comment.
The global health initiative, which officially opened its doors last October, has recently been expanded to include the SPH-based Center for Population and Development Studies, which Hill and others say will receive some of the Ellison grant funding.
The center will be folded into HIGH on July 1, angering students and the center’s director, Takemi Professor of International Health Policy Michael R. Reich, who says he was not consulted on the decision. Reich will be replaced by Murray.
A letter was released April 29 by the Provost’s office to center affiliates and SPH administrators announcing the leadership change.
One professor, who wished to remain anonymous because the topic is sensitive, said professors affiliated with the center are concerned about the process that led to the administrative changes. The professor questioned whether Murray, whose global health initiative is set to expand thanks to the Ellison grant, will be able to devote adequate attention to the center.
“I think that a lot of people from around the University feel like they have a stake in the center and would like to have had some open discussion about its future mission,” the professor said. “Obviously the character of the director will have a great influence on the center. Given that Murray is running an empire, can he manage the center in addition?...We know that he’s superman, but this is quite an addition.”
Nathan J. Heard, a second-year doctoral student in the Department for Population and International Health and a Spiegelman Fellow at the center, said that students who study and do research through the center were not consulted on the changes.