Public Health Hero: Thomas L. Hall


Dr. Thomas Hall is a leader in global health issues and has spent much of his life committed to improving the health of low-resource countries. Over the past 60 years, Hall has both provided medical care to these areas and has helped strengthen their health systems, applying best practices from around the world. “Many people in resource-rich areas think they know all they need to know and resist considering or adopting practices used in other countries…but we can learn as much from them as much as they can learn from us."

Thomas L. Hall, MD, DrPH, has had an amazing journey in global health. It began in the late 1950’s after obtaining his medical degree. Initially interested in internal medicine, Hall oriented his career towards global health after serving as a medical director for a 30-bed hospital serving 15,000 people in the mountains of Puerto Rico. While there, Hall gained a passion for working in resource-poor areas. He obtained a Master’s in Public Health from Harvard University and later, a Doctorate in international health from Johns Hopkins University.

Hall’s global experiences span the Eastern and Western hemispheres.  While at Johns Hopkins, Hall worked on projects in Peru and Chile focused on health system and workforce planning, reproductive health, and population studies. Later, he went to the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he spent eight years working and teaching on population-related issues, family planning services delivery, and health workforce planning and deployment. Hall has also worked extensively with the World Health Organization and the World Bank to strengthen health systems in China, Jordan, Papua New Guinea, Kenya, Thailand, Ghana, S. Africa and other countries.

Since 1987, Hall has been at the University of California-San Francisco in the Dept. of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. Until his 1996 retirement he directed a postdoctoral training program in HIV/AIDS prevention studies, taught global health courses, and consulted internationally. Since retirement he continues working almost full time, teaching, advising students and helping in diverse ways with the work of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health, a consortium of more than 100 universities working across national boundaries to improve health in low resource regions.

Despite major improvements in worldwide health indicators during Hall’s career he believes much more can and should be done. “Global health research funding has been quite limited,” he says. “Compared with domestic research programs, total global health funding is very small.” Looking to the future, Hall assigns priority to improving health care delivery, controlling high prevalence diseases, expanding training programs, and providing good reproductive health services. As he notes, “The biosphere is already challenged with more than seven billion people and with the effects of climate change already evident, accommodating a projected three billion more won’t be easy. The Lancet Commission on Investing in Health has developed a roadmap to achieve major health gains within one generation. There will be lots of work ahead for all of us working in global health.”


Policy Contacts

Without continued support for health research, many of the most promising young scientists, their ideas and a myriad of potentially life-changing scientific breakthroughs will vanish into oblivion.
Paul Marinec, PhD; University of California San Francisco