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Daniel Ernest Ford

Born: March 1, 1957, Niagra Falls, N.Y.

Education: B.S., Cornell, 1978; M.D., SUNY Buffalo, 1982; M.P.H., Johns Hopkins, 1986.

Family: Wife, Carolyn Richardson-Ford, and sons Peter and Gabriel.

Career Highlights: Faculty member, Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology and Clinical Research; director, University Health Service; director, fellowship training grant in clinical research.

Current Position: Professor of medicine with joint appointments in the Department of Psychiatry and Epidemiology and Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. Vice dean for clinical investigation.

Hobbies: Music, kayaking, soccer coach.

Dan Ford: “Triple-Threat” Professor

Dan Ford, new vice dean for clinical investigation

In seeking a successor to Mike Klag as vice dean for clinical investigation, Dean/CEO Ed Miller quickly zeroed in on an amicable, unassuming 48-year-old professor of medicine—Dan Ford.

Miller calls Ford “uniquely qualified” to take over from Klag, now dean of the Bloomberg School. And Ford certainly fits Miller’s criteria: An established record as a clinical investigator. A strong institutional commitment. A desire to further Klag’s work protecting research participants and improving research oversight. Working knowledge of institutional review boards. He also has an understanding of the importance of adhering to regulatory rules, experience in information technology, and a grasp of where clinical research needs to go.

Indeed, Ford seems to typify Hopkins’ “triple-threat” faculty—a dedicated educator, scientist and clinician driven to succeed in all three areas.

Ford is considered a pioneer in what he calls “the interface of medical and mental health.” He’s won acclaim for documenting depression as an independent risk factor for heart disease and for describing the long-term risk tied to sleep disorders. He also directs the evaluation of a $12 million Robert Wood Johnson Foundation initiative on depression in primary care.

Turning young scientists on to research gives Ford special pleasure. “I really do enjoy mentoring fellows early in their careers when they’ve developed their clinical experience. I like to help them begin thinking of their clinical pursuits in a more research-oriented way and then get them started.”

Ford assiduously stays in touch with his fellows after they leave Hopkins, often collaborating with them. That’s one of the reasons he can’t recall all his research projects. “It’s probably about eight. It could be more, with the fellows. When you think about it,” he adds, “this isn’t a great system when I have to count them up instead of going into a database.”

Improving the clinical research database is a part of Ford’s new job in which he clearly has a head start. He helped develop eIRB, a new online tool for submitting proposals to institutional review boards. “We think it will make the review process easier for both board members and investigators. It’s more directive to the researcher. It will lead to a more standard application that the board can review more fairly and efficiently,” he says. “We’ll also be able to build up a better sense of the types of studies being done here and who’s doing them.”

Ford has spent virtually his entire career at Hopkins, starting as an Osler resident in 1982. Even a gruesome brush with death in a carjacking that started in a Hopkins parking garage hasn’t dimmed his enthusiasm for the institution.

Back in the mid-1990s, Ford was approached by a gunman, Dante Carter, in the Washington Street garage. Carter locked Ford in the trunk of his car and kept him there for five hours. “Finally, he stopped at an MVA office trying to re-do my driver’s license, and I realized this was the time to get out. I started screaming and pounding on the trunk, and a couple of his accomplices ran away. Fortunately, I got out—after he tried to strangle me.”

Carter carjacked another vehicle that day and eventually killed the driver.

“I’m just thankful I survived. I have not had post-traumatic stress. I have not had much in the way of problems at all.”

The incident, Ford says, “was a good wake-up call that security had to improve at Hopkins. Since then, they have really beefed up security.”

He laughs, though, about reports on campus following the incident that he was leaving Hopkins. “I was rumored to be going just about everywhere, usually some rural spot. I heard, ‘You’re going to Dartmouth!’ I’ve never even been to Dartmouth. I didn’t interview at Dartmouth. They were picking the safest academic health center for me. Obviously, I am committed to Hopkins.”

Running the office for clinical investigation “is an important role for the institution,” Ford says. “We don’t want the public to lose confidence in Hopkins’ clinical research mission.”

The office was created following the death of research volunteer Ellen Roche in 2001. Since then, Ford says, “the institutional visibility and commitment to protect research volunteers has gone up many-fold.” He’s especially impressed with the accreditation Hopkins gained early last summer for its protection of research participants. Only a few medical institutions have gained this “gold-seal” award.

A critical goal for Ford is to create strong bonds with research participants. “We need to work on making clinical research more relevant for prospective patients. They need to see the connection between their sacrifices and the long-term results.

“It’s a noble thing they are doing. Most of the investigations are not going to benefit research participants directly. They’re really doing it as a gift to patients who come after them. I want to encourage our patients to feel like partners in moving science ahead.

—Barry Rascovar



Johns Hopkins Medicine

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