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Meet The Johns Hopkins University's Vice Provost for Education

Date: April 23, 2015

A passion for epidemiology and higher education.

Kelly Gebo
Kelly Gebo

Infectious diseases specialist and epidemiologist Kelly Gebo wears several hats at Johns Hopkins. She’s a professor of medicine at the school of medicine and a professor of epidemiology at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. She sees patients with HIV at the Johns Hopkins Moore Clinic and attends on the Infectious Diseases Consultation Service. And, since 2005, the prolific researcher has directed the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences’ Undergraduate Public Health Studies Program, which attracts some 400 students each year.

Last November, Gebo added another position to her growing CV, becoming the first Johns Hopkins University vice provost for education. In that role, she will provide leadership and accountability for the administration, development, assessment and improvement of programs, policies and services supporting the university’s educational mission and Strategic Plan.

“We’re looking at Ph.D. education across the campuses and ways to implement best practices across the schools to make sure we’re delivering the highest possible education to all of our students,” Gebo says. She’s also working to improve uniform collection of data from those programs—how many students apply, how long it takes them to earn their degree, etc.—and evaluating education projects started through the university’s Ph.D. Innovation Initiative. The program supports bold ideas in Ph.D. education, and its Gateway Sciences Initiative aims to improve the way gateway science courses are taught to all students.

Gebo chalks up her career to taking advantage of opportunities as they arose: “Coming to education was something I never would have anticipated 10 years ago. It’s been a really great experience, and I’m excited about it.”

After growing up in upstate New York, Gebo came to Johns Hopkins for her undergraduate education, with an interest in political science and medicine. HIV was developing in the late 1980s when she was in high school, and she recalls being attracted to the field because of news reports of Indiana high schooler Ryan White being discriminated against because of his HIV/AIDS status, despite having been infected from a contaminated blood treatment for hemophilia.

Then, in medical school at Johns Hopkins, she says, “fabulous mentors” in infectious diseases taught her about the field and got her excited about science. She stayed on for her residency and two fellowships—one with the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program and one in infectious diseases. She earned a master’s degree in public health as part of her fellowship.

“When I originally started, HIV was a terminal disease,” Gebo says. “Everybody died.” Antiretroviral drugs emerged during her residency, changing the field. Now, she says, there are still new infections, especially in young gay men of color, but there are also a large number of patients aging with HIV, one of her areas of research.

Working with her undergraduate public health students is another passion, she says: “They’re incredibly bright, energetic and motivated.” Pairing students with the right mentor or directing them to the right class “can change their life.”

Through it all, Gebo says one of the things she’s most proud of is her ability to balance work and family, and be involved in activities with her husband, for their 15-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter: “I think women have this perception that you can either do one or the other. You can still be involved in your kids’ activities and try new challenges,” she says.

“I was very pleased and gratified to see her promotion,” says one of her original mentors, Johns Hopkins HIV specialist Richard Moore. “She’s extremely well-suited to this.”

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