When she was 5, Renee Blanding fractured her left arm by falling off of her grandmother’s porch. Though it hurt a lot, the injury turned out to be fortuitous.
Blanding (HS, anesthesiology, 1992; faculty, anesthesiology and critical care medicine, 1992–present) vividly remembers the kindness shown by the physician who treated her in their hometown of Camden, South Carolina. He looked directly at her and “spoke to me in terms I understood,” she says, even apologizing that the plaster from the cast he was going to apply might get on her pretty dress.
That encounter shaped the course of Blanding’s life. “After that, I decided I wanted to be like him: kind and helping people who were not feeling well,” she says.
Blanding went on to earn her medical degree from the University of Florida College of Medicine in 1988, then pursued initial postdoctoral training at the Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans before completing her residency at Johns Hopkins. Afterward, she joined the faculty of the anesthesiology and critical care medicine department as an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.
After serving as medical director of the hospital’s operating rooms for seven years, she was named vice president of medical affairs in 2017. Today, Blanding’s day begins at 3:30 a.m., when she gets to the office to answer emails and handle other administrative matters. Then, she attends safety and quality meetings, sees patients, and develops initiatives to address physician wellness, an area of prime concern to her.
“For us to take the best care of our patients, we have to be at our best,” she says. “For me, the joy of medicine comes from being able to contribute something in a challenging environment and feeling like I’ve made a difference.”
Another challenge Blanding has tackled is improving literacy among the Baltimore community’s underserved children. Her lifelong love of reading led her to create the city’s Readership to Leadership literacy program in 2013. She works closely with East Baltimore elementary schools to establish “reading bees” for children in grades two to six. She buys books for them to read during school breaks and leads book discussions at events that include an awards ceremony and pizza parties. “It’s a magical time,” says Blanding, who was honored by the Johns Hopkins University Alumni Association with a 2020 award for community service. NAG