Bloomberg School Women Leading the School and the Field

Journey to the Dean's Office

Five alumnae share their journeys from student to public health school dean.

By Jackie Powder • Image by Lerbank/Getty Images

Last summer, a group of women faculty from the Bloomberg School, including Dean Ellen MacKenzie, gathered at a dinner to celebrate colleague Ann-Michele Gundlach’s retirement from Health Policy and Management.  

Not long afterward, Dean MacKenzie learned that six Bloomberg School alumnae serve as deans of public health schools and suggested getting the group together, recalls Keshia Pollack Porter, PhD ’06, MPH, the School’s associate dean for faculty. 

“I said, ‘I’ll make it happen!’” says Pollack Porter. 

At The Power of Women in Public Health event on March 23, MacKenzie, PhD ’79, ScD ’75, will host four of the women deans. The discussion, to be moderated by Gundlach, EdD, MS, will focus on the women’s rise to leadership, the impact of women leaders in the field, and advice for future leaders.

“Public health as a field is dominated by women, but we don’t see that at the top,” says Pollack Porter. “It’s important to talk about why it matters to have women leaders."

  • 1920

    Margaret Baxter MacDonald and Helen Mary Powell are the first women to graduate from the School.

  • Isabel Morgan


    Isabel Morgan, PhD, in Epidemiology, helps to demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of a killed-virus polio vaccine, paving the way for Jonas Salk’s vaccine.

  • Margaret Merrell


    Margaret Merrell, ScD ’30, chief statistician for landmark clinical trials using penicillin to treat syphilis during World War II, is the first woman to be appointed full professor at the School.

  • Sushila Nayar


    Sushila Nayar, MD, DrPH ’50, is appointed health minister of India, the first national health agency led by a JHSPH alumna and the largest ever led by any School alumni.

  • Anna M. Baetjer


    Anna M. Baetjer, ScD ’24, establishes at Johns Hopkins one of the nation’s first research and training programs in environmental toxicology.

  • Susan P. Baker


    Susan P. Baker, MPH ’68, develops the Injury Severity Score, the first field method to assess the likelihood of a fatality, given various combinations of injuries.

  • Edyth Schoenrich


    Edyth Schoenrich, MD, MPH ’71, is appointed associate dean for Academic Affairs, then the highest rank attained by a woman at JHU.

  • Bernice Cohen


    Bernice Cohen, MD, MPH ’59, establishes at JHSPH the nation’s first graduate program in genetic epidemiology.

  • Karen Davis


    Karen Davis, PhD, is appointed chair of Health Policy and Management—becoming the first woman department chair across all of Johns Hopkins.

  • Phyllis Piotrow


    Phyllis Piotrow, PhD ’71, founds the Center for Communication Programs, which leads in creating the field of public health communication.

  • Antonia C. Novella


    Antonia C. Novella, MD, MPH ’82, is appointed U.S. Surgeon General, becoming the first woman and first Hispanic to hold the position. She goes on to head the New York State Department of Health, the largest U.S. state or municipal health agency.

  • Laurie Schwab Zabin


    Laurie Schwab Zabin, PhD ’79, becomes the founding director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health.

  • Martha N. Hill


    Martha N. Hill, MSN, PhD ’86, who served from 1997 to 1998 as president of the American Heart Association, becomes dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing.

  • Diane E. Griffin


    Diane E. Griffin, MD, PhD, chair of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, 1994–2015, is elected vice president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

  • Ellen J. MacKenzie


    Ellen J. MacKenzie, PhD ’79, ScM ’75, is appointed the 11th dean of the Bloomberg School, becoming the first woman to hold the position.

  • Lauren Underwood


    Lauren Underwood, MSN, MPH ’09, is elected to represent Illinois’ 14th congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives.