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Dean's Letter

Latest Letter

Fall 2013

In the latest edition of the dean's letter, Dean Klag outlines the Bloomberg School's achievements of the past year and gives a taste of what's to come.

Dean Klag

Dear Friends,

Lead, follow or get out of the way. It’s a choice that any organization must make. At the Bloomberg School, we choose to lead.

While the federal government’s reduced commitment to scientific research might cause others to waver with uncertainty, we see the bigger picture. We don’t have an agenda; we have a mission. Our commitment to this core mission has kept us strong, focused and growing for the last 98 years. Every day, using all the tools and resources at our disposal, we identify barriers to health and deliver solutions that save lives. Here’s a taste of what we at the School have achieved over the last year:

• In January, we hosted more than 450 people—and thousands more via the Web and C-SPAN—at the Summit on Reducing Gun Violence in America. School benefactor and New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and top international experts participated in the Summit and contributed to a 320-page book presenting the latest evidence. Daniel Webster and Jon Vernick did an amazing job convening the field’s top authorities and, with Steve Teret, taking the evidence to key federal and state policymakers.

• In early May, the School partnered with the Advisory Council on Child Trafficking and Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Women for a conference about child trafficking. The symposium, led by Judy Bass and Elizabeth Letourneau, director of the School’s Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse, was part of a White House initiative to identify the best practices and evidence to help sexually exploited children.

• In a Science journal article that provides a measure of hope for malaria-endemic countries, David Smith at the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute and colleagues reviewed malaria elimination data and found that once eliminated in a country, the disease is unlikely to reemerge.

• In a New England Journal of Medicine article, Judy Bass and colleagues demonstrated that group psychotherapy treatment for sexual violence survivors in the Democratic Republic of the Congo could achieve dramatic results in reducing symptoms of PTSD, depression and anxiety.

• In this 100th year celebrating our School’s own E.V. McCollum and his discovery of vitamin A, Keith West and colleagues continue research on lifesaving micronutrients in Bangladesh through “GH614,” one of the longest-running grants in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s history.

Keeve Nachman, with the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, showed that chickens fed arsenic-based drugs produce meat that has higher levels of inorganic arsenic, a known carcinogen.

• In groundbreaking research published in the journal Cell, Amit Reddi and Val Culotta found that the enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD1)—well known for fighting free radicals—also can promote uncontrolled cell growth, a hallmark of cancer.

Bob Black led a comprehensive review of global nutrition in a series of articles published by The Lancet. The series evaluated the simultaneous problems of undernutrition and obesity among women and children in low-income and middle-income countries.

• In these times of unpredictable federal support for scientific research, our faculty have distinguished themselves through their hard work and creativity. Although our primary source of research funding—NIH—has been hit with deep funding cuts, I’m proud to say that from FY12 to FY13 total grants and contracts to the School increased from $341 million to $365 million. That’s an incredible accomplishment. It’s equally amazing that the School’s overall revenue increased 6.5 percent to $535 million—the highest level ever. More good news: We recently marked our fifth year in a row of keeping our budget in the black.

• Our education mission also continues to thrive. In May, 861 students graduated from the Bloomberg School, and I presided over the largest convocation in our history. In July, we launched eight new massive open online courses (MOOCs) in collaboration with Coursera. More than 500,000 people have registered for our MOOCs.

And the best is yet to come:

• I’m honored to announce that on October 15, the School is launching the Wendy Klag Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities. Named for my late wife and made possible by many generous contributions to her memorial fund, the Center will build a community of investigators and students dedicated to identifying etiologies, improving treatment and prevention, and developing policies for autism and developmental disabilities. The Center is led by director M. Daniele Fallin and associate director Janet DiPietro.

• This November, the School’s Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health, led by director Amy Tsui and deputy director Oying Rimon, will draw more than 3,000 researchers, government ministers and NGO leaders from 100 countries to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the 2013 International Conference on Family Planning. Its previous conferences in Uganda in 2009 and Senegal in 2011 catalyzed dramatic advances in family planning.

• A related note: With a $15 million grant from the Gates Foundation, we recently launched a mobile device-based data collection system known as PMA2020. Scott Radloff is leading the project that will provide real-time, nationally representative data on contraceptive demand, supply, use and quality of care in 10 developing countries. The Gates Foundation, along with Packard and Hewlett Foundations, also renewed the Advance Family Planning project with a five-year $28 million grant.

• We are already seeing important contributions from our new Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness led by Caleb Alexander. Just this month, Caleb and his colleagues showed that while patient-reported pain in clinical visits in the U.S. remained consistent from 2000 to 2010, prescriptions for opioid painkillers like Vicodin and Percocet nearly doubled.

Of course, with this limited space, I’m just touching on a very few of our School’s efforts and achievements. There are many others. Our School recently celebrated its 20th year atop the U.S. News & World Report rankings for schools of public health. In FY13, we raised more than $133 million in philanthropy. Key gifts include $24 million from the Gates Foundation to support our family planning efforts, and an anonymous gift of $12.8 million to the Center for a Livable Future.

These and the School’s many other accomplishments derive from our deep commitment to our mission of protecting health, saving lives—millions at a time. Tackling big problems has never been easy but as long as we see opportunities and not obstacles, we will continue to make lasting contributions to human health.

With our powerful mission to guide us and the threats to human health to motivate us, we have no choice. We must lead!

Thank you for your support and stay well,


Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH '87
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health