What's in a name? When it comes to the School of
Medicine's advisory colleges, the answer is "a great
For the past two years, newly accepted medical
students have been assigned to specific mentoring groups.
These advisory colleges were simply known as A, B, C and D.
Now the schools will be named after four historic
figures whose contributions to teaching at Johns Hopkins
continue to have resonance within the institution's
culture. Colleges A, B, C and D will now be called,
respectively, Sabin, Thomas, Nathans and Taussig.
Florence Sabin was a dedicated pathologist and
anatomist who made significant contributions to the field
of histology and, in 1917, became the school's first female
full professor. Vivien Thomas was an
African-American surgery assistant, and one of the heroes
of the "blue baby operation," who went on to teach
generations of prominent surgeons at the school. Dan
Nathans was co-recipient, with Hamilton O. Smith, of
the 1978 Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering the
chemical knives that cut DNA and was known as a superb
mentor and brilliant voice for academic integrity.
Pediatric cardiologist Helen Taussig was honored for
her pioneering work in congenital heart disease and for her
clinical teaching and devotion to her young patients.
The advisory colleges were developed to give students
a structured, organized way to receive mentorship
throughout their entire medical school careers. Functioning
in some sense like academic clubs, the schools afford
students not only a productive sense of peer membership as
it relates to the learning process but also foster
dedicated relationships with specific faculty, who are
assigned to each division.
As the new advisory colleges became more relevant to
the school's culture and operations, and as students began
to strongly identify with them, the simple lettered naming
scheme somehow seemed like a missed opportunity. It was
soon decided these "schools," which had quickly achieved
institutional permanence, should be given names befitting
"We realized the historical opportunity of naming
these schools," said David Nichols, vice dean for
education. "As internal institutions, they have become
quite meaningful to our students and faculty, and so we
felt they were deserving of names that underscored how
important they have become to the culture of learning
Naming the schools was not an easy task. First, it had
to be decided what the dedications should recognize: famous
doctors, Baltimore landmarks, ancient cities? After much
deliberation among a committee made up of 16 students, five
faculty members and various others from throughout the
university, the conclusion was reached: The schools would
posthumously honor four Johns Hopkins faculty members for
the outstanding mentorship they offered their students.
The official naming of the schools took place on May
30 during the 12th annual White Coat Ceremony, a
rite-of-passage event at which first-year medical students
are presented with their white coats, signifying their
graduation into clinical rotations and their progression
toward becoming physicians.
"The advisory schools model really represents a new
and exciting way to educate our students going into the
future," said Edward D. Miller, CEO of Johns Hopkins
Medicine and dean of the medical faculty, "[and]
remembering our rich history of mentorship, and the people
who pioneered such unprecedented tutelage, makes our
decision to name these organizations even more historically