Professor and Chair David Peters
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International Health

David PetersFrom the Chair

Professor David Peters

2016 marks the School’s centennial year. To celebrate, we welcomed back several esteemed alumni and former faculty to address the School. Their insights have helped us reflect on the past, prepare for the future and honor those who have had monumental impacts on global public health. 

Alumnus Abdul Ghaffar, executive director of the Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research at the World Health Organization, addressed the School on the future of global health systems. Dr. Ghaffar spoke about his experience working with Ministries of Health across the world and the importance of preparing public health professionals to confront health systems challenges. The seminar also honored Dr. Ghaffar’s mentor, Professor William Reinke, a pioneer in the use of operations research in public health. 

Alumna Karabi Acharya, director of Global Ideas for US Solutions at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, addressed the master’s students in the program for Social and Behavioral Interventions and the program in Global Disease Epidemiology and Control. Dr. Acharya challenged students to think about underlying structures, assumptions, and systems to help improve programs and policies affecting public health. 

We also welcomed back emeritus professor and founding director of the Department’s Center for Human Nutrition, Dr. Benjamin Caballero. He presented findings from over 20 years working on blindness, weight fluctuation, and chronic disease in Cuba. 

Alumnus Olusoji O. Adeyi, director of Global Practice, Health, Nutrition & Population at the World Bank, joined a panel co-hosted by the Department and the African Public Health Network. The panel discussed the implications of the UN Sustainable Development Goals on public health in Africa. 

In October 2015, we celebrated brothers Brad and Dave Sack, whose vision and scientific achievement have made them legends in the field of diarrheal disease research. Faculty, students, alumni and distinguished guests gathered for a day-long event that included scientific sessions in fields related to the brothers’ work. 

By looking at past achievement and challenges that lie ahead, these events provided a perfect backdrop for the launch of the Department’s new research strategy. The strategy will help focus our resources and work towards our mission of finding  sustainable solutions to improve the health of disadvantaged people around the world. One new initiative it has generated is the Faculty Innovation Fund small grants program. In the first round, Amanda Debes won a grant to test an assay to assess immunity to cholera, and Amanda Palmer will be assessing the public health implications of single nucleotide polymorphisms in the β-carotene oxygenase-1 enzyme.

While developing the new research strategy, we learned several impressive facts about the Department and its faculty. Our faculty produced nearly a quarter of the world’s most-cited literature in the our fields in the most recent 5-year period. Moreover, our 2,000 publications during that time period had over 3 times the impact of typical peer-reviewed articles. By investing in programs such as the Innovation Fund, the next 5 years should be just as productive.    

On a bittersweet note, this year marks the 25th anniversary of the Department’s Center for American Indian Health. However, the Center’s founder, Mathu Santosham, is stepping down as director, and passing the torch to the able hands of Allison Barlow. The Center, in partnership with American Indian and Alaska Native communities, has helped improve not only the lives of Native populations, but the lives of people around the world. Working with the Center and partners, Mathu has had an amazing career of detecting new public health problems, finding solutions, and applying them at the population level. Under his leadership in the Health Systems Program, I learned invaluable lessons as a manager, researcher, and policy advocate. He’s been an integral part of the Department for three decades. The Center and Department are fortunate that he has promised to be merely “semi-retired.” 

David Peters, MD, MPH ‘89, DrPH ’93
Edgar Berman Professor and Chair
Department of International Health
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health