Dr. John B. Grant was born in China to missionary parents. After attending school in China, he went to Canada to study at Acadia College in Nova Scotia. He then completed his medical studies at the University of Michigan in 1917. Almost at once, he joined the international health board (later division) of the Rockefeller Foundation.
Dr. Grant then came to the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health to complete his Master of Public Health studies. Upon finishing up here, he returned to China and was seconded to the Peking Medical College. He then became the first head of the Department of Hygiene and Public Health at the Peking Medical College and received a professorship there. He started a primary health care program in Ding Xian that would later become the basis of Chairman Mao's famous barefoot doctor initiative.
Dr. Grant traveled widely throughout Asia and observed developments in public health administration and teaching. In 1939, Dr. Grant became director of the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health in Calcutta and in 1948, he was sent to Paris as director of the European region of the Rockefeller Foundation's international health division.
In 1951, Dr. Grant became an associate director of the new division of medicine and public health at the Rockefeller Foundation's. In 1954, he began traveling to Puerto Rico to discuss the project for the regionalization of medical resources and the following year, he took up the chair of public health care and medical practice at the University of Puerto Rico and to act as consultant to the project. He retired from the Rockefeller Foundation in 1956 but continued to be consultant to the World Health Organization.
The scope of Dr. Grant's achievements is shown in the diversity of the honors which he held. In 1944, he was appointed C.B.E. in recognition of his work in India. He was also a chevalier of the Legion of Honor of France, a commander of the Lion of Finland and the Order of the Elephant of Denmark, and he held decoration in China's Jade Order and Japan's Order of the Sacred Treasure. In 1960, Dr. Grant was given the Lasker award of the American Public Health Association.
Dr. Grant's vision of community-based primary health care and preventive medicine is active all over the world and his view of primary health care continues to inspire public health practitioners today.
------Excerpt from Dr. Grant's Obituary published in The Lancet, November 10, 1962, p.998-9
The J.B. Grant International Health Society was founded in Dr. Grant's memory in 1994.
Photo: The Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions