Johns Hopkins Gazette: May 19, 1997

Bill Gates' Foundation
Funds SPH Program

Margaret Hindman
Special to The Gazette
Microsoft Corporation chairman Bill Gates' foundation has awarded the School of Public Health $2.25 million to use computer-based learning and other methods to assist family planning professionals in developing nations.

The grant from the William H. Gates Foundation, established by Gates and his wife, Melinda French Gates, creates the Family Planning Leadership Education Institute in the school's Department of Population Dynamics.

The institute's mission embraces all three priorities Bill Gates has established for his charitable giving: education, population issues and access to technology.

"Melinda and I are anxious that the wonderful progress which has been made in diminishing the world's potentially disastrous birth rate over the last 30 years continues," Gates said. "We believe that a critical ingredient in this progress is indigenous leadership and expertise. The Johns Hopkins Leadership Education Institute should make a significant contribution."

The institute will train family planning and reproductive health professionals from developing nations, paying for their education at the School of Public Health. It will also offer them information, advice and collaboration after they return home and provide computer-based distance education for their staffs.

"By a broad range of measures, many of us believe that rapid population growth is truly the most serious problem confronting the world today," said W. Henry Mosley, chairman of the Department of Population Dynamics. Overpopulation can best be addressed by "investment in training and research, carefully integrated with the development of public policy that supports and sustains it," he said.

The Gates Foundation grant will allow the school to expand its current training initiatives significantly, he said.

"Programs and policies come and go, but in the long run, it is the human investment that pays the greatest premium in social change," said Laurie Schwab Zabin, a faculty member in both the School of Public Health and the School of Medicine at Hopkins. "The capacity to build and innovate, to influence and teach, to learn and adapt, endures for a lifetime."

The new institute will invite senior professionals in the population field from developing nations to serve as William H. Gates Leadership Fellows, allowing them to spend several months on campus in an intensive postdoctoral program. Others identified as potential leaders will receive William H. Gates Scholarships at Hopkins for master's or doctoral study in population economics, communications, or management and design of family planning programs.

Once the Gates Leadership Fellows and Scholars return to their own countries, faculty mentors from the School of Public Health will continue to provide advice and, in some cases, on-site assistance in the design, funding or implementation of programs.

"International collaboration of this sort can grow into continuing relationships that greatly strengthen a developing country's population activities," Mosley said.

Finally, the Gates Foundation grant will fund distance-learning training for the colleagues and support staff of Family Planning Leadership Education Institute graduates.

"We will seek the guidance of in-country professionals to determine the training needs of persons who cannot--and need not- -leave their jobs to come to the school," Zabin said.

Courses will incorporate a range of distance education strategies, including videotapes; the World Wide Web; Internet listserves, chat groups, and e-mail; CD-ROMs; audio teleconferencing; and other telecommunication tools.

"The key to the effectiveness of this sort of training is the ability of faculty and students to interact," said Mos-ley, who has directed "virtual" workshops for scholars from across the United States and Canada.

"One of Johns Hopkins' most important missions is to use its expertise to help resolve critical problems around the globe," university president William R. Brody said." The support of Bill and Melinda Gates and the Gates Foundation opens important and exciting new avenues for us to provide that help. We are very grateful."

"We are extremely pleased that Bill and Melinda Gates have decided to become partners with the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in supporting the Family Planning Leadership Education Institute," said Alfred Sommer, the school's dean. "This grant will greatly enhance our efforts to develop appropriate technologies to expand the availability of distance education in the developing world."

The Gates Foundation grant has helped bring the Johns Hopkins Initiative to $732.6 million in total commitments, 81 percent of its overall goal of $900 million for the Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Medicine. The campaign, launched publicly in 1994, is scheduled to end in 2000.

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