National public health leader to give 2015 commencement address at OSU


CORVALLIS, Ore. – A national public health leader and former member of the Obama administration will give the 2015 commencement address at Oregon State University.

Howard K. Koh, director of the Leading Change Studio at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, will deliver the address during Oregon State’s 146th annual commencement ceremony, which this year will be held on Saturday, June 13, at Reser Stadium in Corvallis. He also will receive an honorary doctorate.

“Oregon State’s leadership and commitment to community health and wellness continues to be a university priority as part of our land grant mission,” said OSU President Edward J. Ray. “With the recent accreditation of our College of Public Health and Human Sciences, the credibility and prestige of our students’ education and degrees have been raised. This was a significant achievement for the college and OSU, and it underscores our leadership in this important field.”

From 2009 to 2014, Koh was the nation’s 14th Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. During his tenure, Koh championed disease prevention and public health awareness, expanded outreach and insurance coverage to under-served and minority populations, and was the primary architect of the Health and Human Services Department’s strategic plans for tobacco control, health disparities and chronic hepatitis.

As Assistant Secretary, he oversaw 12 core public health offices, including the Office of the Surgeon General and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, as well as 10 regional health offices and 10 presidential and secretarial advisory committees.

Koh also led the federal HIV/AIDS strategy and several other national initiatives focusing on nutrition, physical activity, cancer control, adult immunization, environmental health, women’s health, adolescent health, health literacy, and organ donation.

Prior to his federal appointment, Koh was on the Harvard faculty in the School of Public Health, where he wrote more than 250 professional articles in medical and public health journals. His studies focused on health reform, disease prevention, health promotion, health disparities, health literacy and other topics.

Interestingly, his long association with Harvard University comes after graduating from Yale University, where he was president of the Yale University School of Medicine. He completed post-graduate training at Boston City Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, serving as chief resident at both hospitals.

Koh has earned more than 70 awards and honors for his achievements in public health and medicine, from the American Cancer Society, the American Public Health Association, the Epilepsy Foundation, and many others.


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About Oregon State University: As one of only two universities in the nation designated as a land, sea, space and sun grant, Oregon State serves Oregon and the world by working on today’s most pressing issues. Our more than 31,000 students come from across the globe, and our programs operate in every Oregon county. Oregon State receives more research funding than all of the state’s comprehensive public universities combined. At our campuses in Corvallis and Bend, marine research center in Newport and award-winning Ecampus, we excel at shaping today’s students into tomorrow’s leaders.