Sharfstein Joins Hopkins School of Public Health

Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and  Mental Hygiene, will join the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health as its new associated dean for public health practice and training in January. (Provided)

Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and
Mental Hygiene, will join the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health as its new associated dean for public health practice and training in January. (Provided)

Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, will be stepping down from his current position and joining the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health as its new associated dean for public health practice and training.

The move is effective Jan. 1, 2015. Sharfstein will also hold a faculty position in the school’s department of health policy and management.

“I think it’s a good time and a great opportunity that will allow me to get involved more deeply in a number of issues I care about, help train future public heath leaders and also keep me involved in issues in the city and state,” Sharfstein said.

While he doesn’t have specifics yet, Sharfstein said he’ll be teaching classes on health policy at Hopkins. Come January, he plans to meet with other Hopkins faculty to discuss his new job and the opportunities it offers.

“Josh Sharfstein has had a distinguished career in public health practice and policy, and we are delighted that he is joining the faculty of the Bloomberg School,” Dean Michael J. Klag said in a statement. “Josh will bring a wealth of experience and insights that will strengthen the practice, teaching and research opportunities available to our faculty and students.”

Sharfstein, a Maryland native, graduated from Harvard Medical School and is a trained pediatrician. He served as Baltimore’s health commissioner, was deputy commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and chairs the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange in his current capacity. While the exchange has been the subject of much public scrutiny due to the troubled rollout of Maryland’s health exchange website, Sharfstein sounded hopeful
for the reopening of the exchange in November.

“One reason that I’m staying on through the end of the year is to see the exchange get to a much better place,” he said. “It’s going to be radically different.”

In a previous interview, Sharfstein counted among his biggest accomplishments organizing coalitions around public health outcomes, strengthening primary care, reorienting hospital incentives to support prevention and integrating mental health and substance-abuse treatment more into medical care.

“As a pediatrician and as a public servant, Josh Sharfstein has been committed to children, families and improving people’s lives,” Gov. Martin O’Malley said in a statement. “As the secretary of health and mental hygiene, he’s led the way as we have invested in public health and prevention, aligned the health care system to the vision of better health at lower cost and expanded health care coverage to hundreds of thousands of Marylanders. As a Marylander, I’m thrilled that he’s going to Johns Hopkins.”

O’Malley appointed Sharfstein to secretary of health and mental hygiene in January 2011. In his previous position, as an FDA deputy commissioner appointed by President Barack Obama, he worked to make the agency more transparent and took on food safety and tobacco use.

As Baltimore health commissioner, Sharfstein campaigned to warn parents about over-the-counter cough and cold medicines after the deaths of four Baltimore toddlers, worked with doctors to reduce overdose deaths in the city and spearheaded new community health data.

At Hopkins, Sharfstein will succeed Thomas Burke, who is Obama’s nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Research and Development. Burke is currently director of the school’s risk sciences and public policy institute and a professor of health policy and management and environmental health sciences.

Among the issues Sharfstein believes his successor — who will chair the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange as stipulated by the law — will have to handle is drug overdoses, with heroin use making some resurgence. Other challenges ahead may be unknown, as the health care system is in transition, but Sharfstein thinks the public is up for the discussions.

“The fact that health is really at the center of a lot of discussion in Maryland is a great thing,” he said. “Now, I think there’s a very strong recognition on Maryland [that] our health care system, even our economy, is dependent on public health.”

mshapiro@jewishtimes.com

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