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School of Medicine Reaches Milestone: 200-Plus Women Full Professors

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School of Medicine Reaches Milestone: 200-Plus Women Full Professors

School of Medicine Reaches Milestone: 200-Plus Women Full Professors

Julie Freischlag, dean of the University of California Davis School of Medicine, addresses the audience at "Celebrating 200+ Women Professors," held Oct. 14 in the Chevy Chase Auditorium at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Date: 11/02/2015

Behavioral scientist Felicia Hill-Briggs studies health disparities and how high-risk populations manage diabetes and other forms of chronic disease. She is also the 201st woman to become a full professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Her recent promotion marks the next chapter in the story of women in medicine at Johns Hopkins.

Janice Clements, vice dean for faculty, made opening remarks, and Paul Rothman, dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, spoke about the school of medicine’s strides toward gender equity at “Celebrating 200+ Women Professors,” held Oct. 14 at The Johns Hopkins Hospital to honor the achievements of Hill-Briggs, a speaker at the event, and 211 other women who have attained the highest academic rank at Johns Hopkins over the past century.

Other speakers included Susan Michaelis (No. 90) of the Department of Cell Biology; Julie Freischlag (No. 95), formerly of the Department of Surgery, now dean of the University of California Davis School of Medicine; and Linda Fried (No. 50), formerly of the Department of Medicine, now dean of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.  

These speakers were chosen, in part, because of the diversity of their training and careers, says Barbara Fivush, associate dean of women in science and medicine and professor of pediatrics, who organized the event. Michaelis is a Ph.D. in the basic sciences, Hill-Briggs is a Ph.D. in the behavioral and social sciences, Freischlag is a surgeon, and Fried is an M.D. and has an M.P.H. in epidemiology. “It’s exciting to see that women have made their journey to professorship along different pathways,” she says.

The first woman to attain a full professorship at the school of medicine was Florence Sabin, in 1917. In 2003, the school promoted its 100th woman to that rank: Judith Karp is now professor emerita of oncology and the former director of the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Leukemia Program.

That it took more than a century to reach the 100 milestone and only 12 additional years to reach the 200 mark is a testament to the institution’s commitment to gender equity, Fivush says. “We view this as a huge shared accomplishment — so many of our earlier women professors paved the way for other women to achieve this rank and honor.”

Felicia Hill-Briggs, in Her Own Words

Hill-Briggs is senior director of population health research and development for Johns Hopkins HealthCare and a professor in the departments of Medicine and of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. She is also co-leader for behavioral, social and systems science at the Institute for Clinical and Translational Research; director of the Behavior and Psychometrics Subcore in the Diabetes Research Center; and a member of the core faculty at the Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology, and Clinical Research.

I’m No. 201! At first I thought it was an odd number, just out of the first 200, but now I think it is symbolic. I think the next 100 women will likely reflect more of the things I reflect, not just in terms of racial and ethnic diversity, but also in terms of a broadening of academic disciplines and expertise.

When I first came to Johns Hopkins, there was still some skepticism about what a behavioral scientist could contribute within some of our academic medicine divisions. That has shifted as health care reform has moved us away from an acute care delivery model to one with a much greater emphasis on prevention and chronic disease management. Lifestyle drives so much of health outcomes. Modifying behaviors requires integrating behavioral treatments and specialists into medicine, because you can’t make the patient healthy without the patient’s help! Until routine medical care addresses patient engagement and patients’ preparedness to manage their own health, you’ll never have optimal health outcomes.

The heart of my work as a scientist is applying rigor and scientific methodology to assess the effectiveness of health interventions. What does the evidence say about what is effective and what isn’t? We are building a learning health care system that will serve our patients better and keep us a world leader in health care.