Remembering Howard Hiatt

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Howard H. Hiatt, former dean of the Harvard School of Public Health, a mentor to generations of scientists, founder of decision science, and exceptional leader, died on March 2 at age 98.

As dean of Harvard’s School of Public Health from 1972 to 1984, Hiatt prioritized preventive care over costly medical interventions. He initiated interdisciplinary seminars to address health issues holistically, laying the groundwork for evaluating clinical procedures’ cost-effectiveness. Hiatt also played a key role in global health, co-founding the Takemi Program and Partners in Health.

A graduate of Harvard Medical School, Hiatt was a skilled scientist; he was part of the first team to identify messenger RNA and then to find it in mammalian cells. Hiatt also worked as a physician, working to bring quality health care to low-income communities across Boston. Hiatt significantly contributed to expanding the Harvard School of Public Health’s biostatistics, decision science, and health policy departments.

During his time as Dean, Howard Hiatt contributed towards the field of decision science through his collaboration with Howard Raiffa to integrate decision science into medicine and health. Raiffa recommended Milton Weinstein, his student, to Hiatt for this purpose. Weinstein, initially based in the Center for the Analysis of Health Practices, later became a key member of the Department of Health Policy and Management which Hiatt established during his tenure at the School.

Learn more: Read the HSPH press release
Learn more: Read the Washington Post obituary
Learn more: Read the publication, Will Disease Prevention Spare the Medical Commons?