Their feet may still be getting wet as they navigate
the complexities of their next education path, but, more
importantly, they're here.
In November, the Johns Hopkins
Health Institute welcomed its first three postdoctoral
fellows, kicking off a major academic phase for the
three-year-old institute charged with marshaling the
resources of the university and health system to improve
the health outcomes of the residents of East Baltimore
— an area of the city shackled with some of the most
alarming health care indicators in the nation.
The goal of the UHI Postdoctoral Research Fellowship
program is to promote future leaders in the field of urban
health research. The fellows, each working in tandem with a
Hopkins faculty member, carry out scholarly research and
publication on such issues as crime, unemployment, poverty,
substance abuse, diabetes, hypertension and other chronic
The fellows, who are contracted for one year and can
continue for another, utilize roughly a third of their time
working directly with the Urban Health Institute on tasks
that include grant writing and community surveys. The
remainder is spent conducting center-based research at the
schools of Medicine, Nursing, Public Health or Arts and
Claude Earl Fox, the director of the Urban Health
Institute, says that the fellowship program provides a
vital mechanism for the institute to synergize with centers
throughout the university on urban health issues.
"We need to establish collaborations with these
academic centers so that together we can better learn what
interventions are out there to alleviate some of East
Baltimore's health concerns," Fox says. "Quite simply,
these fellows give us the ability to have additional
research work done in the study of urban health. And,
hopefully, these individuals will turn out to be future
leaders in their field."
For their part, the fellows develop research proposals
and conduct independent research as the foundation for
their career development.
The postdocs learn and develop the techniques of
community-based participatory research, and have the
opportunity to obtain further training in neighborhood
analysis, community-based clinical trials and combining
qualitative and quantitative methods.
Bernard Guyer, Zanvyl Krieger Professor of Children's
Health at the School of Public Health, serves as senior
academic adviser to the Urban Health Institute and
coordinates the fellowship program. Guyer, who meets
monthly with the fellows, says that all three are promising
young scholars who share a passion for urban health
Vijay Singh, who has a medical degree and a master's
in public health from Johns Hopkins, has been working
alongside Jacquelyn Campbell from the School of Nursing to
survey and interview male primary-care patients for a pilot
study on the perpetration of domestic violence.
An epidemiologist, Sharon Smith is working in the
Morgan-Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solution with
mentor Tiffany Gary, assistant research professor in the
School of Public Health's Department of Epidemiology. For
the next year, Smith, who received her doctorate from the
University of South Carolina, will conduct research in
obesity for a college health and wellness study, analyzing
data on weight management activities and physical
Kisha Braithwaite, who has a doctorate in counseling
psychology from Howard University, is working with Phil
Leaf, a professor in the Department of Mental Health in the
School of Public Health, and Tina Cheng, associate
professor of pediatrics in the School of Medicine, on
violence prevention among youth and HIV/AIDS prevention for
adolescent mothers. Currently, Braithwaite is focused on
two academic papers: one concerned with black women and
depression; the other, with post-traumatic stress disorders
in assaulted or injured youth.
When not in the office, Braithwaite says, she's had
time to begin to familiarize herself with the community,
specifically local charitable and health care organizations
and societies. Braithwaite says she applied for the
fellowship to expand her knowledge of community-based
research, something not focused on in her degree
"I also wanted to gain more experience in research in
general, working with individuals who are very prominent in
their fields," Braithwaite says.
Braithwaite, who previously worked at the Kennedy
Krieger Institute in East Baltimore, says she was familiar
with the challenges that face that community, but the past
two months have opened her eyes even further.
"This experience already has reinforced for me the
great need for work to be done in this community," she
says. "Since I'm coming from a mental health background,
I'm interested in and focused on the environmental factors
that influence a person's well-being and how people deal
with these stresses."
Smith, in addition to her work with the School of
Public Health, has spent a good portion of her time helping
the Urban Health Institute develop a grant to increase the
number of minorities in doctoral programs.
Fox says that the time and expertise the fellows
provide will prove invaluable for the institute. He points
to a broad-based health status survey in East Baltimore
that the institute plans to carry out later this year that
will require extra manpower.
"These three people will help us advance our academic
agenda and ultimately help address the issues of East
Baltimore," Fox says.
The Urban Health Institute is currently working with
other Johns Hopkins centers and with Morgan State
University to bring on two to five more postdoctoral
fellows next year. Fox says that an announcement on the
details of this collaboration should come later next