Champion of Change - Black Faculty and Staff Association Founder
The Black Faculty and Staff Association (BFSA) came together, as so many advocacy groups do, over lunch and a conversation. Lunch was at the Polo Grill, then a restaurant across from Homewood Field, and the people who had gathered to talk were black senior staff members concerned about the lack of support for people of color at Johns Hopkins. Toni Moore-Duggan, one of the participants, recalled how that lunch and subsequent discussions among the staff members led to their decision in 1995 to establish the BFSA. “After graduating from Johns Hopkins and while working there, it became evident that there was no voice or forum for black people having difficulties here,” said Moore-Duggan, a certified nurse practitioner who worked at the institution for years. At first, Moore-Duggan said, she and the other staff members were not sure if anyone would buy into efforts to create a forum for people of color, but they did. Seventeen years later, the group is not only going strong but has expanded its mission: to help foster a culture of collaboration by promoting and enhancing the identity and professional welfare and growth of faculty, staff and students through collaborations, community service, education, research and cultural activities. The BFSA has also charged itself with being a crucial resource for the continued success of Johns Hopkins through the development and cultivation of relationships with key leaders of the institution. Nicholas Arrindell has served as director of the Johns Hopkins University Office of International Student and Scholar Services since 1991. He holds a doctorate in comparative and international education from the University of Maryland, College Park. Arrindell led a university-wide task force to ensure Johns Hopkins’ compliance with Immigration and Naturalization Service regulations. As a member of the university’s Diversity Leadership Council, he created the video series Who Belongs in America. He also established the Mid-Atlantic Immigration Workshop and participated in the Fulbright International Education Administrators Program, in Germany
Catalyst for campus change—Black Student Union Pioneer
Empowered and inspired by the civil rights movement, students John F. Guess and Bruce Baker presented 12 demands to Johns Hopkins University administration in 1967. They sought such changes as increased black student enrollment and black faculty recruitment, a library section for black authors, and Johns Hopkins-Morgan State mixers.
A year later, Guess, Baker and others established a Black Student Union at Johns Hopkins. Although similar groups had already formed at other university campuses, students at Johns Hopkins found their initial requests for official recognition rebuffed. The student council expressed concern that this student union would be seen as hostile and divisive. Continued and mounting pressure from Guess and Baker caused the student council to reconsider its decision and grant official status in 1969. Guess would later be elected the university’s first black student council president.
The Black Student Union remains an influential group at Johns Hopkins-promoting diversity, respect, and understanding. The group also hosts events and lectures, organizes community service projects and works to improve the climate for black students at Johns Hopkins.
Its founders continue to serve as prominent community leaders.
Baker served as the BSU’s first president. After earning undergraduate and graduate degrees from Johns Hopkins, Baker worked as an economist with the Department of Agriculture and completed a law degree at the University of Chicago. He started his legal practice in banking and finance as an in-house attorney with the largest bank in Chicago, moving on to become the first black equity partner at Winston and Strawn LLP and then the first black equity partner at Baker & Mckenzie LLP. He is now a partner at the law firm Hoogendoorn and Talbot LLP.
Entrepreneurial Neurosurgeon Extraordinaire
In 1958, the year he received his bachelor’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Ernest Bates had no idea how strong – or how instrumental – his connection to his alma mater would be. Years after receiving his undergraduate degree, Bates, the first African-American to enter the Zanvyl Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, served on the Johns Hopkins University Board of Trustees, including as vice chair. Currently a trustee emeritus, Bates is a former chair of JHU’s annual fund, which honored him in with the Heritage Award in 2003. Indeed, the education Bates received at JHU helped catapult him to the upper echelon of both medicine and business. As a student at JHU, Bates was also the first African-American to play on the university’s football team, a trying time for the young man whose team endured discrimination at times, such as not being allowed to dine at certain places because of Bates’ race, while on the road for away games.
