Alfred S. Sommer, MD, MHS ’73 in Epidemiology
Dean Emeritus (1990-2005), Professor in Epidemiology and International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, University Distinguished Service Professor
Dr. Sommer’s research identified vitamin A deficiency as a leading cause of child mortality that leaves children especially vulnerable to infectious disease such as diarrheal illnesses and measles. He devised an intervention of biannual oral doses of vitamin A, and in multisite clinical trials among 30,000 children in 450 Indonesian villages, he conclusively proved that vitamin A could not only prevent blindness, but it also reduced child deaths by 34 percent.
Dr. Sommer’s dedication to advocacy based on scientific evidence convinced leading international health agencies to adopt the “4-cent solution,” so named because vitamin A supplementation has proven to be one of the most cost-effective public health interventions in history. Today, more than 60 nations have vitamin A supplementation programs that are credited with reducing childhood mortality by a third.
Under Dr. Sommer’s deanship, the School experienced the greatest growth in its history, with the budget more than tripling and square-footage doubling by 2005. He was responsible for cultivating the support of Johns Hopkins University Trustee Michael R. Bloomberg that resulted in historic gifts to the School and its renaming in 2001 as the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.