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May 20, 2020

Class of 2020: 980 Students Graduate from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

At historic moment for public health, largest class in the Bloomberg School’s 104-year history includes 118 doctoral degrees and 862 master’s

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health recognized graduates of the Class of 2020 in a pre-recorded Convocation ceremony broadcast yesterday. Perhaps no Bloomberg School graduating class will feel the reverberations of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as much as the Class of 2020, the largest graduating class in the School’s 104-year history. Students saw their chosen field thrust onto the global stage as a novel coronavirus highlighted the essential role public health plays in the U.S. and the world.

The Bloomberg School Class of 2020 includes 980 graduates representing 59 countries. Of these, 118 earned doctoral degrees and 862 master’s, including 330 Master of Public Health degrees. Of the 118 doctoral degrees conferred, 103 were PhD’s and 15 were DrPH’s. The Class of 2020 included 276  international students.

Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD, ScM, dean of the Bloomberg School, noted that the School’s first graduating class, 102 years ago in 1918, was confronted by a similar challenge, the 1918 influenza pandemic. In her comments, Dean MacKenzie highlighted examples of things students and faculty have been doing in recent months to contribute to the global response to the pandemic and underscored the challenges ahead.

“This is a moment to recognize the cost of ignoring public health, of undervaluing prevention and preparedness,” said MacKenzie. “Ensuring the public's health is not cheap. Advances against measles and polio, HIV and tuberculosis, tobacco, and traffic injuries and maternal and child deaths require investment and constant effort. We are seeing firsthand what can happen when public health is underfunded, when its workforce is ratcheted down.”

She told students, “But these are the mistakes of the past. They don't have to be repeated. For a better future we look to you.”

Dean MacKenzie called upon the Bloomberg School Class of 2020 to be ambassadors for public health, noting that despite the urgency around the ongoing pandemic, the current recognition of public health’s value will eventually diminish. “Investments will be made and later chopped back. It’s happened before and it will happen again—unless we all step up,” said Dean MacKenzie. “We need ambassadors who will argue for public health and remind policymakers and the public that this essential field must not be ignored or shortchanged. The cost in lives ended and lives harmed is too much.” 

During the ceremony, Dean MacKenzie presented Convocation speaker Cheryl L. Dorsey, MD, a global social innovation leader and president of the nonprofit Echoing Green, with the Dean’s Medal, the highest recognition the Bloomberg School confers on public health leaders, for her contributions to the social entrepreneurship movement.

“A trailblazing pioneer in social entrepreneurship, Dr. Dorsey leads a nonprofit organization dedicated to the early stage social sector investing,” Dean MacKenzie noted in her introduction. “Over the 18 years that she has led Echoing Green, Dr. Dorsey has supported hundreds of young people in their efforts to change the world.”

In her speech, Dr. Dorsey recounted how almost 30 years ago, she co-founded a mobile health unit in inner city Boston focused on tackling racial health disparities and infant mortality rates. “The Family Van, a trusted community health program, is still on the streets today,” Dr. Dorsey told graduates, “committed to creating healthy communities, reducing health disparities and saving money through serving the neighborhoods with the largest prevalence of preventable disease, preventing and managing disease through providing screening, counseling, and onward referral, and helping to train the next generation of culturally competent and diverse health professionals like you all.”

Dr. Dorsey told graduates they were coming online as professionals “at the very moment when the world is recognizing the devastating cost of not investing in robust public health infrastructure.” She called upon graduates to, some day in the future, recall “that sense of grief and fear you felt at this inflection point, because there will be many victims of this pandemic with us who were stopped in their tracks and require empathy from leaders like you as they seek to rebuild their lives, however slowly.”

As is tradition at the Bloomberg School’s Convocation, faculty and students recited The International Declaration of Health Rights, which was created by Bloomberg School of Public Health students, faculty, and alumni in 1991 on the occasion of the School’s 75th anniversary. The Declaration is a commitment “to advocacy and action to promote the health rights of all human beings.”

The Bloomberg School Class of 2020 joins over 25,000 alumni living across the U.S. and throughout the world.

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Media contacts for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Carly Kempler at ckemple2@jhu.edu and Barbara Benham at  bbenham1@jhu.edu.