Johns Hopkins Gazette: April 15, 1996

You Can Go Home Again

Mike Field
Staff Writer

     William R. Brody received rousing ovations on the East
Baltimore and Homewood campuses in his first official appearances
since being named Hopkins' 13th president at a special Board of
Trustees meeting held the day before, April 8.

     Looking relaxed and at ease with his new duties, Brody met
with local and national reporters for three-quarters of an hour
before attending two open forums in which students, faculty and
staff were invited to meet the new president and ask questions.

     "This has been a longer process than I expected when we set
up the search," said Board of Trustees president Morris W. Offit
in brief introductory remarks at each event. "Hopkins is probably
the most complicated university in the United States, and so our
search was a long and complicated one as well. But it was a
process that has come to a happy conclusion."

     At the press conference in the Shriver Hall Board Room on
the Homewood campus, Brody was joined by Offit, Johns Hopkins
Initiative campaign chairman Michael Bloomberg, interim president
Daniel Nathans and George Bunting, chairman of The Johns Hopkins
Health System and Johns Hopkins Medicine. Brody's wife, Wendy,
sat nearby.

     "This is an extraordinary opportunity," said Brody, reading
from prepared remarks. "Hopkins is uniquely positioned to address
the issues of the 21st century and to take on those challenges."

     Acknowledging the scope and complexity of the university's
many undertakings, he suggested it would take some time to learn
the ropes. "No one can come in--no matter what my background may
have been--to this university knowing it all. This is a very
interesting and intriguing place, and it will take some time to
become thoroughly acquainted with it all."

     A former Hopkins professor of radiology in the School of
Medicine, and chair of Radiology at the Johns Hopkins Hospital,
Brody chaired the Committee for the 21st Century, a
university-wide planning effort that identified significant
challenges and suggested appropriate responses in the coming
years. He left Hopkins to become the first provost of the
University of Minnesota Academic Health Center. "I'll be getting
to know what's changed in the two years since I left," he said in
reference to his time away.

     During the question and answer period that followed, the new
president got an early taste of some of the challenges of being a
university president. Baltimore's conservative talk show host Les
Kinsolving, sitting directly in front of Brody in a lime green
sports jacket with an oversize microphone pointed in his
direction, was the first with a question. 

     Recently, said Kinsolving, a memorial plaque commemorating
the Japanese-Americans interred during World War II and intended
for display at a national park referred to the internment centers
as "concentration camps." Since former university president
Milton S. Eisenhower was involved in establishing the centers,
said Kinsolving, did the new president approve of the use of the
term "concentration camps"?

     Several university officials present blanched, and one or
two may have even groaned, but Brody seemed to take the question
in stride. "That's not an issue I am familiar with or have any
particular knowledge about," he said, and gracefully segued to
the next question.

     Most of the other questions from the press and others
attending the open forums were directed toward local concerns.
Should Hopkins expect continuing high levels of federal research
funding? How can the undergraduate experience be enhanced? What
about the university and the surrounding communities? Will
managed care spell the end of medicine as it is currently

     Brody answered the questions in a clear and precise manner,
acknowledging in some areas that he has not begun to make
decisions (such as the search for a new university provost),
while speaking forcefully to issues in which he has more
immediate experience. 

     "As managed care is currently administered it is against the
very things we hold dear," he told a nearly full Turner
Auditorium in response to a question from director of pediatric
neurosurgery Benjamin Carson. "It's like closing the research and
development plant when you've got too many auto factories. There
is a saying in managed care, 'no margin, no mission,' that nicely
sums up what it's all about. However, I think this initial wave
of managed care will peak and we will survive it. People in San
Diego and Minnesota [where managed care has largely replaced
conventional insurance] are getting fed up."

     Federally sponsored research was another area of
considerable concern for the new president. "The prospects are
reasonable, but I'm not overly optimistic," he said, predicting
that fewer universities will be engaging in basic research 10
years hence. "I think it's clear that grants will not continue to
grow at the same rate, which means we will have to become more
competitive. The key is we must work collaboratively across
divisions, which has already begun to happen but will have to
occur even more in the future."

     Part of his job, he suggested, will be to act as a spokesman
on behalf of researchers not just at Hopkins, but throughout the
higher education system. "America knows best how to do research,
but what we've forgotten is why," he said.

     In addition to threatened federal funding and the specter of
managed care, Brody mentioned tuition inflation as an area of
immediate concern. "If we experience the same rate of tuition
price growth in the next two decades as we had in the past two,
we'll price ourselves right out of the market," he said. "One
estimate I read said at that rate, a student starting
kindergarten today would be faced with tuitions of $350,000 a
year by the time he or she turns 18. Clearly, that is out of the

     Brody's two public appearances came as part of a whirlwind
36-hour visit to Maryland. In addition to seeing old
acquaintances and meeting faculty and students from across the
university, the Brodys dined  privately with interim president
Daniel Nathans and his wife and met briefly with deans, vice
presidents and health system officials. The next day, he went
downtown to meet with Baltimore mayor Kurt Schmoke and drove to
Annapolis to confer with Gov. Parris Glendening. Brody and his
wife will be frequent visitors to the university in the weeks
ahead, and plan to move to Baltimore, no later than Sept. 1.

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