Julio Frenk’s background, qualifications fit well with Miami

The UM Board of Trustees announced on Monday that the sixth president of the University of Miami would be Dr. Julio Frenk, the dean of faculty at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Frenk is the logical next step for UM’s trajectory with respect to academic growth, public health focus and cultural diversity.

Frenk possesses what was most appealing about President Donna E. Shalala: a background in politics, a passion for healthcare policy and keen fundraising abilities.

Undoubtedly, Frenk’s aggressive fundraising for Harvard’s School of Public Health made him an extremely desirable candidate for the board. The quickest way to spur academic growth is through fast money, and both Shalala and Frenk have an affinity for finding it.

Frenk also fits in with UM’s growing dominance in South Florida’s health care and medical research. Over the past fourteen years, Shalala has funneled money into the Miller School of Medicine and the University of Miami Health System, buying hospitals, hiring researchers and building new facilities.

Frenk can continue this momentum with his medical degree and background in public health, including tenures at the Mexican Health Ministry, the World Health Organization, and the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico.

Frenk’s wife, Felicia Knaul, may also be a major asset in this sense. Planning to join UM’s faculty in the fall, Knaul has worked at Harvard Medical School, the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

The presence of Frenk’s family will inevitably influence a change in cultural attitude within the student body. As the first Hispanic president of the university, Frenk has the potential to increase inclusion and diversity on campus.

Born in Mexico to German and Spanish immigrants, Frenk truly embodies the international character of UM. His cross-cultural professional work corroborates his personal diversity, having worked with Mexican government officials and New England academics alike.

Frenk’s personal background and professional versatility make him an ideal leader who can be to UM’s population what Miami is to North and South America: a cultural bridge.

Many students and community members expressed concern about what Frenk’s appointment would mean for the future of UM athletics. While these concerns are reasonable coming off of Shalala’s athletics legacy, it is unfair to expect that athletics be the priority of a brand-new, incoming president.

Throughout Frenk’s first years, he should be focusing on gaining a firm footing with UM’s academics and community. As Frenk familiarizes himself with the student body, he may naturally recognize the importance of UM’s athletics program.

Yet while our football team should not be neglected, fans and students should not be alarmed if athletics are not at the forefront of Frenk’s initial agenda come September.

Beyond his resume, Frenk’s humble approach to UM should give students a hopeful outlook for the years to come. Frenk has no set agenda or plan coming into his presidency; rather, he is eager to learn as much as he can about the needs of the university and its community before making any grand plans.

The fact that Frenk is coming in with a receptive mind rather than a predetermined one can only be a benefit for the university community.

Frenk’s qualifications speak to his ability to continue where Shalala left off – improving UM’s academic reputation, community influence and student life.

Though Frenk may need some time to adjust to the responsibilities of governing an undergraduate campus, we have confidence that the university’s future is in good hands.

Staff editorials represent the majority view of The Miami Hurricane editorial board. 

April 13, 2015


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The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly on Thursdays during the regular academic year.