The Johns Hopkins
Bloomberg School of Public Health has created a
pioneering new scholarship program to help recruit the next
generation of public health leaders. Likened to a Rhodes
scholarship for health, the Sommer Scholars program seeks
to train the brightest, most promising students from around
The program will support up to 15 new master of public
health students and up to 15 new doctoral students each
year, beginning with the 2005-2006 academic year. The first
class of Hopkins Sommer Scholars will be named early next
The selected students will receive both full tuition
and a stipend. In addition to regular course work, they
will take part in a leadership program designed to develop
their personal skills and foster both collaboration and
Ron Brookmeyer, chair of the school's Master of Public
Health program, said that the new scholarship will allow
the nation's oldest and largest public health school to
recruit an even more diverse pool of talented students.
"We are trying to train the leaders of tomorrow here,
and we feel these Sommer Scholars are individuals who will
have a significant impact on the future of public health,"
said Brookmeyer, a professor of biostatistics. "From my
perspective, there will be a significant increase in our
ability to attract the best future public health leaders,
international or domestic. Some students simply don't have
the financial resources to come to our school, so this
scholarship program provides them another opportunity to
The Sommer Scholars program is supported by a $22
million gift made to the School of Public Health in April
2004 by an anonymous donor who believed there is a great
need to develop new leadership in public health. The
program was named by the donor in honor of Alfred Sommer,
the school's dean since 1990.
Sommer, a 1973 graduate of the School of Public
Health, is also a professor of epidemiology, international
health and ophthalmology. Among many other research
activities, he discovered in the 1980s that mild vitamin A
deficiency dramatically increased childhood mortality and
that the debilitating consequences of vitamin A deficiency
could be effectively, quickly and cheaply treated with oral
high-dose vitamin A supplementation. His discovery led to
changes in global health practices that continue to save
the lives of millions of children worldwide.
Sommer said that he is humbled by the naming of the
scholarship program, and excited about its future.
"This is a marvelous and unique marketing tool for the
school as a whole. I know of no other school of public
health with anything remotely like it," he said. "This
should further enhance the Bloomberg School's visibility as
a very special and unique institution. And it will ensure
that we can enroll most of our very best applicants, many
of whom presently choose to go elsewhere, despite wanting
to attend Bloomberg, because they simply can't afford it.
Good state schools, and wealthy private ones, have had the
ability to provide more generous scholarship support."
Sommer added that in time the "fame" of the program
and its alumni will be sufficiently known to attract
talented people to public health who might previously never
have thought of considering the field.
In terms of leadership development, the scholars will
participate in activities including a seminar series,
interactions with federal and local policy-makers, and
discussions with staff at Washington, D.C.-based
international organizations, including the World Bank, Pan
American Health Organization and Red Cross. In addition,
the scholars will have access to internship opportunities
in government and private industry, both in the United
States and abroad, and receive intensive training in
presentation skills, media relations, lobbying and
"While this group of scholars will always have some
added opportunities, primarily because of the highly
selective nature and basis of their being chosen, we very
much anticipate making more leadership training
opportunities available for all students," Sommer said.
"These are skills [that can be developed]; most leadership
will come from each student's excelling in his or her area
of endeavor, whether that is research or professional
Those interested in applying for a Sommer Scholarship
must apply to and be accepted by department-specific
doctoral programs or the Master of Public Health program.
To be eligible, candidates apply through the school's
application form and in the personal statement articulate
why they wish to be considered for the scholarship, and how
such a distinction would further their ability to make a
significant contribution to global health.
Brookmeyer said that the faculty selection committee
will look for well-rounded individuals who have displayed
"This will be a highly competitive process that takes
into account a number of factors, such as scholastic
record, work experience, health-related experience, the
personal statement, letters of reference and more," he
said. "These will be truly exceptional scholars."
For more information about the program, go to