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March 4, 2015

Two Former Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Deans Recognized for Lasting Impacts in the Field

Two former deans of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health – D.A. Henderson, MD, MPH ’60 and Alfred Sommer, MD, MHS ’73 – have recently been recognized for their major achievements in the field of public health.

Henderson was awarded the Prince Mahidol Award in Public Health in January, and Sommer was chosen as the inaugural recipient of the Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) Welch-Rose Award for Distinguished Service to Academic Public Health. He will receive his award March 23.

“Our school flourished during the 28 years of combined leadership under D.A. and Al,” says Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH ’87, dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health since 2005. “The impact of their collective research, discoveries and achievements set a precedent for public health leaders around the world.”

The Prince Mahidol Award Foundation was established in 1992 to commemorate the 100th birthday of Prince Mahidol of Songka, recognized by the Thais as “The Father of Modern Medicine and Public Health in Thailand.” Henderson’s award is given annually to an individual or an institution for an outstanding contribution in the field of public health for the sake of the wellbeing of people.

Henderson was the school’s dean from 1977 until 1990. He became dean after directing the World Health Organization’s global smallpox eradication campaign from 1966 to 1977. The world’s last case of smallpox occurred in October 1977. It is the only human infectious disease ever to have been eradicated. Henderson has since held many senior U.S. government positions, including associate director for life sciences in the Executive Office of the President and deputy assistant secretary for health and senior science adviser, Department of the Office of Health and Human Services. In 1988, he and John Bartlett founded the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies (now the UPMC Center for Health Security).

Henderson is presently a University Distinguished Service Professor at Johns Hopkins University and resident scholar at the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Health Security.

Sommer is the inaugural recipient of the Welch-Rose Award for Distinguished Service to Academic Public Health, established by the Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health (ASPPH). The new annual award recognizes the highest standards in academic public health and honors individuals who have made a lasting impact on academic public health. The award is named after William Henry Welch, the School’s first dean, and Wickliffe Rose, director of the Rockefeller Foundation’s International Health Division. Welch and Rose created the blueprint for academic public health, ultimately resulting in the founding of what is now the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 1916, the first independent graduate school of public health in the world. Sommer is a past president of ASPH, the predecessor to the ASPPH.

Succeeding Henderson as dean, Sommer arrived at the school after years of conducting pioneering vitamin A deficiency research in developing nations. His work led to the discovery that vitamin A deficiency dramatically increased childhood morbidity and mortality from infectious disease. Because of his work, the World Health Organization, UNICEF and their partners now annually provide more than half a billion high-dose vitamin A supplements to children around the world, saving hundreds of thousands of lives each year. Key accomplishments during Sommer’s 15-year tenure include increases in the number of full-time faculty and students and a doubling of the School’s physical space.

Sommer is currently a University Distinguished Service Professor at Johns Hopkins.

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Media contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Lauren Mari at 443-287-5054 or lmari1@jhu.edu and Barbara Benham at 410-614-6029 or bbenham1@jhu.edu.