Following graduation from JHU, Bates, a native of Mount Pleasant, N.Y., went on to earn his medical degree from the University of Rochester School of Medicine in 1962. That same year, he completed a surgery internship at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx Municipal Hospital Center. He completed his neurosurgery residency at the University of California Medical Center, San Francisco (UCSF) in 1971 and was board certified in neurological surgery in 1973. In 1977, Bates founded American Shared Hospital Services, a publicly traded healthcare company that leases state-of-the-art medical equipment to hospitals in the United States and abroad. Bates is chairman and chief executive officer of the San Francisco-based company. In 2016, Bates endowed a professorship at UCSF’s School of Nursing.
Now semi-retired, Bates is a member of several professional medical societies. He has written chapters in the publication, Textbook on Experimental Brain Tumors and Black Related Diseases. He is an emeritus member of the University of Rochester’s Board of Trustees, a member of the Board of Overseers at UCSF School of Nursing, and a former member of the Board of Trustees at UCSF Foundation and the California Higher Education Business Forum. In 1997, Bates was appointed to the California High-Speed Rail Authority. He also served as a member of the Board of Governors of California Community Colleges, the District 4 Medical Quality Review Committee, and the Professional Advisory Committee at the University of California Medical Centers. Bates previously served on the California Commission for Jobs and Economic Growth and the Magistrate Judge Merit Selection Panel.
Connecting JHU with the community
Barbara Bates-Hopkins calls herself “the eyes and ears of the community.” As a senior community research coordinator in the Department of Environmental Health and Engineering at the Bloomberg School of Public Health who “grew up here, I can remind everyone”—nurses, doctors, scientists, students, residents of the neighborhood, and everyone she encounters—“that East Baltimore was once a much different place. There were lots of nice stores and plenty to do. Kids respected their elders. There was diversity and a different spirit to the place. I particularly like to share that with the students so they know the history.” With funding support from the Institute for Clinical and Translational Research and the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins Johns Hopkins School of Medicine as well as the Department of Epidemiology at the School of Public Health, she surely connects the medical entities of Johns Hopkins.
As a lifelong resident of East Baltimore, Bates-Hopkins recognizes there is a lingering love/hate relationship between Johns Hopkins and its neighbors. “My job is to serve both the university and the people who live nearby or who have been uprooted by redevelopment,” she explains. Applying the solid case-management experience she has accumulated during her career, she motivates, guides, and supports those faced with the decisions and challenges of relocating. She also maintains strong ties with area leaders by serving on various community and health-related advisory boards, councils, and committees.
Maintaining a genuine rapport among various generations and between academics and community residents, Bates-Hopkins sees herself as a matchmaker, knowing what clinical research is under way at the university and suggesting how East Baltimoreans might both develop trust and benefit from participating. She makes no false promises. If she does not know the answer, she finds someone who does. “I try always to listen, be open, honest, and share information. I always ask, how can I help?”
Launched in 2006, the award-winning Day in the Market program is one of Bates-Hopkins most successful outreach initiatives. Together with medical colleagues from dozens of disciplines, four times a month she sets up booths at Northeast or Lexington Markets to educate the public with tips on safety, wellness, cancer screening, nutrition, disaster preparedness, and many other subjects. “Both sides learn from each other,” Bates-Hopkins reports. “The doctors particularly like being able to take more time with their contacts.”
“Ms. Bates-Hopkins supports numerous community partners by identifying volunteers, being an important node in the city’s community networks, and contributing to the conversation,” affirms Bloomberg School of Public Health Professor Norma Kanarek. “She is at the table during planning and execution of events throughout the year and across the city. Her indispensability is well recognized.” Planning, coordinating, developing, marketing, and promoting special urban environmental health projects remain Barbara Bates-Hopkins passion. And, she stresses, “it’s a blessing to work with colleagues who trust and give me the leverage to meet my objectives.”
