Newswise — Graduates representing 50 countries received their degrees from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health at Convocation on Tuesday, May 21, at Royal Farms Arena in Baltimore. The 962 graduates earned 121 doctoral degrees and 841 master’s, including 361 Master’s in Public Health. Of the 121 doctoral degrees conferred, 101 were PhD’s, 19 were DrPH’s and one was a ScD. This is the largest graduating class in the School’s 103-year history. The Class of 2019 included 263 international students.

Dean Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD ’79, ScM ’75, presiding over the Convocation ceremony, told the Class of 2019, “What you do moving forward will make a difference in human health and human lives. Your contributions will also help realize social justice and equity in health—essential values for our School and the field of public health.” This was the 41st consecutive Convocation MacKenzie has attended, first as a doctoral student, then as a professor and department chair.

Convocation speaker Laurie Garrett, an award-winning science writer, book author and one of the most prominent voices in global health, called upon this year’s graduates to “think horizontally, not vertically” about the challenges facing public health—vertically being a more methodical approach of “laying out a hypothesis and drilling down deeply for evidence.”

Dean MacKenzie honored Garrett with the Dean’s Medal, the highest recognition the School confers on public health leaders, for her extraordinary contributions to science journalism and fearless commitment to strengthening policy and advocacy for global health. “Laurie Garrett has long been on the forefront of global health issues and emerging infectious diseases,” Dean MacKenzie said. “She’s rigorous. She gets the science right. She uses it to change the world for the good.”

This year’s event also marked the 100th anniversary of the School’s first graduating class, consisting of just one person: John A. Ferrell, MD, who received a DrPH on June 24, 1919, three years after the School, which was then known as the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, was founded. During his decades-long career, Ferrell served as the U.S. director of the Rockefeller International Health Board, played a key role in the Rockefeller Foundation’s hookworm control program in the American South and was president of the American Public Health Association in 1933.

In her remarks, Garrett cautioned that public health successes, hard won over more than a century of concerted, global efforts, are now imminently threatened from factors like crumbling globalization and rising anti-government sentiments.

“Today we face, disunited, two sets of enormous challenges: erosion of our prior victories and all-new threats,” she said, noting that a heating planet, antimicrobial resistance and pandemic influenza are “harder to combat without global solidarity.”

For this cohort of public health graduates, Garrett concluded, “denial is not an option.”

Dean MacKenzie closed the ceremony with a call to the new graduates: “All of us in public health must become better at telling the story of our successes—and failures—in a way that captures the interest of those who can make a difference. That is my message to you: First, have a plan to change the world. Then, make it happen.”

Before receiving their degrees at Convocation, graduates stood and recited the International Declaration of Health Rights, a Bloomberg School tradition since the 1990s. The Declaration was composed by faculty and students on the occasion of the School’s 75th anniversary in 1991, and asks students to commit to “advocacy and action to promote the health rights of all human beings” as they move forward in their public health careers.

The new graduates join a network of more than 25,000 living alumni around the world.

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