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Pearl German to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award from the APHA (web article)


When Pearl German, ScD, started teaching at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health over 30 years ago, gerontology was not a defined field, and there was no gerontology curriculum at the School. “If a student said, ‘I’m interested in gerontology and old people,’ people would say, ‘Go see Pearl or Dr. [Edyth] Schoenrich,'" she remembers.

German set her mind to changing all that, and on November 8, the Gerontological Health section of the American Public Health Association—a section that she herself helped create—honored her with a lifetime achievement award for her work.

German, professor emeritus in the Department of Health Policy and Management and a nationally recognized expert in gerontology, taught at the Schools of Public Health, Health Sciences, and Medicine for over 30 years. During that time, she advised a majority of students interested in gerontology and geriatrics. And she developed a whole curriculum in gerontology.  

Combining her expertise in health services research with her knowledge of behavioral sciences, she developed courses in the principles of gerontology and preventive services and in the health behavior of older people. She created an interdepartmental program in which doctoral students in health services research, epidemiology or mental health could focus on older populations, take courses in gerontology and receive a Certificate in Gerontology in addition to their doctoral diplomas. That certificate, says German, helps give doctoral students an additional focus and an advantage on the job market.

“Gerontology is now a very visible field,” says German. “You can’t go anywhere now that you don’t hear or see people talking about the elderly. The greatest changes have been that old people don’t have to go a nursing home to die, that old people have rights, that we should listen to them because they’re wise, not old fogies.”  She points to projects like the Experience Corps as an example of the changing attitude toward older people. The Experience Corps was created by Linda Fried, MD, director of the Center on Aging and Health. Through the Experience Corps, citizens aged 60 volunteer in schools, assisting teachers with math and literacy instruction, tutoring students who are in danger of falling behind and running special projects.

German received her ScD degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health in 1971. She has authored or co-authored more than 100 articles, book chapters and monographs. She was the co-principal investigator on the Women’s Health and Aging Study (1991-1998) and co-investigator on the Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (1989-1994). She has served on many advisory panels, including the Maryland Governor’s Commissions on Women’s Health and on Long Term Care and on the Institute of Medicine’s Panel: Prevention and Elderly: The Second Fifty.

Dr. German received the Key Leadership Award from the Gerontological Health Section in 1989. In 1991, she received the Stebbins Medal from the School of Public Health at Hopkins.  She received a Recognition Award from the Maryland Gerontological Association in 1992, and, in 1994, the Recognition Award from the Hopkins Student Assembly. German is a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America and a member of the Gerontological Health Section.--Kristi Birch