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March 15, 2006

Dr. Cheryl Alexander, 1945-2006

Cheryl Alexander

Cheryl Alexander, PhD, MPH, MA, RN, a leader in the study of adolescent healthand a longtime professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, died at home on March 10 after a long battle with ocular melanoma. She was 60 years old.

Alexander was part of the School of Public Health for more than 30 years, first as a student and then as a member of the faculty. A nurse trained in public health and behavioral sciences, Alexander was a professor in the Bloomberg School’s departments of Population and Family Health Sciences and Health Policy and Management. She also held a joint appointment in the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing.

The daughter of Dr. James Sedlacek and Frances Adcock Sedlacek, Alexander lived in many states throughout her childhood, due to her father’s naval career. She graduated from Churchland High School in Portsmouth, Va., in 1963. Alexander received her nursing degree in 1967 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and went on to teach nursing at North Carolina Central University and the University of Maryland. She earned a Master of Arts in Nursing from New York University in 1971. In 1973, Alexander earned her Master of Public Health from Johns Hopkins, which she followed with a doctoral degree in 1977.

Throughout her career, Alexander examined how contextual influences—such as neighborhood, school, peers and families—impacted adolescent health behaviors. She also studied the role of gender in the health of young people. In 1993, she became the founding director of the Center for Adolescent Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the Bloomberg School, which she led for 10 years. The federally funded Center works in partnership with young people, advocates who work with youth and with community and public policymakers to help urban adolescents develop healthy lifestyles. Since 2000, she had served as co-investigator for the Trial of Activity for Adolescent Girls (TAAG).

Alexander published more than 50 research articles and book chapters related to the study of adolescent health. She also served on a number of advisory committees, including the Johns Hopkins Center for Youth Violence Advisory Committee and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Minority AIDS Initiative Evaluation Review Panel, as well as the Forum on Adolescence and the Committee on Community-Level Youth Programs for the National Academy of Sciences. She was a member of the External Advisory Board of New York University’s College of Dentistry Oral Disparities Center and the After School Training Institute’s Board of Directors.

In 1999, she served as Distinguished Academic Visitor at Auckland University in New Zealand. Alexander also received honors from Delta Omega, the national public health honorary society; the National Institute of Mental Health Fellowship; the American Academy of Nursing; and Sigma Theta Tau, the national nursing honorary society. In April 2005, the Society for Adolescent Medicine honored Alexander with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Throughout her career at Hopkins, Alexander served as advisor to dozens of doctoral students. She also volunteered on a variety of department- and university-wide advisory committees. She is remembered fondly as a caring and enthusiastic colleague and mentor.

Alexander is survived by her husband of 15 years, Rick Cain; her father and stepmother, Dr. James and Constance Sedlacek, of Zellwood, Fla.; her brother, Roger Sedlacek, of Gainesville, Fla.; her daughter, Karen Alexander McGinley, and her husband, Paul McGinley, of Catonsville; her son, Brian Alexander, of Washington, D.C.; her stepson, Seth Cain, of Catonsville; and her stepdaughter, Chani Cain, and her fiancé, Jesse Kendall, of Hampden. Alexander loved to garden, cook, sail, travel and spend time outdoors. She was especially proud of her new role as “Marmee” to her four-month-old granddaughter, Eleanor Grace Alexander McGinley.

The Bloomberg School of Public Health is planning a public memorial service to be held April 18 at 4 p.m. in Sommer Hall. A private memorial service is being arranged for family and close friends. The family established the Cheryl Alexander Memorial Student Scholarship to support students focusing on adolescent health. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the Johns Hopkins University and mailed to the Bloomberg School of Public Health at 615 N. Wolfe Street, W1600, Baltimore, MD 21205.