Caring for the future
When Dr. Ivor Benjamin assumed the helm of the American Heart Association in July 2018, he talked about food and housing insecurity, and advocated for affordable, quality health care for everyone, as well as increased funding for the AHA’s primary concerns, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and brain health. “We can make a difference—in large and small ways—when we prioritize caring for the future,” he said.
Benjamin was one of only three black students when he arrived at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1978. He was “held spellbound” by cardiac surgeon Levi Watkins, who had recruited Benjamin (who also accompanied Watkins on later admissions tours) from Hunter College in New York City. “Levi had convinced the powers that be that the more diversified Hopkins was, the more successful the institution would be. He persuaded the admissions committee to welcome minorities as students” and the administration to increase minority representation on the medical faculty. “Levi was a real pioneer for medical and social justice.”
“Once you get to Johns Hopkins, you get swept up—it’s a humbling experience,” Benjamin remembered. “You know you’re not in a museum but the iconic images are everywhere. It’s a wonderful environment with a very high importance placed on both the science and the art of medicine. The commitment to excellence crystalized in me and gave me a competitive advantage—I began to think of myself as a future faculty member.” As a student, Benjamin worked in the laboratory of future National Institutes of Health Director Bernadine Healy and, under her tutelage, published his first paper in a medical journal. That effort solidified his interest in research and ongoing scholarship.
A native of Guyana, Ivor Benjamin emigrated from South America to the United States with his family after completing high school. After college and medical school, he assumed prominent roles at university medical programs across the nation and now serves as director of the Cardiovascular Center at Medical College of Wisconsin and, co-director of the NHLBI T32 Training Program in Signature Transdisciplinary Cardiovascular Sciences.
Decades ago, Dr. Benjamin became involved with the American Heart Association. From joining committees to editing journals, he has risen through the ranks to the organization’s top volunteer position. The recipient of generous mentoring throughout his life, Ivor Benjamin recognizes the importance of supporting and encouraging young investigators. He emphasized the issue in his presidential address, urging his AHA audience to “volunteer to speak to a STEM class at a predominantly minority high school or rural high school. When you meet students considering a career in science or medicine, invite them to shadow you for a day.” Dr. Benjamin also proved an influential role model at home. His three children have followed him into medical-related fields, including his daughter Charis, who is a 2019 graduate of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Caring for the future indeed.
Black Students at Shriver Hall 1970
The collective experience of a community: a turning point for JHU
Relatively few black students attended Johns Hopkins until the late 1960s, when a concerted effort by the university increased their presence. Leslie King-Hammond, then a graduate student with a fellowship in art history, noted that “We came from all over the United States. We were not a shy group; we were highly politically aware.” In 1967, freshman John Guess and sophomore Bruce Baker led the push for the formation of the Black Student Union. The following year, the student body elected Guess president of the student council. Guess realized “Hopkins considered its undergraduates to be junior scholars. I understood we create our own opportunity.”
By 1970, a significant cohort was making its presence known in virtually every area of the Homewood campus and beyond. “We had a very strong network; we were always in touch with one another, both undergraduates and graduate students,” King-Hammond recalled. “Our habit was to gather after classes in Levering Hall to eat and talk,” Michael Smith (front row, second from left) remembered. “One day, word went out that we should all head over to Shriver Hall for a picture.” Ron Owens, assistant director of admissions, had enlisted sophomore Thomas Anderson to capture an image of some of the dynamic band of black students on campus that autumn. Owens (the only person in the photo wearing a tie) developed a multiyear campaign around this photograph to recruit more students. (He also engaged Michael Smith, Leslie King-Hammond, and others to travel to historically black colleges and universities in the South to entice promising candidates to come to Johns Hopkins for graduate school.)
