Meharry to launch new global health equity institute led by health policy expert Daniel E. Dawes

Meharry’s Global Health Institute will serve as the foundation for the first School of Global Public Health at a historical Black college or university, furthering the College’s commitment to advancing health equity for minoritized and marginalized communities worldwide

Portrait of Daniel E. Dawes

Meharry Medical College has announced the launch of the College’s new Global Health Equity Institute, establishing the first step in creating the School of Global Public Health. Daniel E. Dawes, J.D., an internationally-recognized health policy expert, researcher, and attorney will lead the Institute in generating a strategic plan to launch the future School, which will be the first school of its kind at a historically Black college or university. The future School will advance educational opportunities for current and prospective students while working to eliminate health disparities and increase health equity worldwide.


Meharry’s goal in launching the School is to advance educational opportunities and research that will counter structural discrimination in public health locally, nationally and globally, address upstream determinants and drivers of health, and develop innovative and sustainable solutions to improve public health for all population groups. Meharry expects the School to serve as a model of health equity research and service, as well as a pathway to expand education and knowledge that provides new resources and discoveries in public health worldwide.


“Meharry has spent decades helping inform public health decisions in the state of Tennessee and beyond. The creation of Meharry’s future School of Global Public Health is the next logical step in broadening our reach and increasing our impact on the health of marginalized communities,” said James E.K. Hildreth, Ph.D., M.D., president and CEO of Meharry Medical College. “Daniel Dawes brings a breadth of experience in health policy, research and academia that is essential to the start and success of the School. I look forward to working alongside him as he begins to shape a program that will advance innovation and improvements in our nation’s public health system for the benefit of the people and communities we serve.”


The need for Meharry to establish a more prominent presence in public health policy and research was spurred by the wide gaps in the U.S. public health system that became apparent during the pandemic. Dr. Hildreth and Meharry identified these inequities firsthand as they worked on the front lines of pandemic response in Nashville. Meharry administered screening, testing and vaccinations throughout the city and contributed to local and national policy decisions to control the outbreak. Dr. Hildreth was appointed by President Joe Biden as a member of the U.S. COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force and served as a leader of Nashville’s COVID-19 Task Force.


With the goal of launching the School by 2026, the first step is to create a blueprint for the School, through an anti-racist lens – laying the groundwork to align with Meharry’s long-term mission of decreasing inequities in health care throughout the world. Dawes will lead Meharry’s efforts in establishing the business and strategic plans, acquiring accreditation and licensing, staffing and recruitment of a 21-person faculty and determining the resources needed for a successful launch to enroll the first cohort of students.


Dawes believes the School will provide a path for students and faculty to have a larger role in the promotion, creation and innovation of public health policies, programs, tools, and building blocks needed to achieve a healthy, equitable, and inclusive society. The School will move the needle in public health scholarship and research, and will create a fundamental outline to understand the environmental, genetic, mental/behavioral, social and political determinants that influence population health globally. He also plans to leverage his relationships inside and outside of public health and health care to accelerate advancements in public health by harnessing multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary, and multi-sectoral collaborations across the United States and around the world. Dawes intends for the school to be a leading transformational force for health equity in public health education, leadership, innovation, research, and practice.


“As an advocate for marginalized communities, I have spent years helping shape inclusive and meaningful health policies, establishing national networks and alliances, developing novel public health and healthcare educational programs, and creating tools to track health inequities to reform the public health and healthcare system and address the social and political determinants of health that negatively impact racial and ethnic minorities,” Dawes said. “I am honored to lead the new Global Health Equity Institute at Meharry and found the future School of Global Public Health. This effort is a natural extension of Meharry’s mission to serve the underserved and achieving equitable health outcomes for all populations, no matter their circumstances.”


Dawes has dedicated his career to addressing health equity issues impacting vulnerable, under-resourced, and marginalized populations. He comes to Meharry from Morehouse School of Medicine, where he served as the executive director of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute and professor of health law, policy and management in the department of community health and preventive medicine. As the founder and chair of the Health Equity Leadership and Exchange Network (HELEN), the largest health equity advocacy group focused on developing comprehensive legislation to reform the health system, Dawes helped shape the Affordable Care Act under the Obama-Biden Administration, and authored several key publications on health equity and reform, including 150 Years of ObamaCare and The Political Determinants of Health.


Dawes received a B.S. in both business administration and psychology from Nova Southeastern University and a J.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.