In this space last spring, I described a simple, unifying vision for MIT’s campaign: to make a better world. I believe we should see the MIT Campaign for a Better World as a mechanism for magnifying MIT’s distinctive strengths in education, research, and innovation, to help us make progress against grand, global problems.

This issue of Spectrum explores one of the grandest: human health.

From radically inexpensive diagnostics for detecting early stage disease to life-saving treatments for cancer, our faculty, students, and alumni are increasingly renowned for inventing novel solutions that improve patient care. And we are equally focused on applying MIT’s expertise in analyzing massive data sets and optimizing complex systems to unravel the big, complicated underlying problems that plague the health care system itself.

Whether at MIT’s health-related academic units—including the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES) and the Departments of Biological Engineering, Biology, and Brain and Cognitive Sciences—or at MIT’s many cutting-edge research centers and programs focused on a single disease, the work under way on our campus to advance solutions in human health and health care is already breathtaking.

Today, I believe we have the opportunity to sharply increase our impact precisely because our work on human health and health care isn’t limited to any single school. More than 50% of MIT’s science and engineering faculty and students are engaged in biological research, often specially focused on human health. These diverse research efforts branch and intertwine all across MIT, engaging colleagues in  fields from transportation, management, economics, and public policy to health care delivery. And many also make the most of our exceptional location, in easy reach of a fleet of world-class hospitals, research centers, and biotechnology  firms. No wonder MIT now anchors what is arguably the biotech capital of the world.

And of course, throughout our work on health and health care, we lead with data. With new efforts like the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society, and MIT Big Data, we bring to bear exciting new analytical tools and MIT’s signature strength in systems thinking to address crucial societal problems. Using knowledge for the betterment of humankind. That is MIT at its core.

To invent a health and health care system that works well for everyone—to make a better, healthier world—demands bold ambitions and innovative thinking. I am delighted to share with you such a wide range of evidence that MIT is up to this most important challenge.


L. Rafael Reif

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