Now a powerful record of a turning point in Hopkins history, John Guess (front row, holding a Black Panther newspaper) explained that “this iconic photo is us. It represents the collective experience of a community. It is so important to see us together as a group.” King-Hammond (behind Guess, wearing sunglasses) admitted that the university “was riddled with stereotypes and people who thought we would underachieve. Hopkins was competitive and demanding and we were frustrated by the relentlessness of the racism and sexism on campus.” Still, they did “create our own opportunities,” Thomas Anderson (front row, far left) acknowledged. He believes his time at Hopkins “prepared me as no other school would have then. The university gave me major support, understanding, and structure; what I learned there allowed me to exceed my goals in life.”
In 1993, the photograph became the centerpiece of a gathering of alumni, many of whom appear in the picture. Joined by staffers and friends, they came from as far away as California to reminisce and update each other on their lives and careers. The reunion was such a success that the group decided to gather annually and expand their ranks to include earlier and later alumni as well as current students. They dubbed themselves the Fred Scott Brigade to honor the first African American to earn a bachelor’s degree from Hopkins. “We never lost sight of each other,” John Guess explained. “We pay our own way to get together every year on the last weekend in September. More than a hundred people from many generations are members of the Fred Scott Brigade now, coming together to celebrate being black alumni from Johns Hopkins.”
Click here or the In the Media button above to see the names of the students on campus in 1970.
Cross-country legal leader
Everyone is good at something, but Paula Boggs is one of those people whose interests and abilities seem boundless. She describes herself as a curious person. Perhaps it is that curiosity that landed her jobs in such diverse industries as the military, technology and food services. Or maybe it is her openness to adventure that led her to train as a paratrooper and perform with a band. Her debut CD, A Buddha State of Mind, was released in 2010.
After graduation from Johns Hopkins in 1981, with a bachelor’s degree in international studies, Boggs enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law. While at Johns Hopkins, she co-founded the women’s cross-country and track and field teams. In doing so, she became the first black person to co-establish an NCAA competition sport at the university.
Boggs recently retired as executive vice president, general counsel and secretary of Starbucks to work on President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. Under her direction at Starbucks, the company’s legal team played a role in all aspects of the coffee giant’s expansion in the early 2000s. At the time of her retirement, she was involved in the restructuring of the company.
Her path from law school to Starbucks reflects her diverse interests. She began as a U.S. Army officer assigned to the Pentagon before taking a position as a staff attorney position for the White House Iran-Contra Legal Task Force and as an assistant United States attorney.
In 1994, she was tapped to serve a one-year term as staff director for the advisory board on the investigative capability of the Department of Defense (created by the secretary of defense in response to the Tailhook scandal). In 2010, President Obama named Boggs to the White House Council for Community Solutions.
Between government service and Starbucks, Boggs became a partner in the prestigious Preston Gates & Ellis law firm and vice president of legal affairs for Dell.
Boggs is known as much for her community service as her legal prowess. While at Starbucks, she led the legal team in a pro-bono housing justice project for people who had been evicted from their homes, and she worked with company attorneys to draft wills for police, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians. Boggs is a member of the boards of directors of Johns Hopkins University, School of Rock, LLC and the American National Red Cross. She is also on the advisory board of listener-supported radio station KEXP in Seattle. For her many achievements, Johns Hopkins University honored her with a Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2009.
Engineer for diversity
As the first black person to earn a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Yale University, Gwen Boyd is determined to encourage greater diversity in the field.
Boyd joined the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory as a team engineer in 1980, served as assistant for development programs (coordinating all external programs including research at other universities) and is now executive assistant to the APL chief of staff.
Boyd helped establish the APL Technology Leadership Scholars Program, as well as the ATLAS Summer Internship Program for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions and Minority Institutions. She was named chair of the Johns Hopkins Institutions Diversity Leadership Council, and in 2010 President Obama appointed her to the board of the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.
Teller of stories and grower of imaginations
One of the signature stories Karen Freeman Burdnell tells is that of her first — and worst — Afro haircut while she was a freshman at Johns Hopkins University. As she walked across campus that day, she believes she ran into just about every other black freshman on campus and that each one of them had something to say about her hair, from offering her hats to cover it up to expressing concern about whether perhaps she had fallen asleep in the barber”s chair.
