Newswise — Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health will hold a virtual convocation to recognize the graduating Class of 2021 on Tuesday, May 25, at 3 p.m. This year’s keynote speaker is Kizzmekia S. Corbett, PhD, a viral immunologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Vaccine Research Center, who co-led the National Institutes of Health team that helped develop the Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

The more than 940 students graduating this year will enter public health at a historic time as some parts of the world recover from the pandemic and others continue to fight the scourge of COVID-19. The Class of 2021 will graduate exactly 100 years after the first cohort of Master of Public Health students graduated into a world recovering from the 1918 flu pandemic at what was then known as the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health.

The past year has illustrated the power of public health as well as its fragility—marked by a devastating pandemic and a long-overdue reckoning with inequity, racism, and injustice.

The Convocation ceremony will also feature Ellen J. MacKenzie, dean of the Bloomberg School, the country’s #1-ranked school of public health, and Bloomberg School student and faculty speakers. During Convocation, Dean MacKenzie will honor Corbett with the Dean’s Medal, the highest recognition the Bloomberg School confers on public health leaders. 

In her remarks, Corbett will discuss how graduates’ careers in public health will be akin to a “war”—against the COVID-19 virus, as well as health inequity and injustice. Corbett will implore graduates to be prepared for a battle—to build the skills, the allies, and the purpose to fight, even when times are hard.

Corbett spent the last several years working on coronavirus vaccines at NIH—work that resulted in the development of Moderna’s mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine. She’s also worked to develop a universal flu vaccine. Corbett has also been working to rebuild vaccine trust among communities of color and serves as a mentor.

Corbett received a BS in biological sciences and sociology in 2008 from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, where she was a student in the Meyerhoff Scholars Program. She received a PhD in microbiology and immunology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2014. As part of her doctoral work, Corbett studied the role of human antibodies in dengue virus pathogenesis in Sri Lanka. Since 2014, Corbett has been a postdoctoral Research Fellow at NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center. She is also team lead for Coronavirus Research within the Vaccine Research Center’s Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory.

Her work has earned her recognition and accolades. When TIME magazine named Corbett to the “TIME100 Next” emerging leaders list in February 2021, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, wrote her profile.

In her remarks, Dean MacKenzie will call upon the Bloomberg School Class of 2021 to stay optimistic about the promise of a different future and graduates’ role in making that future possible. She will ask graduates to begin their professional lives with a commitment to eliminating loss and suffering and ending racism.

Dean MacKenzie will implore the new class to prepare themselves for action, to take risks, while building resilience for hard times ahead. She will also outline her vision for what it means to rethink, reinvest in, and rebuild our public health system. She’ll note that it begins with leadership—from new graduates and alumni who are already making a difference around the world.

The Class of 2021 Convocation, taped earlier this month, will recognize 948 graduates from 61 countries. Of these, 103 will receive doctoral degrees and 854 will receive master’s degrees. The final Class of 2021 graduate numbers will be released on May 26.

Media may quote from the comments and pull audio and video from the recording.


2021 Virtual Convocation for the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health


Tuesday, May 25, 3 p.m.



To follow and participate in social media coverage of the Class of 2020 Virtual Convocation, use the hashtag #JHU2021. Twitter accounts: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health @JohnsHopkinsSPH.

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