Health Advisory Board Members Endow 2 New Scholarships in ’14
Members of the Bloomberg School Health Advisory Board are stepping up to advance Rising to the Challenge: The Campaign for Johns Hopkins.
“The HAB is a very special group of people dedicated to helping the School build and implement a strategic plan to pursue their mission of saving millions of lives. It’s great to be adding whatever value I can to what Mike and his team are doing.”
“The School has been a source of knowledge, friendship, and passion.”
Bob Carr: Strategic philanthropy
Bob Carr, MPH ’85 explained the strategy behind his choices to create an endowment and to support an MPH scholarship. He was attracted to the perpetual impact of an endowment, but also appreciated the option of giving in stages: “I can catalyze it now and then add to it over time. The endowed scholarship is like an anchoring section that will help build the pipeline of tomorrow’s health leaders that is so needed.”
Concern for the future of the healthcare workforce also influenced Carr, who just retired as Senior Vice President and Corporate Medical Director for GlaxoSmithKline. Today, he sees “such a critical shortage of people with the skillset that you get in an MPH program. For example, we need people to guide implementation of the Affordable Care Act: where should we put our money, what health interventions will actually work?”
Carr was also aware that public health “is not a well-funded area of higher education—there is much more support for business or other areas of the university, but public health students are the unsung heroes. They don’t come away with a lot of ability to create financial wealth, even though they have a lot of career satisfaction and build the health of so many people.” This is particularly true at JHSPH, where the high proportion of foreign students means that even fewer alumni may be financially able to give back.
“The MPH gave me a lens on population health I’d never had before. I could see how one decision impacted millions, instead of just one person.”
In addition to these very practical reasons, Carr is eager to give more students the same chance he had to come to Johns Hopkins. His experience in the Bloomberg School’s preventive medicine residency “aligned with my whole life’s career.” Carr credits “the diversity of the MPH class itself, by clinical backgrounds, disciplines, and walks of life” with broadening his entire outlook as a health professional.
His classmates from around the world and International Health courses “opened my eyes to so many different kinds of needs and ways of thinking.” This exposure to the public health polyglot at JHSPH enabled Carr to take on global health roles at multinational companies, where he was able to influence health outcomes across a whole population.
Carr hopes that the scholarship he established will “give someone an opportunity to come to a school with the international diversity of Hopkins and gain exposure to the faculty and their research. That cross-section of people leads to collaborative working across boundaries. The more we can get people into that milieu, the more they can become champions of multi-disciplinary interventions on issues such as obesity. The clinical mindset alone isn’t enough, there has to be an integrative process across disciplines, and that’s what happens at JHSPH.
Bill Flumenbaum: A heart for refugees
A strong personal identification with the Bloomberg School’s mission and values also motivated Carr’s fellow HAB member Bill Flumenbaum to establish an endowed scholarship. “I want to make sure people understand,” he said, “how important serendipity is: being hired in 1981 at Helen Keller International to head the Vitamin A program gave me the chance to make a link with the School and establish lifelong friendships. The school has given a great deal more to me than I have given to it.”
One of those lifelong friendships was with Al Sommer, who in 1981 was just starting to publish the series of articles that would revolutionize global child survival programs with the “four-cent solution”: a biannual oral dose of vitamin A that not only prevented blindness but reduced childhood mortality by 34 percent. Even after Bill left Helen Keller International, he remained in touch with Sommer, who would serve as dean at JHSPH from 1990 to 2005.
Meanwhile, Flumenbaum joined the Capital Group Companies, where he now serves as a senior vice president and investment counselor for the Private Client Services division. Capital is a global investment firm and supports associates’ philanthropic interests, so Flumenbaum’s colleagues asked him to identify a global health program.
“Al and I sat down and made a short list,” Flumenbaum recalled, “one item of which was the Center for Refugee and Disaster Response. Capital has been singularly supportive of that program since its inception, based on the extraordinary challenges faced by large populations in crisis. We recognized the School’s position of excellence.”
“I understand how terrifying it was for my parents to have been torn away from their families.”
As the son of Holocaust survivors, Bill’s own family history gave him a deep connection with the plight of refugees. The connections among JHSPH, disaster relief, and philanthropy were already forming before Flumenbaum was even born. His parents were among the millions of people who received aid from the International Red Cross after World War II.
Nearly all of the School’s wartime leadership served on the executive committee of the American Red Cross, advised its medical programs, or served in field operations. Dean Ernest Stebbins toured 16 European countries in 1946 to survey the Red Cross medical relief programs among civilians and make recommendations for rebuilding local health facilities.
Flumenbaum noted, “My tradition says you must care for others. My mother volunteered at a local hospital, seeking out patients who didn’t have families to visit them. She was very bright, deeply interested in education, and fluent in many languages. Since she could read and write Yiddish, she would translate for patients in the hospital, helping them read and write letters to communicate with their friends and family.”
In addition to Flumenbaum’s compelling personal connection with refugees, he and his wife Trish fervently believe that “over the long run, it’s the power of education that brings change.” Trish, an educator trained in special education and learning disabilities, welcomed the opportunity to fund the scholarship as part of “our broader commitment to providing the means for gaining an education,” which also includes supporting educational programs for foster children.
The Health Advisory Board: Committed to JHSPH priorities
But the simplest reason that the Flumenbaums endowed a scholarship is “because the dean asked.” They knew that scholarships were a top campaign priority and Bill, as an HAB member,“felt that I and anyone else on the board should show an additional commitment for the campaign. Scholarship was where the school’s priorities best matched our own interests.”
Yet Flumenbaum was quick to admit, “I don’t have any illusions about the size of the gift in relation to the size of the school or the size of the problem. The world probably has more people on the run now than at any time since World War II. One scholarship may not make a substantive difference this year or next year, but it will be added to the endowment of others, and the School can use it to enhance its commitment to addressing public health issues that are at the heart of humanity. I hope the School, with all the pressures and challenges it faces, remains true to its history of commitment to these issues.”
Bob Carr echoed Flumenbaum’s challenge to meet the School’s financial and programmatic needs. “I welcome others to think about the future and how they can build up a cadre of people to provide the solutions for our society’s biggest health problems. They can leave a positive footprint that makes a huge difference.”