Telling stories has become a major focus of Burdnell’s life. The daughter of a storyteller, Burdnell first discovered her own talent for storytelling as a teenaged camp counselor. Now telling stories is a part of her work as a children’s librarian for the Enoch Pratt Free Library, and she expects to complete a master’s degree in storytelling from East Tennessee State University by the end of 2012. She is a member of the Griot Circle of Maryland, the National Association of Black Storytellers, and the National Storytelling Network.
“Our imaginations spur and grow through the oral tradition and through telling our own stories,” Burdnell says.
Burdnell’s haircut story reveals the sense of community she felt on the Johns Hopkins campus. She entered the school in the fall of 1970, the first year that Johns Hopkins began accepting female undergraduates, and among the 90 admitted were five black women: Burdnell, two fellow freshmen Shirley Dilsworth and Gail Williams, and two transfer students, Lynn Parker and Barbara Wyche.
While she didn’t live on campus, Burdnell had a rich on-campus life, attending sporting events, working at a candy shop in Levering Hall, and participating in the Black Student Union. Her Baltimore home became a respite for some of the other black students.
As she earned her bachelor’s degree in social and behavioral science at Johns Hopkins, Burdnell learned important lessons including how she could best study and retain information, what her writing strengths are, and how to advocate for herself.
“I knew how to think before I got to Johns Hopkins,” Burdnell concludes, “but the challenging and competitive atmosphere at Johns Hopkins allowed me to test and refine my thinking abilities. They were put to good use there.”
Influential business philosopher
The issues involved with conducting business globally, managing workplace diversity, developing corporate leaders and using business savvy to transform communities and nonprofit organizations fascinate James W. Calvin. He has devoted his professional career to exploring such topics and to inspiring future business leaders to think beyond the bottom line to consider how business is conducted and how it impacts society.
After earning an undergraduate degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology, Calvin pursued graduate studies at New York University, ultimately earning a doctorate (with distinction). A member of the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School faculty since 1996, he serves as associate professor of management and director of the school’s Leadership Development Program for Minority Managers.
Beyond the classroom, Calvin consults with federal agencies, such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and General Services Administration, national and local foundations, nonprofits and several national and international business organizations including Fannie Mae, General Electric, Verizon, KPMG, GENCO, PepsiCo, Xerox Quality Services, the Brookings Institution, QVC Inc., the World Bank and DaimlerChrysler
He contributes as a board member of the Academy of Management, the International Society for the Advancement of Management, The Diversity Leadership Council and the Johns Hopkins Black Faculty and Staff Association as well as on the editorial boards of several national and international journals.
Benefactor of mankind
Emmanuel Chambers regarded his work as a waiter at the Baltimore Club as a profession of honor, and his legacy of service continues long after his death. Chambers joined the staff of the Baltimore Club in 1907 and remained with the institution after its merger with the Maryland Club in 1933. He became known not only for his gracious service but also as an on-call personal assistant who could conjure up difficult-to-secure opera and train tickets and could produce forgotten ties and collar buttons. During three decades as a waiter, Chambers lived on his salary and, with the help of a friend, invested his tips, amassing $150,000. After his death in 1945, his will provided for the creation of the Emmanuel Chambers Foundation to use his fortune to benefit the greater Baltimore community. By 1965, the foundation’s holdings were worth more than $500,000, and grants from the foundation had benefited Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Peabody Institute along with other medical facilities and institutions of higher education. Grants to Johns Hopkins Hospital supported assistantships and work with “colored persons,” and grants to Peabody funded scholarships. In honor of his largesse, 20 years after his death, Chambers was honored with a portrait to hang in Johns Hopkins Hospital. At the unveiling, Stuart Olivier, a bank official and then president of the Chambers Foundation said of Chambers, “His life speaks for itself. He was dedicated to the service of mankind while he lived, and his will is just a continuance. He had no education, was no bank president nor president of a university, but during his life he had a fortune larger than the combined membership of the club members he waited on.”
