Vice Dean's Reflection

November 2023: Elmer and Kipekee


Many know the children’s story about Elmer, the elephant who stood out from the drab gray herd because he was a patchwork of many bright colors. Elmer wasn’t happy being different and so he covered himself with elephant-colored berry juice. When he rejoined the herd, he blended in with all the other elephants, and no one was happy… not Elmer or the other elephants in the herd. After the rain washed the berry juice off, Elmer was again a patchwork of colors, and everyone was happy again. I always enjoyed reading this story to my kids when they were young because it helped illustrate the importance of diversity and the value of celebrating uniqueness.


I talk about Brené Brown’s work on the distinction between fitting in and belonging when I remind learners that they were recruited here because of their uniqueness and when I remind educators that our environment must allow learners to be the best version of themselves.


A few weeks ago, I read something that made this all come alive. On July 31, 2023, a giraffe named Kipekee (“unique” in Swahili) was born in a Tennessee zoo and is believed to be one of a kind… it has no spots and instead is a uniform brown color (


So what do Elmer and Kipekee teach us? Diversity is critical both to the group and to personal well-being. As educators, it is our obligation to work every day to create an environment in which learners feel safe and comfortable demonstrating their unique characteristics.

October 2023: Walking the Walk

In 2018, the IEE’s inspirational director, Joe Cofrancesco (and several other authors you know well) published a peer-reviewed paper on the IEE (Teach Learn Med 2018; 30:103-111). Consider that for a moment… a work of educational scholarship about an institute dedicated to educational scholarship. That’s not just talking the talk; it’s walking the walk. Since then, the IEE has developed and implemented additional programs and events, and obtained additional resources to support medical and biomedical educators. I want to express my appreciation for the IEE and my admiration for all the amazing people who have walked the walk by contributing to all that the IEE offers.

Joe and his co-authors noted something important in that 2018 paper. Providing resources to support educators costs money. As they wrote, “It was clear from the beginning that additional, noninstitutional funding would be needed to support educational research and develop successful programming.” The importance of philanthropy to support education is part of our institutional DNA. A letter written by Johns Hopkins University President Daniel Coit Gilman in 1889 highlighted, “an opportunity to establish in Baltimore a school of medicine such as the world does not now possess; but it will take a considerable sum of money…” So even if there is not a Mary Elizabeth Garrett reading this today, I want to express the hope that you support the IEE in whatever way you can… creating educational resources, leading seminars and new programs, or providing funding to support those who do. Walk the walk.

Roy Charles Ziegelstein, M.D.

  • Sarah Miller Coulson and Frank L. Coulson, Jr. Professor of Medicine
  • Vice Dean for Education, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
  • Mary Wallace Stanton Professor of Education

Expertise: Cardiology, Cardiovascular Disease, Cardiovascular Medicine, Coronary Care Unit, Depression in Heart Disease

Primary Location: Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore, MD