Tuesday, April 28, 1998 / 3 p.m. / 811th Meeting
Members Present: Drs. James Anthony, Robert Black, Diane Griffin, Bernard Guyer, Robert Lawrence, Ellen MacKenzie, W. Henry Mosley, Alfred Sommer, Donald Steinwachs, Scott Zeger, and Barry Zirkin; and Ms. Robin Fox, staff.
Members Absent: Drs. William Brody, John Breitner, John Groopman, Roger McMacken, Jonathan Samet, and John Scocca.
Guests: Drs. Margaret Ensminger, Lawrence Moulton, Noel Rose, and James Yager; and Ms Diane Glover.
Dean Alfred Sommer convened the meeting at 3:00 p.m.
Approval of the Minutes: Minutes of the 810th meeting on March 31, 1998 were approved.
Remarks by the Dean: Dr. Lawrence announced that Carol Browner, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will give a talk on Friday, May 8, 1998 at 4 p.m. about the EPA agenda.
Report of the Committee to Review the Department of Population Dynamics
Drs. Yager (Committee chair), Ensminger and Moulton joined the group. Drs. Guyer and MacKenzie were also members of the Committee. Dr. Yager thanked the members of the Committee for their thoughtful participation. He provided an overview of the Department of Population Dynamics, noting that it has a distinguished record in teaching, research and practice activities.
Dr. Mosley has been chair for 19 of the department's 28 years and is well-respected by his entire faculty and across the School. As he will step down at the end of June, the Review Committee also examined the Department in light of the need to recruit its new chair. Dr. Yager noted that the initial foci of the Department when it was formed in 1970 were family planning, demography and reproductive biology around the area of population growth.
The Committee had 2 major recommendations. The first recommendation is that the Division of Reproductive Biology separate from the Department. Presently, the Division does not substantially interact with the demography and social science faculty. Its culture and interactions are primarily with other laboratory science departments and groups. In reviewing the other components of the Department, the Committee understood that changes in the external environment will lead to changes in the needs for research and training in reproductive health, family planning, and possibly in some facets of demography. Changes in the research agenda are relatively easy to accommodate in an interdepartmental environment. Training programs, however, generally are less flexible and are constrained by departmental boundaries.
The Committee also noted many similarities between academic programs offered by the departments of Population Dynamics and of Maternal and Child Health, and in fact, the departments were formed in their current configurations from the same department. During their deliberations, the Committee examined the possibility that the two departments merge for academically compelling reasons, and recommend that the two already strong departments merge to form a new, even stronger department.
The Committee also recognized that many issues and details would need to be fleshed out. Dr. Ensminger remarked upon the common interests and overlap between the two departments. Dr. Moulton felt that the merger might be impractical without complete knowledge of the directions in which both departments are headed. Dr. Mosley was supportive of the recommendation to merge the non-laboratory parts of the Department with the Department of Maternal and Child Health, and discussed some of the changes in the global directions of reproductive health, now increasingly integrated with family and women's health issues. He commented that both departments are moving in this direction and both uniquely possess the intellectual grounding for these new approaches.
The traditional approaches to the field of maternal and child health in the U.S. also are now evolving in similar directions. Dr. Zirkin provided the history of the Division of Reproductive Biology, which began in 1972 and has always been small. The Division has always had a different culture than the rest of the Department, and now has minimal interaction with them. Dr. Zirkin is supportive of the separation of the Division from the rest of the Department and will seek to join one of the laboratory-based departments.
The Advisory Board then discussed the demography faculty as a group, which provides expertise in the demography for the entire University. Some of the demography faculty may be concerned that their core discipline will no longer be recognized if part of a different department. In addition, the JHU Population Center and the Center for the Demography of Aging, two centers based in the Department of Population Dynamics, are critical to the excellence of the demography activities and are seen as University-wide resources.
Several Advisory Board members expressed concern about the long-term viability of the centers, regardless of a change in their departmental homes, and felt special attention to strengthening demography and the competitiveness of these two NIH centers would result in powerful reassurance to the Department of Population Dynamics and the demography faculty and enhance any plans for merging these two departments. Dr. Mosley felt that the compelling reason for a merger of the departments of Population Dynamics and of Maternal and Child Health would be to offer students the best training possible in the areas of reproductive health, population studies, and maternal, child and family health. Students are interested in both domestic and international health issues, and in opportunities for practice experience. A merger of the two departments would accomplish those goals. Several members of the Advisory Board requested configurations of similar departments in other schools of public health.
At the May 12 Advisory Board meeting, the joint faculty committee of the two departments will present their report and recommendations regarding the merger. If the merger proves warranted, a schedule and many details will need to be worked out over time. After further discussion, the Advisory Board voted to accept the Report of the Committee to Review the Department of Population Dynamics. Furthermore, the Advisory Board thanked the members of the Committee for their careful work.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 4:50 p.m.
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