Physician/scientist and dedicated mentor
A self-described nerd, Janine Austin Clayton arrived at Johns Hopkins University as a freshman knowing exactly what she wanted to get out of her education at the school. She dove into her coursework and balanced her academic pursuits with dance classes at the Peabody Institute, and trips to nearby museums. Clayton was aware that she was one of a small number of African American students on campus, but she was not fixated on it. Her focus was on a degree, and a career in medicine and science. Thoughts of paving the way for other blacks at Hopkins would come later. She volunteered at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the neonatal unit, she worked for the psychology department and she pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority.
As a student studying natural sciences, she valued the time she spent conducting research and working in labs – opportunities not usually afforded undergraduate students on many college campuses. That research experience combined with the policy side of medicine would serve her well in her career as a physician/scientist, and top government health official. Clayton, a board certified ophthalmologist, and director of the Office of Women’s Health at the National Institutes of Health, is an authority on eye diseases and an advocate for the inclusion of female animals and cells in preclinical research design. Her specialties include sex and gender in health and disease, global women’s health, public health and women’s eye health.
Clayton graduated from Hopkins in 1984, and from Howard University College of Medicine in 1989. She completed her residency at the Medical College of Virginia in 1993, followed by
fellowships with the Johns Hopkins University Wilmer Eye Institute and the National Eye Institute. An authority on autoimmune ocular diseases, and the role of sex and gender in health and disease, she has authored more than 80 scientific publications, journals and book chapters.
Along with her husband, Robert B. Clayton, a successful attorney who also graduated from Hopkins in 1984, Janine Clayton has remained close to her alma mater, serving on the Alumni Council and with the Society of Black Alumni (SOBA), and participating in the mentoring, recruitment and enhancement of the black student experience on campus.
Giving back to the university is important to Clayton. Equally important is the chance to be a role model to young African American students at Hopkins – the students who would follow her and experience the same academic rigor and social ups and downs that she faced as a black undergrad at JHU. “We want to see them do well and to let them know they don’t have to be one way at Hopkins.”
In Johns Hopkins University, Clayton found an environment where she could nurture her desire to become a doctor while indulging her creative side. In Clayton, the university produced a bright and thoughtful young woman dedicated to both her career, and the African American students who would come after her.
Accomplished litigator and dedicated mentor
By any measure, Robert B. Clayton was a model Johns Hopkins University student. A member of the Black Student Union, Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, and four-year member of the varsity basketball team, including two years as captain, he was as passionate about his extracurricular activities as he was about his academic pursuits. From his first days on campus, Clayton noticed the lack of diversity. The group of 35 African Americans who matriculated along with him made the transition to the mostly white Hopkins manageable – even memorable. Upon his graduation in 1984, Clayton went on to earn a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1987, and start a successful family law and civil litigation career in Los Angeles where he commutes from the home he shares in Maryland with his wife, Dr. Janine Clayton, an ophthalmologist, and fellow Hopkins graduate.
Clayton’s accomplishments are many. Through his law practice, he has handled an extensive portfolio of family law cases in his representation of high-profile clients, including a number of well-known celebrities and professional athletes. In 1994, he was voted “Lawyer of the Year” by Freedom Magazine, a southern California publication serving Los Angeles’ African American community. He is a longtime member of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses Association, which produces the annual Rose Parade and Rose Bowl Game. While building his professional career, Clayton has remained active in his alma mater, serving on the National Alumni Schools Committee the Second Decade Society, and the Alumni Council Executive Committee. He has provided insights on key Hopkins strategic initiatives such as the formation of the Center for African Studies.
