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Center for a Livable Future


Polly Walker, MD, MPH

Dr. Walker is a senior fellow and former associate director at the Center for a Livable Future as well as a research associate in Environmental Health Sciences at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is a graduate of Radcliffe College and Harvard Medical School and she received a master of public health degree from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

In 1996, Dr. Walker helped launch the Center for a Livable Future and served as its associate director until 2008. During this time, she initiated the Johns Hopkins Ad Hoc Committee for the Greening of Johns Hopkins, a University committee for increasing environmentally sustainable practices at the University, laying the groundwork for and now replaced by the official JHU Sustainability Committee.

As senior fellow with the Center, Dr. Walker currently serves as one of the two primary course instructors for two Center for a Livable Future online courses at the Bloomberg School: Food Production, Public Health and the Environment and a special studies online seminar on the same subject. Throughout her tenure with the Center, a central tenet of Dr. Walker’s work has been to promote an ecological approach in public health problem-solving and protecting our environment.

The Center's Director Robert S. Lawrence, MD, recalls Dr. Walker’s contribution in establishing the Center for a Livable Future: In the summer of 1996, the late Carl Taylor referred Polly to me. Carl was helping advise the early development of the Center and knew I was looking for someone to serve as a full-time coordinator. Since then Polly’s dedication and commitment to the mission of the Center, her organizing skills honed by years of community activism to protect the environment, and her passion to engage students in careers that would protect and conserve the Earth’s resources for future generations were critical elements in the growth and development of the Center. We would not be where we are today without Polly Walker, and the establishment of a fund in her name dedicated to advancing an ecologic perspective on the challenges facing our food system is a perfect fit.” 

While raising her three children in Baltimore County, Dr. Walker was deeply involved in community-based activities that aimed to preserve ecological systems and to promote working with nature rather than against it. These included: working to improve science, nature and math teaching in Baltimore County public schools; initiating and organizing the first household hazardous waste collections in Baltimore City and Baltimore County, Maryland; and leading successful land-preservation campaigns in Baltimore County, Maryland. These included: The “Save the Ridge” campaign at Oregon Ridge Park that added 200 acres of prime woods and stream to the park instead of a luxury housing development; saving the Cromwell Valley to become a park and farm adjacent to Towson rather than a housing development; and preserving North Point State Park and the Black Marsh Wildland as an undeveloped park.