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Archives - True to the Core

Fall 2012

True to the Core

By: Paul B. Rothman
Date: September 1, 2012

baton 3
illustration by Sherrill Cooper

When you start as a new leader at an institution, the possibilities are vast and the concerns can be many. When you walk into a place that is as steeped in tradition as Johns Hopkins is, however, there is an added, powerful layer of meaning, one that I find profoundly important.

Since my arrival here in July, and in the six months leading up to my first day on the job, I've had the opportunity to read and learn more about the history of our school of medicine, Johns Hopkins, and its many leaders. What I have found, I readily admit, is both humbling and daunting. It's not only that I follow in the footsteps of Ed Miller, whose great leadership has allowed me to come in at a time when Hopkins is thriving; it's also that I stand on the foundation forged by so many Hopkins legends, the architects of modern medicine. Osler, Halsted, Kelly, and Welch. Harvey Cushing, Vivien Thomas, Helen Taussig, Alfred Blalock, Mary Elizabeth Garrett, Victor McKusick. The list is as staggering as it is long. It is my aim to honor the traditions that have flourished here for more than a century, and in time, I hope to help them grow and expand. It should go without saying how proud I am to be a part of Johns Hopkins and this legacy of greatness in medicine.

I must also offer my sincere thanks to Ed Miller for everything he has done to benefit the health of our patients and our institution, and for so masterfully setting us up for future success. In the months leading up to my official start, I was fortunate to spend time on campus almost once a week. Dr. Miller was exceptionally generous to me with his time and his advice, for which I remain very grateful. I know that we remain poised to attract, educate, and train the very best in the field of medicine in large part because of his guidance.

With that said, I want to welcome our incoming class of medical school students. We are starting at roughly the same time, and so we will go on our journey together. The Genes to Society curriculum is cutting edge, and you will feel the full benefits of its approach to how we translate science and how we care for our patients.

The range of learners that we have on this campus is remarkable, and I'm equally excited to be starting with all of our grad and master’s students, PhDs, postdocs, fellows, residents, and those in our Art as Applied to Medicine program. They represent the world's next generation of great scientists, physicians, researchers, and leaders. I am personally dedicated to fostering their success.

As the father of three, with two children currently in college, I am sensitive to the rising costs of higher education, and its impact on graduates and their families. The New York Times has reported that more than a third of medical school graduates in the United States leave school owing $200,000 in student loans. At Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the average debt is much lower—close to $100,000. Of course, that’s still a lot of money. One of our major fundraising goals is to increase our endowment for scholarship funds, so that new doctors can leave Johns Hopkins as close to being debt-free as possible.

On this issue, and the countless other issues I will embrace in the months and years ahead, I will strive to gather ideas and advice from people across Johns Hopkins Medicine. One of the things I found during my years as Dean of University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine was that it can be an isolating position. So I really try to get out there and talk to faculty and students and staff and get their input. I have lunch with assistant professors once a month to hear what’s happening. I have dinner with students once a month. I like to get into the hospital and walk the floors a couple of times a week, and stroll through the research buildings. Whenever possible, I try to have meetings in the offices of faculty and directors so that I can meet and talk to people. I intend to continue this strategy here at Johns Hopkins.

With all of these things in mind, I offer you this promise: I will strive at every turn to ensure that our school of medicine remains the best in the world. No matter the challenges that we will face due to shifts in the health care environment, our core nature will never change.

We are The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and we will do exactly as our founders and luminaries have done before us. We will continue to pass down within our walls the pinnacle of medical knowledge. *