For all of his accomplishments, it is his service to his alma mater, especially to the university’s African American students and alumni that holds a special place in his heart. He is particularly proud of his work with the Johns Hopkins Society of Black Alumni (SOBA) with which he served as one of its inaugural committee members in 1994. He went on to serve as its vice president and is now the group’s longest serving president, having taken on the role in 2002. During this time, he oversaw the installation of the inaugural SOBA Presidential Professor, the naming of the first SOBA scholarship recipient. He also helped form the Men of Color Hopkins Alliance (MOCHA), a mentoring program for male students of color at Hopkins. He often tells those young men and other students of color that they can do it all at Hopkins and not be excluded based on their race. “I don’t want the students who come after me to have a bad experience.”
Dragon-slaying music maker
The idea that the arts are integral to humanity shaped Eileen Cline’s life and her tenure as the dean of the Peabody Conservatory. “So many children, by the time they are 5 or 6 years old, think that the arts are only about being able to draw and sing at a level possible only for a ‘chosen’ few,” she has said. “I would like to do whatever I can to slay those dragons.”
An accomplished pianist, folk dancer and singer, Cline, now retired, dedicated her career to expanding arts opportunities for others. She taught music at the elementary, high school and university levels, owned a piano studio, founded the Boulder Children’s Choir and served as executive director of the Neighborhood Music School in New Haven, Connecticut.
In 1983, Cline became the first black to be appointed dean of the Peabody Conservatory and the only woman dean, at that time, of a major American conservatory of music. Cline’s dedication to inclusiveness enriched and expanded the Peabody community.
When her tenure ended in 1995, Cline continued to serve Johns Hopkins for four additional years as a senior university fellow in arts policy at the Institute for Policy Studies, and to influence music education policy through her membership on the boards for the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Symphony Orchestra League.
Genius for medical equity
Lisa Cooper asks questions and finds answers that cause the medical community to refine its practices. From what she refers to as her “exemplary professional home” at Johns Hopkins, Cooper, an internist, epidemiologist and professor in the Division of General Internal Medicine, conducts landmark studies on racial and ethnic disparities in disease prevalence and risk and care delivery. In one study, she and her colleagues found that African-American patients treated by African-American physicians are more assertive and involved in their own care than those treated by white physicians. Another study showed that cultural and social factors strongly influence whether and where people seek help for mental illness.
In recognition of her promise, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation awarded her a $500,000 unrestricted “genius grant” in 2007. She also has a Mid-Career Investigator Award for Patient-Oriented Research in Cardiovascular Health Disparities from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and is the principal investigator for the Johns Hopkins Center to Eliminate Cardiovascular Health Disparities.
According to Myron E. Weisfeldt, chairman of the Johns Hopkins Department of Medicine, Cooper’s work is essential as the medical community strives to deliver high-quality care to an increasingly diverse patient population. “The best physicians are going to be those who understand the purpose and the substance of Lisa Cooper’s scholarship and her extraordinary understanding of clinical care,” he said. “There’s no question that her work will inspire generations to come of doctors and doctors-in-training.”
While Miriam DeCosta–Willis experienced the challenges of “being a black woman in a white man‘s world,” her life story demonstrates her ability to transcend those challenges. The child of two college professors, she grew up in the South but moved north in 1950 to help integrate Westover School in Connecticut. She describes her two years there as painful, yet she left the school with high honors.
After earning a bachelor‘s degree from Wellesley College she earned both her maste‘s degree and in 1967, she earned a doctoral degree at Johns Hopkins. After obtaining her degree, DeCosta–Willis was appointed the first black faculty member at Memphis State University.
Throughout her 40-year career in education, DeCosta-Willis, a Spanish language and African-American studies scholar, held administrative and faculty posts at Howard University, George Mason University and University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Now retired, she remains a lifelong civil rights activist and writer. In addition to serving as co-founder of the Memphis Black Writers’ Workshop, she has published several books.