International public health leader joins St Andrews

International Public Health leader Dr Mary E Black is to join the School of Medicine at the University of St Andrews as Honorary Professor.

As Director of Clinical and Protecting Health for Public Health Scotland, Dr Black most recently advised the Scottish Government on public health at a crucial time during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr Black is also a known digital health expert, and has founded two technology companies, as well as having spent more than a decade with the World Health Organisation and UNICEF and in international consulting advising on health improvement, health services, social care and data systems in several countries.

Professor David Crossman, Dean of the School of Medicine at the University and Chief Scientist, Health, at the Scottish Government, welcomed Professor Black.

Professor Crossman said: “Professor Black has advised the Scottish government and provided leadership to the wider public health community on the Covid-19 pandemic response with drive and passion.

“She has a wide range of skills and interests that fit well with the strategic aims, priorities and values of the School of Medicine. I am delighted that she now wants to strengthen her working connections with St Andrews, and I have little doubt that our students and staff will benefit greatly from her engagement with the School, her wisdom and enthusiasm.”

Professor Black said: “I am honoured to join a medical school with international standing and a long and proud history of service to Scotland’s public health.

“I look forward to contributing to public health and medicine mentoring and teaching at St Andrews and engaging with medical humanities, a lifelong passion of mine.

“My father, Dr John Alexander Black, wore his St Andrew’s University tie every day of his adult life and was buried wearing one, plus a few symbolic golf balls to signify the lifelong sporting habit he picked up while at medical school.”

From a Northern Irish family with five generations of medical doctors, including three based in Scotland, Professor Black is a medical graduate of Trinity College Dublin, and a Fellow of both the Faculty of Public Health UK and the Royal College of Physicians UK.

She holds a master’s degree from the Harvard Chan School of Public Health and completed a doctorate in global household surveys and statistics while working with the UN.

Her diverse international career includes being Founding Professor of what is now the James Cook University Medical School in Queensland, Australia, and establishing the medical airlift during the siege of Sarajevo.

She is also a non-executive director of the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, a trustee of the arts and health charity Paintings in Hospitals and an elected Board Member of Patient Classification Systems International. A long-term columnist for the British Medical Journal, she is an emerging fiction writer and recently won the 2021 Irish Writer’s Centre novel fair.

A role model for an adventurous life, Professor Black has hitch-hiked across Alaska, survived an attack by pirates in the Bay of Bengal, and narrowly avoided kidnap in Mindanao. Her two children are polyglot university students and competitive athletes.

St Andrews alumnus and Public Health Scotland Covid-19 Incident Director, Professor David Goldberg, welcomed the news.

He said: “I am absolutely delighted Mary Black is taking up this prestigious appointment. Over the last year Mary has made a truly outstanding contribution to the national Covid-19 response in her role as Director of Clinical and Protecting Health within the newly formed Public Health Scotland.

“She was an inspirational and highly effective leader of the clinical and epidemiological team throughout 2020 and deftly led the public health contribution to Scotland’s Covid-19 vaccination programme. Mary tirelessly promoted and supported educational initiatives for stakeholders and the general public, and the development of a PHS Covid-19 research infrastructure which has generated ground-breaking papers in high quality journals.”


Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.