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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University March 20, 2006 | Vol. 35 No. 26
Obituary: Cheryl Alexander of Bloomberg School, Expert in Adolescent Health

Educated first as a nurse, Cheryl Alexander came to Johns Hopkins in 1971 to pursue a doctorate in public health. Throughout her career, she studied the effects of contextual influences on adolescent health behaviors.

By Tim Parsons
School of Public Health

Cheryl Alexander, a leader in the study of adolescent health and a longtime professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, died at home on March 10 after a long battle with ocular melanoma. She was 60 years old.

Alexander was part of the School of Public Health for more than 30 years, first as a student and then as a member of the faculty. A nurse trained in public health and behavioral sciences, Alexander was a professor in the department of Population and Family Health Sciences. She also held joint appointments in the Department of Health Policy and Management and in the School of Nursing.

The daughter of James Sedlacek and Frances Adcock Sedlacek, Alexander was born in 1945 and, due to her father's career as a dentist in the Navy, lived in many states throughout her childhood, graduating from Churchland High School in Portsmouth, Va., in 1963. She received her nursing degree in 1967 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and taught nursing at North Carolina Central University and the University of Maryland before earning a master of arts in nursing from New York University in 1971. Alexander earned her master of public health degree from Johns Hopkins in 1973 and her doctorate in 1977.

Throughout her career, Alexander examined how contextual influences--such as neighborhood, school, peers and families--impacted adolescent health behaviors. She also studied the role of gender in the health of young people. In 1993, she became the founding director of the Center for Adolescent Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the Bloomberg School, which she led for 10 years. The federally funded center works in partnership with young people, advocates who work with youth, and community and public policy-makers to help urban adolescents develop healthy lifestyles. Since 2000, she had served as co-investigator for the Trial of Activity for Adolescent Girls, or TAAG.

Alexander published more than 50 research articles and book chapters related to the study of adolescent health. She also served on a number of advisory committees, including the Johns Hopkins Center for Youth Violence Advisory Committee; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Minority AIDS Initiative Evaluation Review Panel; and the Forum on Adolescence and the Committee on Community-Level Youth Programs, both for the National Academy of Sciences. She was a member of the external advisory board of NYU's College of Dentistry Oral Disparities Center and the board of directors of the After School Training Institute.

In 1999, she served as distinguished academic visitor at Auckland University in New Zealand. Alexander also received honors from Delta Omega, the national public health honorary society; the National Institute of Mental Health Fellowship; the American Academy of Nursing; and Sigma Theta Tau, the national nursing honorary society. In April 2005, the Society for Adolescent Medicine honored Alexander with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

Throughout her career at Johns Hopkins, Alexander served as adviser to dozens of doctoral students. She also volunteered on a variety of department and university advisory committees. She is remembered fondly as a caring and enthusiastic colleague and mentor.

Alexander is survived by her husband of 15 years, Rick Cain; her father and stepmother, James and Constance Sedlacek, of Zellwood, Fla.; a brother, Roger Sedlacek, of Gainesville, Fla.; a daughter, Karen Alexander McGinley, and her husband, Paul McGinley, of Catonsville; a son, Brian Alexander, of Washington, D.C.; a stepson, Seth Cain, of Catonsville; and a stepdaughter, Chani Cain, and her fiance, Jesse Kendall, of Hampden. Alexander loved to garden, cook, sail, travel and spend time outdoors. She was especially proud of her new role as "Marmee" to her four-month-old granddaughter, Eleanor Grace Alexander McGinley.

The School of Public Health will hold a memorial service at 4 p.m. on April 18 in Sommer Hall, and a private memorial service is being arranged for family and close friends. The family has established the Cheryl Alexander Memorial Student Scholarship to support students focusing on adolescent health and requests that donations be made to the scholarship in lieu of flowers. Checks should be made out to The Johns Hopkins University and sent to the Bloomberg School of Public Health at 615 N. Wolfe St., W1600, Baltimore, MD 21205.


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