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International Health

Kirsch to Lead Johns Hopkins Center for Refugee and Disaster Response

Thomas KirschThomas D. Kirsch, MD, MPH, ‘86 has been named the Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Refugee and Disaster Response, which brings together leading scientists from throughout the Johns Hopkins University and across the world. The Center is based in the School's Department of International Health’s Health Systems Program, and is dedicated to improving preparedness and response to humanitarian emergencies through evidence-based methods and systems-oriented innovative research. He will be taking on the post as a two-year assignment.

For the past 20 years, Kirsch has been a scholar, researcher and leader in the arena of disaster health and public health. He is an Associate Professor of International Health in the Bloomberg School and of Emergency Medicine in the School of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University. His work is collaborative with research and teaching activities in the Bloomberg School, School of Medicine, School of Nursing, and the Whiting School of Engineering. Kirsch works at the intersection of emergency medicine and public health, particularly in disaster preparedness and response, with a focus on using qualitative and quantitative epidemiologic methods to improve assessment and disaster management. His research has been published in leading journals in the field including the Journal of the American Medical Association, the New England Journal of Medicine, Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, Annals of Emergency Medicine, and Academic Emergency Medicine. Kirsch is co-editor of Emergent Field Medicine (McGraw-Hill, 2001) and has written more than 20 chapters in major healthcare texts.

Kirsch has also gained considerable recognition from his service in disaster preparedness and response, serving in positions with the American Red Cross, World Health Organization, the U.S. Agency for International Development and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and others.  He has been directly involved in numerous disaster responses and has conducted post-disaster field studies, including after the 9/11 terror attack in New York City (2001), Hurricane Katrina (2005), California wildfires (2007), Haitian earthquake and Pakistan floods (2010), Chile and New Zealand earthquakes (2011), and Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey and New York. In 2013 his expertise was recognized by the American College of Emergency Physicians with its inaugural Disaster Science Award.

Kirsch obtained his MD from the University of Nebraska, his master’s of public health from Johns Hopkins, and his emergency medicine post-doctoral training at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

“Since his arrival, Dr. Kirsch has been an inspirational leader who has helped shape the global agenda in disaster medicine and public health,” said David Peters, DrPH, MPH, the Edgar Berman Professor and Chair of the Department of International Health, at the Bloomberg School. “We are looking forward to realizing the potential of the Center anticipating and responding to disasters through innovative and systems-oriented research, education, and service.”

“Over the past decades, much progress has been made in improving our preparedness and response to humanitarian emergencies and disasters, but there is more to be done. The Center for Refugee and Disaster Response brings evidence-based methods and global training to continue these improvements and to protect the lives of millions of at-risk and affected people. Our university is a world leader both in public health and in systems science, thus it is in a unique position to tackle that challenge,” said Kirsch.

Contact for the Department of International Health: Brandon Howard at 410-502-9059 or