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Center for Innovative Medicine (CIM)

David Hellmann, M.D.The CIM Turns 10!

Message from the Director

Welcome to the Center for Innovative Medicine.  

Milestones are important, and this year marks an important one for the CIM:  We’re entering our second decade!  How we got here is the result of a fortunate convergence of events:  Back in 2003, the generosity of the Miller Family made possible a lecture series on a topic they — and we — care about very much, clinical excellence.  This year marked the 11th annual Miller Lecture, and it has become an important event throughout Johns Hopkins, one we look forward to each Spring.  

That was a great beginning.  But as important as clinical excellence is to all of us, it is just one part of the culture of academic medicine, and in my mind, this culture badly needed an overhaul.  I had been thinking for a long time that history repeats itself, not in a good way, particularly in academic medicine.  We tend to come up with a very good solution to a problem, just as the founders of Johns Hopkins Hospital did in 1889, when they revolutionized the way medicine is taught.  Then, the problem changes —  but the solution that worked a century ago doesn’t change to keep up.   I talked about this a lot with Bill Brody, then President of The Johns Hopkins University, and with Richard Paisner, a lawyer and businessman with a lot of good ideas, and in 2004 Bill Brody said, “Go and create a center.”

Around this time, I met the Pulitzer Prize-nominated author, Ken Ludmerer, at a conference in Canada.  We went for a hike and spent several hours just talking about medicine.  I had always believed that health care is supposed to involve everybody — not just doctors, nurses, and the patient, but the patient’s family, therapists, scientists in the laboratory doing research on the patient’s disease, the community where our patients live.  After talking with Ken, I knew that our Center for Innovative Medicine had to be built around the idea that Medicine is a Public Trust — the message you see on the cover of every issue of our twice-yearly publication, Breakthrough.  

So that’s where we started.  Our original ideas haven’t changed, but they’ve evolved.  We keep asking, how can we use the three tools of academic medicine — discovery, caring, and teaching — to become a more effective public trust in medicine?  I am very proud that almost everything we’ve done at the CIM has involved partnerships on multiple levels.  With the Miller-Coulson family, we also created Bayview Scholars and the Miller-Coulson Academy for Clinical Excellence. With a wonderful Greek philanthropist named Aliki Perroti, we created the Aliki Initiative, which truly has changed the culture of how inpatient medicine is taught at Johns Hopkins.  It has also inspired similar initiatives at other hospitals. With support from many other generous people, we have created multidisciplinary cores, like the Lowe Family Genomics Center. 

The CIM has always been anti-“Ivory Tower,” or “silo.”  We’re all about breaking down walls, getting people to talk to each other, to use their different perspectives to tackle problems in smarter ways.  We love thinking out of the box, because life, and illness, and healthy communities don’t come with orderly, labeled categories.  

Steven Johnson, the author of Where Good Ideas Come From, talks about slow hunches.  Good ideas don’t usually come with the click of a light switch or an apple falling on your head.  Instead, they kind of bubble up, ever-changing, until they take shape and make sense.  I have the same notion about the CIM: It has been a slow hunch.  Exactly how we can do better is always evolving.  

I look forward to sharing our unfolding story with you.  


David B. Hellmann, M.D., M.A.C.P.

Aliki Perroti Professor of Medicine;
Vice Dean, Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center;
Chairman, Department of Medicine