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October 27, 2016

Leaders Named for Bloomberg American Health Initiative

Joshua Sharfstein, associate dean at the Bloomberg School, named inaugural director

Joshua M. Sharfstein, MD, associate dean for public health practice and training at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has been named inaugural director of the school’s Bloomberg American Health Initiative, which was launched in September with a $300 million gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Joining Sharfstein will be Michelle L. Spencer, MS, director of the Prevention & Health Promotion Administration at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, who has been named the initiative’s associate director.

“The Bloomberg American Health Initiative is the outgrowth of an unprecedented investment from our School’s namesake, philanthropist and former New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, designed to develop innovative solutions to the health threats facing the United States in the 21st century,” says Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH ’87, dean of the Bloomberg School. “We could think of no one better to lead this project than Josh Sharfstein, who will help us create the building blocks needed to get us to this ambitious goal of transforming the national response to modern public health challenges.”

Sharfstein came to Johns Hopkins in 2015 after serving as secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. He was previously the principal deputy commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Baltimore City’s commissioner of health and a health policy advisor for former Congressman Henry A. Waxman. He earned his medical degree from Harvard Medical School. Sharfstein will continue to serve as associate dean and professor of the practice in the Department of Health Policy and Management, in addition to the new position.

Spencer has worked closely with Sharfstein over the years, in roles as senior advisor to the secretary at the state health department and chief of staff at the city health department. In her current position, Spencer oversees the Bureaus of Maternal and Child Health, Environmental Health, Chronic Disease and Infectious Disease at the state health department. She has a master’s in Health Services Management and Policy from New School University. She will join the Bloomberg School next month.

In their new roles, Sharfstein and Spencer will work with the faculty, leadership of the School and University, the Bloomberg Philanthropies and many others to build the structure and process that will be the foundation for this new public health initiative.

The Bloomberg American Health Initiative will put a laser-like focus on these key public health threats: addiction and overdose, risks to adolescent health, environmental challenges, obesity and the food system, and violence. The School’s current work in these areas and expertise in using data-driven approaches to analyzing large public health problems will serve as a foundation for this groundbreaking effort. The initiative will allow the school to conduct research, train a new generation of leaders and team up with public and private organizations across the country to help us find new solutions to these tough problems.

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Media contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Stephanie Desmon at 410-955-7619 or and Barbara Benham 410-614-6029 or