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The Everywhere School

Does a chance encounter in a small, distant town reveal the power of coincidence—or the ubiquity of Hopkins?

Brian W. Simpson, Editor
By Brian W. Simpson, MPH ’13, Editor

Late one evening last May, I was walking in the rain along the dark streets of Ferney-Voltaire, France. The day had begun very early with a long wait in the security line for the World Health Assembly in nearby Geneva. I was there to cover the meeting for Global Health NOW. (If you aren’t familiar with our website that delivers essential news and views for the global health community, please visit Global Health Now.)

After a day of covering alternately fascinating and mind-numbing meetings, I was exhausted and hungry. Since it was almost 10 at night, I had two choices: A fluorescent café or a second-floor pizza restaurant. I opted for pizza and climbed the narrow steps. The place was packed and clearly I was in for a long wait. I scanned the room for options.

Suddenly I realized the gentleman seated at a table in front of me was Bob Blum, chair of Population, Family and Reproductive Health at the Bloomberg School. “Bob!” I yelled, relieved to see a familiar face (and an open spot at a table). My out-of-context appearance gave him a moment’s pause before he smiled broadly and shook my hand. We shared a great meal and marveled at the coincidence.

That week I also stopped by WHO’s headquarters to catch up with Michelle Hindin, PhD ’98, MHS ’90; Özge Tunçalp, MD, PhD ’12, MPH ’07; and Amanda Kalamar, PhD ’15. Michelle (center, above) is a PFRH professor who’s currently working at WHO as a scientist and focusing on interventions that improve adolescents’ and at-risk women’s sexual and reproductive health. When she needed experts to help her advance WHO’s work on those and other issues, she turned to former PFRH students like Amanda (left), Özge (right) and Meghan Bohren, PhD ’16 (not pictured).

Also at the WHA, I interviewed Len Rubenstein, of the School’s Center for Public Health and Human Rights. Len attended WHA to stand up for health care workers in Syria and elsewhere who have been victims of unconscionable attacks.

I can’t imagine how many other Bloomberg School faculty, students and alumni have crossed paths with me without us recognizing our shared connection. Maybe running into Bob wasn’t such a coincidence. After all, there are 21,462 living alumni worldwide. The thought reminds me of something Bob said about our meeting in Ferney-Voltaire:

“It just goes to show you: Hopkins is everywhere!”

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