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 practiced? 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 question." 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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