Josh Sharfstein named inaugural director of JHU's Bloomberg American Health Initiative

Effort will focus on key public health threats: addiction and overdose, risks to adolescent health, environmental challenges, obesity and the food system, and violence

Joshua M. Sharfstein, associate dean for public health practice and training at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has been named inaugural director of the school's Bloomberg American Health Initiative, which was launched in September with a $300 million gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Josh Sharfstein

Image caption: Josh Sharfstein

Image credit: Chris Hartlove

Sharfstein came to Johns Hopkins in 2015 after serving as secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. He was previously the principal deputy commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Baltimore City's commissioner of health, and a health policy advisor for former Congressman Henry A. Waxman. He earned his medical degree from Harvard Medical School.

Sharfstein will also continue to serve as associate dean and professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management.

"The Bloomberg American Health Initiative is the outgrowth of an unprecedented investment from our school's namesake, philanthropist and former New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, designed to develop innovative solutions to the health threats facing the United States in the 21st century," said Michael J. Klag, dean of the Bloomberg School. "We could think of no one better to lead this project than Josh Sharfstein, who will help us create the building blocks needed to get us to this ambitious goal of transforming the national response to modern public health challenges."

Michelle L. Spencer, director of the Prevention & Health Promotion Administration at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, has been named the initiative's associate director.

Spencer has worked closely with Sharfstein over the years, in roles as senior advisor to the secretary at the state health department and chief of staff at the city health department. In her current position, Spencer oversees the Bureaus of Maternal and Child Health, Environmental Health, Chronic Disease and Infectious Disease at the state health department. She has a master's in Health Services Management and Policy from New School University. She will join the Bloomberg School next month.

In their new roles, Sharfstein and Spencer will work with the faculty, leadership of the school and university, the Bloomberg Philanthropies, and many others to build the structure and process that will be the foundation for this new public health initiative.

The Bloomberg American Health Initiative will put a laser-like focus on key public health threats: addiction and overdose, risks to adolescent health, environmental challenges, obesity and the food system, and violence. The school's current work in these areas and expertise in using data-driven approaches to analyzing large public health problems will serve as a foundation for this groundbreaking effort. The initiative will allow the school to conduct research, train a new generation of leaders, and team up with public and private organizations across the country to help us find new solutions to these tough problems.