Long History of Responding to National Health Crises

Published in Dome - Coronavirus (COVID-19) Articles March — June 2020 and Dome - Coronavirus (COVID-19) Articles

A Johns Hopkins Medicine Timeline

Johns Hopkins Medicine’s swift, innovative response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic — from quickly devising an in-house testing kit to launching an accelerated effort to develop a vaccine — is emblematic of the institution’s 120-year history of rising to the challenge of national health crises.

From pandemics to wars, when the nation or the world has faced medical emergencies, Johns Hopkins scientists and physicians have responded decisively. The record of significant achievements includes crucial contributions to the battles against yellow fever at the beginning of the 20th century; the global flu pandemic of 1918; the military’s medical needs during World Wars I and II; and the unraveling of the mysteries behind polio and HIV/AIDS.


Yellow Fever Research

Three of the four physicians who lead the U.S. Army’s 1900 Yellow Fever Commission, which proved that yellow fever is transmitted by mosquitoes, are Johns Hopkins-trained: Walter Reed, James Carroll and Jesse Lazear. Both Carroll and Lazear allow themselves to be bitten by infected mosquitoes. While Carroll contracts yellow fever and survives, Lazear dies from the infection.


Global Flu Pandemic

William Henry Welch, founding dean of what is now the Bloomberg School of Public Health, is the first to recognize that the “Spanish Influenza” is “some new kind of infection or plague.” He initiates the effort to find its cause and develop a medical response to it.

1917 - 1918

WW I Efforts

Johns Hopkins Base Hospital Unit 18, a 1,000-bed, barrack-style hospital, is the first university-centered medical unit to go to France. It serves as an evacuation hospital during the brutal Battle of the Marne, providing primary surgical care to the wounded by maintaining nearly round-the-clock operating rooms.

1942 - 1946

WWII Modifies Medical Admission and Training

With the supply of medical school applicants depleted by college graduates entering military service during World War II, the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine allows some applicants — including Victor McKusick, considered the founding father of medical genetics — to be admitted without a bachelor’s degree. It also accelerates the time required for graduation by offering instruction year-round.

WW II Contributions

Johns Hopkins researchers greatly reduce the military death toll from disease in the Pacific. Pathology director Eli Kennerly Marshall Jr. develops sulfaguanidine, a drug that helps American and Australian forces recover speedily from severe dysentery, while infectious disease expert Frederik Bang supervises intensive programs studying new anti-malarial drugs.

The Hopkins Hospital-affiliated 118th General Hospital Unit, first based in Australia, then New Guinea, treats more than 40,000 war casualties.

1948 - 1951

Polio Breakthrough Discoveries

Epidemiologist and anatomist David Bodian directs the lab in which he and Hopkins researchers make landmark findings that establish the foundation for developing the Salk and Sabin polio vaccines.



In 1984, The Johns Hopkins Hospital’s outpatient AIDS clinic becomes the second such facility in the nation, after the University of California, San Francisco’s center. The inpatient AIDS unit — the third in the nation — opens in 1985.


HIV/AIDS Treatment

John Bartlett, who founded the Division of Infectious Disease at Johns Hopkins, oversees the institution’s participation in the international effort that produces HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy), which transforms HIV/AIDS from a death sentence to a chronic, manageable disease.


HIV/AIDS Treatment

Johns Hopkins researchers Brooks Jackson and Laura Guay show that a single dose of nevirapine dramatically reduces mother-to-infant transmission of HIV, making this type of intervention affordable globally.


Critical Response Preparedness

Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response (CEPAR) is established in 2002, after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In 2006, CEPAR spearheads the creation of the National Center for the Study of Preparedness and Catastrophic Event Response (PACER), a federally funded center focusing on innovative disaster health research. Over the years, CEPAR provides volunteers and knowledge to relieve national and international disasters and health crises.


CEPAR Establishes Biocontainment Unit

In 2015, it helps to establish a biocontainment unit in The Johns Hopkins Hospital — one of 10 regional centers in the United States designed to care for patients with highly infectious diseases, such as Ebola.

In 2017, The Johns Hopkins Medicine Office of Emergency Management implements the Hospital Incident Command System (HICC) and standardizes emergency operations and response plans across the enterprise. In partnership with The Johns Hopkins Medicine Hospital Epidemiology and Infection Control (HEIC), it develops systemwide pandemic influenza plans and institutes a Johns Hopkins Medicine Unified Command to operationalize those plans and strategic direction from Johns Hopkins Medicine leadership.


Coronavirus Testing

Johns Hopkins clinical microbiologists Karen Carroll and Heba Mostafa develop an in-house coronavirus screening test that allows the health system to test as many as 1,000 people per day for COVID-19.

By Feb. 24, 2022, Johns Hopkins Medicine administers 1,275,648 tests (including swab, saliva and antigen tests) to Johns Hopkins Medicine and Johns Hopkins University employees and members of the community.

COVID-19 Vaccine Doses Administered

(A community member receives a COVID-19 vaccination at at Johns Hopkins Medicine pop-up clinic.)

On Dec. 16, 2020, occupational therapist Kelly Casey becomes the first employee at The Johns Hopkins Hospital to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

On Jan. 27, 2021, the first community mobile vaccination clinic is conducted. By Feb. 24, 2022, Johns Hopkins Medicine conducts 413 mobile vaccine clinics in Maryland and Washington, D.C., and administers 42,240 vaccine doses.

By Feb. 24, 2022, JHM administers 320,543 vaccine doses to Johns Hopkins Medicine and Johns Hopkins University employees, patients and members of the community.