blue tiled background pattern

Next Generation Scholarship

Sommer Scholars Traci Means (left) and Kyden Creekpaum join 26 other students in the specially designed leadership program's inaugural class.

By Greg Rienzi

The Bloomberg School's ninth floor conference room offers a spectacular view of Baltimore's skyline and landmarks such as Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Yet at a July orientation meeting, a group of just-arrived Hopkins Sommer Scholars zeroed in on the far-off U.S. Navy hospital ship, the USNS Comfort.

"They asked, 'Can we get a tour of the ship?' And then when I pointed out the Bayview Medical Center, where I had been vice president for operations, they said, 'Can we take a tour of that, too?' It was like, can I have another couple jelly beans?" says William J. Ward Jr., faculty director of the Sommer Scholars Program, laughing.

The inaugural group of Sommer Scholar MPH candidates began classes on July 8 and their doctoral counterparts started on September 1. Established in 2004 and named at the donor's request in honor of former Dean Alfred Sommer, the unique new scholarship program seeks to attract and train the next generation of public health leaders. The program supports up to 15 MPH and 15 doctoral students who receive full tuition and stipends for the duration of their academic programs. The first class of 28 consists of Fulbright Scholars, physicians, health policy experts, lawyers, a saxophone-playing biostatistician, a veteran of Australia's Royal Flying Doctor Service and an ophthalmologist who treats injuries at rock music festivals.

"My reaction to them is a little bit of shock and awe. These folks are absolutely incredible and are already doing so much," says Ward, MBA, associate professor of Health Policy and Management. "They're bright and energetic and have the noblest of goals: to do things to improve a lot of lives."

In addition to fulfilling MPH or doctoral degree curriculum requirements, the Hopkins Sommer Scholars will take part in a series of enrichment activities that include monthly dinner seminars, field trips, private informal meetings with visiting speakers, and leadership simulations. All the scholars participate in The Leslie and Thomas DeRosa Leadership Program, a specially designed series of co-curricular activities intended to develop personal skills, encourage collaboration and foster networking opportunities.

A faculty advisory panel will plan most of the program activities, but the scholars themselves will generate other activities. (One already wants to organize a group trip to an area in Africa that would benefit from broad public health assistance.)

Sommer says that the program has already succeeded in attracting the most outstanding applicants with a wide-ranging experience. "This first group is absolutely stellar," he says. "They're diverse in their background and cultures, and they're already proven leaders who therefore take best advantage of the leadership opportunities this special program provides."