Heidi van Rooyen named chair of Department of Global Health


Heidi van Rooyen, an internationally recognized executive leader, social scientist and clinical psychologist, has been named the next chair of the Department of Global Health at the University of Washington. The department jointly sits within the Schools of Public Health and Medicine.  

“The field of global health is at a critical junction in its history, where we are simultaneously wrestling with how to address growing health inequities globally and what role individuals and institutions from the Global North should play in charting the path forward,” said Hilary Godwin, dean of the School of Public Health. “It’s hard to imagine a more capable, talented and inspiring individual than Heidi van Rooyen to lead the UW Department of Global Health through these challenges. I am thrilled that she will be joining our leadership team.”

Van Rooyen is scheduled to begin her appointment as chair October 1, 2024, pending Board of Regents approval. She succeeds Professor of Global Health and Epidemiology Carey Farquhar, who served as interim chair of the department since 2022.  

Van Rooyen is an internationally recognized and accomplished scholar from the Global South. For the last three decades she has led, with distinction, multi-disciplinary teams to deliver impactful bio-behavioral-social research on COVID, HIV and AIDS, health and sexual and reproductive rights through a mix of public health, health systems, implementation science, intervention and policy research.  

Focused on marginality, her research agenda has been to understand how inequities of gender, race, sexual orientation and place, singularly and together, impact health and outcomes. Her research roles have required extensive networks, high degrees of interaction and liaison with partners, funders, government, academic and civil society sectors and have drawn on outstanding relationship building, organization representation and promotion skills.

“Personally and professionally, I have been driven by a need to understand and address how inequities in gender, race, sexual orientation and place, both individually and collectively, impact health outcomes,” van Rooyen said. “As the new chair at the Department of Global Health, I am excited to deepen this work and to collectively consider how we, as a department, can reduce global health disparities and advance health equity. Central to this vision is a two-pronged focus on decolonization — working within our own organization and collaborating with others in the global health system to shift existing paradigms. I accepted this role largely because, during my visits to Seattle, I sensed a strong appetite and readiness to undertake this work.”

Van Rooyen has served as the group executive for the Impact Centre since 2020 and has been at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) in South Africa in a variety of different leadership roles since 2004. The HSRC is the largest social science and humanities statutory research council in Africa whose research aims to address the causes of disease and health and social inequities at multiple levels through a mix of public health, health systems research, implementation science, intervention research and policy research.

She will lead a department committed to sustainable, quality health worldwide through research, education, training and service. The department has more than 250 students, 350 faculty and 300 staff.