Current Issue
Star Rising
The Power of Numbers
Health Dividends
Questions Sparked by Revolution
Dean's Message
News Briefs
Class Notes Past Issues
Give a Gift
RSPH home
Contact Us

Inaugural Boisfeuillet Jones Scholar

ack from the beachfront dotted with expensive houses and flocks of tourists is the real world of this Philippine island. The people live in poverty: their homes are one-room shanties, and their living conditions open the door to a host of infectious diseases—diarrheal and respiratory disease, tuberculosis, pneumonia.
     Joni Solomon, a Filipino physician, worked in a three-bed clinic on this island, where, despite her efforts, children died of pneumonia and diarrhea, who could have been cured with better medicines or earlier intervention. “I saw a lot of death that could have been prevented. As a doctor, that frustrates me,” she says.
In the Philippines, the health challenges are not just contained on the remote island, 20 minutes by air from the nearest big island and some two hours from Luzon on the main island. In the biggest public hospital in the country, where Solomon interned, there was no room to isolate patients with tuberculosis. “In the United States, when people with TB refuse treatment, they can be quarantined,” says Solomon, “but at home, there is no such response.”
     Solomon, the baby of her family, had never studied abroad, but she felt she needed additional skills to make a dent in the health care challenges in her native land. An opportunity led her to this country and to the RSPH to pursue an MPH in 2003. She originally considered 10 schools, applied to four, and was accepted at all of them. Her choice of Emory came down to the presence of the CDC next door and a scholarship. “With 55 pesos to the dollar, I couldn’t have afforded it without a scholarship,” Solomon says.
     Solomon is the school’s first Boisfeuillet Jones Scholar. Jones had a relationship with Emory for seven decades—as student, teacher, administrator, and trustee. During the 1950s, he was Emory’s vice president of health services. He went on to serve under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson as special assistant to the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, where his duties included responsibility for the U.S. Public Health Service. He returned to Atlanta as head of the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, which during his tenure supported many health initiatives.
     Anne Jones, his widow, discussed an appropriate memorial to her husband with her children, Emory trustee Laura Hardman and Washington Post publisher Boisfeuillet Jones Jr. “We decided one of the most effective things you can do for an institution of higher education is to endow a scholarship,” says Jones, who served for many years as a trustee of her alma mater, Agnes Scott.

     Jones is nothing short of delighted with the first recipient of the scholarship. She has gotten to know Solomon over lunches and brags on the young scholar as she would on one of her own children. She met Solomon’s mother and sister for lunch when they came to Atlanta for graduation, and Jones was impressed by the closeness among them. When Jones attended graduation, Solomon had more good news for her: an A on her thesis. “She told me she didn’t want to disappoint me or her family,” Jones says.
     Anne Jones has only one regret about Joni Solomon—that Boisfeuillet Jones didn’t get to meet her. “She sets a high level for future recipients,” Jones says, “and I will follow her career. If we’re going to make this world better, she’s the kind of person who’ll do it.”
Aunt Sallie's example
allie Lee was a familiar sight to her Beverly Hills neighbors: a spry, gray-haired woman riding a tricycle and picking up aluminum cans to recycle. Full of energy and spirit, Lee cared about the environment, children, and education, according to her nephew and the trustee of her estate, Robert Freeman.
     Freeman, a retired executive, is following in his aunt’s path with his volunteer work with leadership in the Atlanta Community Food Bank and Medshare. A nonprofit company Freeman cofounded in 1998, Medshare is dedicated to recycling unused medical supplies and equipment to health care institutions in developing countries. RSPH students volunteer with the effort, which has recycled more than $25 million to countries around the world since its founding.
     Freeman met Dean James Curran through service on the RSPH Dean’s Council. As Freeman learned more about the RSPH, he realized he had found a cause that Sallie Lee would embrace: supporting the education of young, bright people.
     Since the establishment of the Sallie B. Lee scholarship in 1997, Freeman has been impressed with the diversity of the recipients. This year’s scholar, Katie LaFond, is an environmental and occupational health student who is interested in how infectious diseases interact with the environment. Her work in Lesley McGee’s laboratory, which focuses on antibiotic resistance and the global epidemiology of pneumococci, led to a summer internship in South Africa with global health professor Keith Klugman, who has an active research program in Johannesburg on pneumococcal disease.

     During the 2005-2006 academic year, LaFond will broaden her studies as a fellow in the Center for the Study of Health, Culture, and Society. Her education is fueling the question that originally brought her to public health: how diseases respond to human behavior. “Our environment responds to us,” says LaFond. “Dumping toxins into the environment or dumping antibiotics into ourselves or our animals may come back in ways that we don’t expect.”
The making of a public health physician
n the 1980s, Tom Sellers, as chairman of the Department of Community Health in Emory School of Medicine, found himself defending and promoting a place for public health on campus.
     Sellers had public health in his bloodline. His father earned a public health degree in 1918 from Johns Hopkins and later went to Emory’s medical school at the age of 32. The senior Sellers was director of the state of Georgia’s Division of Public Health for 12 years. Before that, he served there as director of laboratories for more than 30 years.
     Tom Sellers’ son, Wade, was in the first class to graduate from RSPH in 1990, the year it became a school. “When Wade was a boy and was asked, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up,’ he’d say ‘I don’t know, but I won’t be a doctor,’” his father remembers. He would change his mind, but his career path as a physician has not been a conventional one.
     After college, Wade Sellers took an orderly job in the mental health wards at Grady Memorial Hospital. With doctoring in his family, that experience led him to pursue medical studies. After getting his M.D., he joined the Fulton County Department of Health. He was drafted into the Public Health Services Corps and assigned to run the state health department clinics in Albany. He later returned to the RSPH for an MPH. “He wasn’t happy with the traditional medicine choices,” says Tom Sellers, “but he is very happy in public health.” Today, the younger Sellers is in charge of state public health programs in two districts in Northwest Georgia.
     Tom Sellers was instrumental in building Emory’s community health program, the precursor of the school, and on his retirement, his colleagues and friends joined together to honor that effort with an endowed scholarship in his name. Fittingly, it supports students in the joint MD/MPH program, which allows medical students to earn an MPH in one year of course work between their third and fourth years of medical school. Each year, approximately 12 students enter the program.

     “Emory makes it easy to do the MD/MPH,” says current Sellers scholar Jim Johnson.
     Johnson, whose own grandfather was a general surgeon, says it was easier to consider incorporating public health into his medical studies because of the funding he received from the Sellers scholarship. He has just completed his MPH year and a summer research project on methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus at Grady Memorial Hospital.
     “This year changed my perspective,” says Johnson. “During medical school, you are so busy, you often don’t have time to see the bigger picture. During this year, I became more aware of how our health care system impacts a particular patient, how you can change the system, and how advocacy at a higher level can bring a lot of influence to bear.”
  THERE IS NO WAY AROUND IT: private education is expensive. It is particularly expensive when the students pursuing that private education are preparing for a field that emphasizes the promotion of health worldwide rather than the accumulation of personal wealth. High levels of debt may prevent public health graduates from doing what they are trained to do—bring interventions to developing countries or to run nonprofit clinics in the inner city.
The solution? A substantial endowment for scholarships is one way to attract the brightest students, and it is a crucial element of a newly completed strategic plan for the RSPH. If you’d like more information on supporting scholarships and enabling RSPH graduates, please contact Kathryn Graves, assistant dean for development and external relations, at 404-727-3352,


past issues . contact us . home
give a gift . rsph home

Copyright © Emory University, 2004. All Rights Reserved