School of Public Health Opens Research Center In Mumbai

Harvard’s School of Public Health recently opened a global health research center in Mumbai in a move that strengthens the University’s existing presence in the region.

Proposed last year, the center will support the work of Harvard affiliates studying public health in India, according to Jorge I. Domínguez, former Vice Provost for International Affairs who stepped down last year. He said several of Harvard’s other international centers—which number more than 15—were precedents for the Mumbai center, particularly those in Botswana and Tanzania. Harvard already has two other research hubs in the city, offices of the South Asia Institute and Harvard Business School’s research center, both of which are within walking distance to the global health center.

“HSPH has been doing partnership projects in India for over 40 years,” Swati A. Piramal, a graduate of of the School of Public Health and donor to the Mumbai office space, wrote in an email. “Now it has its own space, which could be a training hub for the whole of South East Asia.”

Despite Harvard’s past research involvement in India, the new center faced logistical challenges of space and funding before its opening ceremony last month. Although Piramal’s donation solved problems of limited office space, the school looked “wherever possible” for other donations, Domínguez said. The center received funding from a combination of alumni, U.S. federal grants, and contractual grants and donations from the Indian government, he added.

While administrators have wanted to open another research center in India for some time, the School of Public Health faced regulatory challenges that slowed the project’s pace, Domínguez said.

“India is a terrific place for Harvard to work with, but the process of legal authorization tends to move slowly,” Domínguez said. “So the idea of opening this office has been around for several years, but the actual legal, regulatory work to make sure it could open has taken a while.”

Harvard needed to comply with both India’s federal laws and the laws of the region where Mumbai sits, according to Domínguez.

“It wasn’t that difficult to motivate faculty and students to work in India,” Domínguez said. “The infrastructure, the location, the funding, the legal regulatory context, is what had been taking a fair amount of time.”

The other Harvard research centers in Mumbai opened within the past two decades. Harvard Business School opened its own India Research Center in Mumbai in 2006. The South Asia Institute, a University-wide research center devoted to studying the region founded in 2003, has traditionally been the hub of South Asian-related research and programming. With the HBS and School of Public Health centers now open, the number of Harvard personnel in Mumbai has grown from around three to “well in the two digit range,” according to Domínguez.

The School of Public Health’s research center will likely alter how researchers interact with the other Harvard institutes in the region. Whereas previously, students interested in studying in India typically coordinated with the South Asia Institute, the new center will become the focal point for faculty and students studying public health specifically.

Domínguez said he expects that undergraduates pursuing a secondary in global health will also be able to research at the Mumbai center.

Piramal said she hopes the new center, and its output of research, will positively impact the region.

“India is a rapidly growing country but our healthcare is much behind in many important health indicators and the millennium development goals still need a huge amount of work,” she wrote. “ HSPH has a vast global experience that can bring both technology and skills to find innovative solutions for India’s healthcare needs.”

—Staff writer Hellary Zhang can be reached at hellary.zhang@thecrimson.com.

—Staff writer Siqi Liu can be reached at siqiliu@college.harvard.edu.

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