In his youth, no one confused him with an institution, even though he grew up not too far from Baltimore, in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Things changed fast, though, when he got involved in medicine. Then, a couple of years ago, John Hopkins was offered a job at Johns Hopkins as a financial liaison with the Home Care Group. He almost turned it down—because of his name.
Happily, he didn’t, and these days, Hopkins supports the director of the five Johns Hopkins Outpatient Pharmacies (managed by JHHCG) with financial analysis and special projects. Affable and good natured, he’s taken all the jokes and gibes in stride. Not that it’s been easy.
What’s it like to be John Hopkins at Johns Hopkins?
When I started working here nearly two years ago, I was like the fat lady in the circus. People would come by and say, “I want to see the guy called John Hopkins!” Now, I’m no longer the new guy on the block. I know everyone in the Home Care Group, they know me, and it’s turned out to be a great place to work.
What about dealing with the public?
People call and ask for “John Hopkins,” meaning the institution, and get transferred to me. They need medical care, or durable medical equipment—things I know absolutely nothing about. Or, there’s an overdue bill and the caller—some guy from a collection agency in, say, Dubuque—expects me to pay. I try to explain that Johns Hopkins is a huge institution.
I used to answer the phone, “Outpatient Pharmacy, this is John Hopkins.” Now I just say, “This is John.” Sometimes I use my co-workers’ names when I want something shipped to me. It’s just easier.
Do you notice when people mispronounce “Johns Hopkins,” omitting the “s” in “Johns”?
It really registers. How can they work here and mispronounce the name? People don’t call the Mayo Clinic the May Clinic.
Has your name ever opened doors?
Definitely. I used to conduct market surveys for dialysis equipment. I’d call clinics and hospitals and say I was John Hopkins, and the information would just pour out. People would tell me everything, because the name Johns Hopkins has so much clout.
With a last name like Hopkins, why did your parents name you John?
They didn’t name me after the institution. My name is John Michael; they just liked the way John sounded with Michael.
Did kids in school tease you about your name?
No. In my family, we all went by our middle names, so everybody called me Michael. During roll call on my first day in a new high school, I decided on the spur of the moment to switch to my first name. All my records were under John, and I thought it would be better to begin using my first name. The last thing on my mind was the world renown of the Johns Hopkins institutions.
When did people start paying attention to your name?
When I got into the medical field. I worked for 20 years in dialysis, then went into infusion pharmacy in Washington, D.C. People would say, “Are you related to Johns Hopkins?” or “Hey, you’ve got a university named after you.” I’ve learned to pause whenever I’m introduced to give people a chance to comment. Lately, I’ve been able to reply, “Yeah, and I work there, too.”
Advice for parents who want to name their child after a famous person or institution?
Don’t do it. If I had to do it over, I’d change my name to Michael John. I’d go back to being Michael again.
—As told to Lydia Levis Bloch