Kurt Herzer and Rishi Mediratta are both heading to
the United Kingdom next year to further
their separate research interests in improving global
Herzer and Mediratta were selected by the British
government Dec. 1 as Marshall Scholars, two
of only 40 scholars named nationwide. Funded by the British
government, the scholarships provide
American students the opportunity to study at any British
university for two to three years, covering
university fees and living expenses as well as travel fare
to and from the United States.
"I am thrilled by this news," said John Bader,
associate dean for undergraduate affairs in the
Krieger School and national scholarships adviser, who
coached both students through the application
process. "These very special young men have already brought
great honor to our university. They are
inspirational public servants, leaders and scholars.
Winning the Marshall, a crown jewel of higher
education, only makes it more obvious that they are poised
for greatness. I will watch that unfold with
pride and pleasure."
Herzer is on track to receive his bachelor's degree in
studies in the spring.
Mediratta earned his bachelor's degree in public health
anthropology in May and is
currently living in Ethiopia, supported by the Florence
"Meg" Long Walsh Second Decade Society
Leadership Award he received as a graduating senior. The
award affords the recipient one year of
postgraduate study abroad to further test and develop his
or her knowledge and leadership skills in a
broader international context.
Herzer, 21, plans to enroll in Oxford University's
Evidence-Based Social Intervention master's
degree program within the Department of Social Policy and
Social Work. He is interested in advancing
public health interventions related to health care quality
and safety that are firmly grounded in
scientific evidence. Herzer eventually hopes to pursue a
medical degree in addition to his research
"The academic independence that the university offers
is an excellent match with my
preferred approach to learning and scientific inquiry,"
Herzer wrote in his Marshall application essay.
"I am eager to form the lifelong mentorships and
friendships for which Oxford is famous. And, as I
always make time for hobbies, I would consider it an honor
to join the university's highly regarded
cycling team or audition for its orchestra."
Herzer's work is informed by his own experiences with
a visual disability discovered during his
childhood. Legally blind as a result of a genetic condition
affecting his retina, Herzer says that one of
his earliest memories is of an ophthalmologist telling him
and his parents how the disability would limit
what he could accomplish in life. Undeterred, Herzer found
creative ways around obstacles that would
have kept him from his schoolwork or childhood hobbies.
Today, he is an advocate for better academic
accommodations for students with disabilities, volunteering
to teach computer skills to younger legally
blind children. Most recently, he collaborated with the
National Federation of the Blind of Maryland
on legislation making it possible for visually impaired
students to receive large-print textbooks at the
same time as their sighted peers, rather than weeks after
classes begin. He testified for the
Maryland General Assembly, which later passed the bill. For
Herzer, solving problems requires both an
understanding of the social reality of those affected and
the skills to find solutions at a higher level.
Kurt Herzer and his mentor, Peter
Pronovost, with a patient at The Johns Hopkins
Photo by Keith Weller
Herzer says he will use this scholarship opportunity
"to bring real-world problem solving to
health care," relying on both his own personal experiences
as well as his technical, clinical and political
Woodrow Wilson Research Fellowship and with support
from a Merck Global Health
Scholarship and the Bander Family International Fund,
Herzer has studied health care quality and
patient safety both nationally and internationally,
traveling abroad to work with patient safety leaders
in the United Kingdom and at the World Health Organization.
In the Department of Anesthesiology
and Critical Care Medicine at The Johns Hopkins Hospital,
Herzer works on a number of perioperative
safety initiatives centered in the Weinberg Operating
Rooms. He has presented much of this work at
national and international conferences and recently
delivered a talk on health care quality in Mexico at
an inaugural medical congress.
Herzer's mentor, Peter Pronovost, a patient safety
expert and a professor of
anesthesiology, critical care medicine and surgery at
the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, describes him as "a
"Kurt is something magical," Pronovost wrote in his
letter of support. "He is a visionary thinker
who sees making a huge social impact in the world as his
primary mission. But he is also a systems
thinker, who sees the end game and the bumps and hurdles
along the way as something to be managed.
It is not just big ideas and dreams — Kurt executes
Mediratta, 22, will study medical anthropology at the
School of Oriental and African Studies
and Public Health in Developing Countries at the London
School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He
is interested in how families recognize and label childhood
illnesses and how the public health
community can mobilize families to seek health services.
"Studying medical anthropology and public health will
be a critical step for me to address the
root causes of social inequalities in health care,"
Mediratta wrote in his Marshall application essay.
"Understanding the socio-cultural dynamics in communities
will equip me to champion more effective
child health programs."
The scholarship will allow Mediratta to continue to
pursue health programs for developing
countries battling pediatric infectious disease.
Since 2006, his focus has been on Ethiopia, where
diarrheal diseases are a leading cause of
death in children. He is the founder and president of the
Ethiopian Orphan Health Foundation, a
nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health of
orphans in Gondar, Ethiopia, where he is
currently working. Mediratta first became interested in
working in Ethiopia after a chance meeting
with Richard Hodes, who trained in internal medicine at
Johns Hopkins, in the Detroit airport. They
exchanged e-mail addresses, discussed their mutual interest
in Third World medicine, and Mediratta
eventually used funding from three university programs
Woodrow Wilson Undergraduate Research
Provost's Undergraduate Research Award and a Framework
Program in Global Health
award — to travel to Ethiopia and work in Hodes'
clinic during several visits, beginning in January 2006.
Mediratta studied how widespread misconceptions in
child care caused mothers to unwittingly
harm their children suffering from diarrhea. He interviewed
440 mothers about the risk factors and
management of diarrheal disease and discovered that the
majority of mothers gave their children less
food and fluids when they were ill — the opposite of
the standard treatment for diarrhea. He then
devised a pictograph and coached a youth drama group in a
program he designed to reframe mothers'
cultural beliefs about how to treat the disease. It's an
experience he hopes to bring to other
impoverished regions as a physician and public health
Writing in support of Mediratta's Marshall
application, James Goodyear, associate director of
the undergraduate Public Health Studies Program at Johns
Hopkins, said, "Mr. Mediratta's focus on
Ethiopia and his long-term commitment reflect a seriousness
of purpose reminiscent of a young Paul
Farmer, who started his early career as a medical
anthropologist in Haiti. Like Dr. Farmer, Mr.
Mediratta is in this for the long haul. He has been
developing a skill set that not only involves patient
contact but community organizing, fund raising, research
and publishing. It is a powerful record of
professional achievement and academic performance that he
will bring with him as a Marshall Scholar
According to Bader, this year's pair of scholars
brings the university's total Marshall winners to
six in the past eight years.