First Visiting Scholar of Jefferson’s Proposed Institute for Advanced Study Has Plans to Reinvent the Future of Health Care

Dr. Walter Ricciardi, the first visiting scholar for Jefferson’s proposed institute for advanced study, doesn’t shy away from the major issues. In particular, the renowned public health expert focuses much of his attention combating the anti-science and anti‐vaccine movement sweeping the globe.

“Dubious myths like vaccines trigger disease and smoking remains unlinked to cancer and HIV doesn’t cause AIDS have placed the world in a precarious spot,” said Dr. Ricciardi, Director of the Department of Public Health at Universitá Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Rome.

Now, Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University students will be on front lines of squashing rumors and disinformation and tasked with introducing scientific fact to the public in terms they can easily understand, he says.

“This is a challenge of our times,” said Dr. Ricciardi, who received an honorary degree from Jefferson in the spring. “I believe that as students pursue future careers as scientists, doctors and professionals, they should be aware of denialism and be able to recognize and confront it.”

“Having Dr. Ricciardi on campus as a visiting scholar has allowed him to share his expertise in global population health, as well as his vast knowledge in problem analysis and the development of practical solutions,” said Dr. Peter Scoles, Jefferson’s Vice Dean for Academic Program Development and Co‐coordinator of the planned institute’s activities.

A contributor to hundreds of academic papers, Dr. Ricciardi attended Jefferson classes and presented to the University community and nearby colleges during his term. He sees his time here as a way to help create a global population health framework.

“More of our population is suffering from chronic diseases,” explained Dr. Ricciardi, a member of the European Advisory Committee on Health Research for the World Health Organization. “You have people dying because they cannot access care. The idea is for the US and Europe, particularly Universitá Cattolica and Jefferson, to work together to develop a framework where we can face these challenges in a way that’s effective, efficient, equitable, human and sustainable.”

The framework would use big data in health care to predict and prevent disease, provide early diagnosis and treatment, avoid complications and more. While there may already be some pieces of this, this sort of framework hasn’t been formalized.

The presence of Dr. Ricciardi as the inaugural visiting scholar of the proposed institute shows Jefferson’s conscious move from meeting present needs to envisioning the future, Dr. Scoles says. He attributes this shift in thinking to the work of University president Dr. Stephen K. Klasko and Dr. Mark L. Tykocinski, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs.

“The planned institute will go beyond health care as well,” said Dr. Scoles. For example, during the next academic year, he anticipates scholars who specialize in the humanities and foundational science.