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February 12, 2002             

School of Public Health Hosts Scientific Symposium on Human Nutrition

Dean Alfred Sommer Honored with Bristol-Myers Squibb/Mead Johnson Award for Distinguished Achievement in Nutritional Research

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health will host the scientific symposium Feast and Famine: Nutritional Conundrums on Friday, February 15, 2002 in Baltimore, Maryland. The daylong symposium, sponsored by Mead Johnson Nutritionals, will explore the complex roles nutrition and micronutrients play in global public health and the health of children worldwide. The symposium will honor Alfred Sommer, MD, MHS, Dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, as the recipient of the 21st Annual Bristol-Myers Squibb/Mead Johnson Award for Distinguished Achievement in Nutrition Research for his contributions to the understanding of the origin, magnitude, and control of vitamin A deficiency, which is associated with blindness and child mortality. The Award carries a $50,000 cash prize and a silver medallion.

The scientific symposium and luncheon honoring Dr. Sommer will be hosted by Geoffrey Woolford, PhD, Vice President for Research and Development, Mead Johnson Nutritionals. The day also celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Schools Center for Human Nutrition, which was established to integrate and expand the multidisciplinary work that Johns Hopkins has pioneered in the field of human nutrition.

Dr. Sommer richly deserves the Nutrition Award for his pioneering investigations, said Dr. Woolford. His research has led to global policy initiatives to control micronutrient deficiencies, particularly vitamin A deficiency, and has encouraged new areas of scientific inquiry into the health implications of early, sub-clinical deficiencies and their underlying mechanisms. 

At the symposium, Dr. Sommer will discuss vitamin A and child mortality. During the 1970s, Dr. Sommer discovered that mild vitamin A deficiency, which causes the progressive eye disorders xerophthalmia and keratomalacia, also dramatically increased childhood morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases, particularly measles and diarrhea. Dr. Sommer also discovered that vitamin A supplementation in children reduced measles fatalities by 50 percent and overall childhood mortality by one-third. He later documented that a large oral dose of vitamin A, costing a few pennies, was a more effective and affordable means of treating vitamin A deficiency than injections, which were the recommended prevention method at the time. The oral dose is now the recommended standard of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the control of vitamin A deficiency is included in Declaration of the Rights of Children and the Plan of Action of the World Food Congress.

Nutrition research leaders participating in the February 15 symposium include two previous recipients of the Bristol-Myers Squibb/Mead Johnson Award for Distinguished Achievement in Nutrition Research: Nevin S. Scrimshaw, MD, PhD, MPH, senior advisor, Food and Nutrition Program, United Nations, who received the Nutrition Award in 1988 for his pioneering work in linking malnutrition to infection, and for developing the first successful vegetable weaning food for infants, and Vernon R. Young, PhD, DSc, professor, Nutrition Biochemistry, School of Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who received the Nutrition Award in 1995 for his pioneering studies of amino acid metabolism. Benjamin Caballero, MD, PhD, professor and director, Center for Human Nutrition, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who received a five-year $500,000 Bristol-Myers Squibb Unrestricted Nutrition Research Grant in 1994, will also speak at the symposium.

The scientific symposium Feast and Famine: Nutritional Conundrums will be held Friday, February 15, 2002 from 1:30 to 6 p.m. in the Becton Dickinson Lecture Hall. Reporters interested in attending the event should contact the Public Affairs office at 410-955-6878.

Visit the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health on the World Wide Web at ww3.jhsph.edu. To learn more about Bristol-Meyers Squibb, visit www.bms.com and to learn more about Mead Johnson Nutritionals, visit www.meadjohnson.com.