In late 2003, oncologist Judith Karp was appointed to
the position of full professor at the
School of Medicine to honor her many accomplishments in
the field. A notable achievement in its own right, the
promotion was also a major milestone as she became the
100th female faculty member in the school's history to
achieve the illustrious rank.
Since Karp's promotion, which went unheralded at the
time due to lack of tracking, 10 more women have been made
professor at the school, most recently Pamela Ouyang from
the Department of Medicine. In comparison, 789 men have
achieved the rank of professor since the school opened in
To honor the great strides made in recent years to
women's advancement at Johns Hopkins Medicine, the School
of Medicine will host a symposium later this year that will
draw top female scientists and academics from around the
country, including Nobel laureate Linda Buck, who has
agreed to be the keynote speaker. The event will be titled
"The Legacy of Mary Elizabeth Garrett, 100 Women Professors
at Johns Hopkins Medicine."
Garrett, heir to the great Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
fortune, provided the key financial gift that enabled the
School of Medicine to open and to enroll its first class in
October 1893. She did have one major stipulation to her
gift: that women be admitted to the school on equal terms
as men and be "admitted on the same terms as men to all
prizes, dignities or honors that are awarded by competitive
examination, or regarded as rewards of merit."
Janice Clements, the Mary Wallace Stanton Professor of
Faculty Affairs and vice dean for faculty at the School of
Medicine, said that with Karp's promotion, Johns Hopkins
reached a landmark number that not long ago seemed out of
"One of the reasons this milestone is so important is
that the School of Medicine was endowed by a woman, Mary
Elizabeth Garrett, and [also by] someone who made sure that
women be included equally here with the edict that we have
women as students and faculty," Clements said. "The more
than 100 women professors we now have had in our history
shows us the importance of her gift and contribution. And
it's important to note that you don't get to be made a full
professor at Johns Hopkins without having made an important
impact in your field. We don't know what would have
happened if she didn't say that women should be educated
here and be such an important component."
Clements said that an informal survey of JHU's peer
institutions uncovered that many do not track the number of
female faculty promotions. One exception was Harvard, which
has promoted 106 women to full professor yet has a faculty
body more than twice the size of Johns Hopkins'.
Up until 1959, the School of Medicine granted only
department chairs the title of full professor, a rank given
to those who are considered leaders in their field, have an
international reputation and have made a unique
contribution. Among the rare exceptions before this were
two women: histologist Florence Sabin, who became professor
in 1917, and pediatric cardiologist Helen Taussig, in 1959.
These two women achieved such a lofty stature in their
professions, Clements said, that tradition was put
For more than a decade after the promotion policy was
changed, no woman achieved the professorial rank until
Caroline Thomas, in the Department of Medicine, broke the
barrier in 1970. During the next 15 years, the school
averaged one promotion of a female to full professor a
year. Clements said that part of reason for this slow
growth was that there was not a critical mass of women
faculty until the mid-1980s.
In 1990, Clements became the 24th female faculty
member to earn the rank of professor. She said it's a
significant achievement that in just the 15 years since,
the School of Medicine now has five times that number.
Clements said that Cathy DeAngelis, former vice dean
for academic affairs and faculty and now editor of the
Journal of the American Medical Association, should
be credited with turning the tide and shining attention on
the issue of female promotion at the School of Medicine.
In 1993, DeAngelis established the Women's Leadership
Council, whose mission is to advocate for the professional
development and advancement of women faculty in the School
of Medicine and to educate the leadership and faculty
regarding the critical issues they face. The council has a
16-member steering committee and includes representation
from all the basic science and clinical departments.
The University Committee on the Status of Women was
established in fall 2002 with Linda Fried, professor of
medicine, epidemiology and health policy at the schools of
Medicine and Public Health, appointed as chair. The UCSOW
had been preceded by the Provost's Committee on the Status
of Women, the first universitywide committee to focus on
that subject. This committee grew out of an action taken by
the Women's Forum, an organization for female faculty and
staff, that exists today as the Johns Hopkins University's
Clements, who sits on the steering committee of the
Women's Leadership Council, said that what these
organizations have done is promote mentoring opportunities
for women at Johns Hopkins, enhance recruitment and
retention efforts, and advocate for women to be placed in
positions where they can be leaders.
"Despite our progress, and even with the 100 milestone
being reached, we are still not where we should be,"
Clements said. "Since 1994, nearly half of the School of
Medicine's graduating class has been women, and we simply
don't recruit enough from this pool. What these committees
are doing is trying to uncover some of the impediments to
being recruited, retained and succeeding in medicine. The
Department of Medicine uncovered the fact in 1988 that
women were not being promoted because they were not being
recognized and recommended for promotion. When recommended,
women are promoted with the same frequency as male faculty.
This addresses [president of Harvard] Larry Summers' recent
comments about the abilities of women to succeed in science
and math; it is not about ability but opportunity and
In 2003, a Committee on Faculty Development and Gender
was established to examine the status of women in medicine
at Johns Hopkins. Last year the committee conducted an
online survey that focused on elements of salary,
leadership representation, attrition and other factors.
Cynthia Wolberger, a professor of biophysics and
biophysical chemistry who chairs the Committee on Faculty
Development and Gender, said that the results of the
recently completed study will be included in a final report
to be released sometime in May.
"What we were looking at primarily is what women need
to succeed here and feel included in the power structure,"
Wolberger said. "We looked at how we are training people
and [at] hiring policies and how we can do better."
The committee will include in its final report a list
of recommendations for the school.
"The No. 1 issue seems to be retention," she said. "We
have a growing number of women at the assistant and
associate professor level, plenty of people in the
pipeline, so we need to find ways to keep them here."