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Space for community and collaboration

South Building's Synergy Will Amplify the Power of Public Health

At the South Building groundbreaking event, faculty, staff, leadership, alumni, and students got a preview of how this investment in physical space is an historic—and exciting—moment for the field of public health.  

Second Line Band leads march into Sommer Hall

During the June 5 groundbreaking event, the local New Orleans-styled Second Line Band led a march to Sommer Hall for the program and ceremony.

With stormy weather in the forecast, the Bloomberg School community pivoted to an indoor location for its new South Building groundbreaking event. Staff quickly transformed the Monument Street lobby and gallery into a reception area and nearly 300 guests enjoyed refreshments and music while learning about the campus expansion. 

“Building ambassadors” hosted four poster displays to showcase the building design, answering questions about how the design will support community and collaboration with new classrooms, more meeting rooms, and additional green space. These conversations provided an early glimpse of the building’s impact on the School’s work to educate and train the next generation of public health practitioners, researchers, and advocates. 

When the Second Line band struck up a New Orleans-style jazz number, the crowd fell in line, following the marching band into Sommer Hall for the program. They were ready to hear how this new space will drive the power of public health.

After Dean MacKenzie, President Daniels, and Baltimore's interim deputy mayor for equity, health, and human services, J.D. Merrill, offered their remarks, a two-minute Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School South Building Concept video was streamed onto the hall’s large screen, bringing to life the building’s renderings and creating a palpable feeling of wonder. The audience could see that the goals of collaboration and collegiality are not just words but will be supported by the reality of South Building’s physical space. Here are a few of those guests’ reflections. 

Albert Wu, MD, MPH, professor, Health Policy and Management, reflected on how the building will help him and his colleagues assemble teams to tackle the looming and colossal public health problems of the 21st century. “I envision the newly configured space of the South Building as being analogous to the Large Hadron Collider which flings elementary particles together at the speed of light. The collision of disciplines and ideas will release random showers of brilliant ideas that lead to the next breakthroughs.”

HPM Professor Albert Wu with hard hat and holding a shovel

Health Policy and Management Professor Albert Wu imagines how disciplines and ideas in closer proximity will "release random showers of brilliant ideas that lead to the next breakthroughs.”

Paulani Mui, MPH ’15, associate director, Office of Public Health Practice and Training, assistant practice professor, Health Policy and Management, “I think this space will serve as a nexus for practice, education, and research. Its accessible meeting rooms and dynamic workspaces will create a welcoming environment to convene partners, policymakers, and students for idea sharing and discussion as part of my courses and research projects. I think it will also strengthen our connection with the Baltimore community and encourage more active engagement and partnership.” 

Doctoral candidate and alum Catherine Clair, MHS ’17, looks forward “to bringing together our entire School in a central location. That centralization, which is fostered by this physical space, will allow us to connect personally and professionally. Also, I am hopeful that the building brings a new era of collaboration with the surrounding Baltimore community. My dream is that our neighbors feel welcome in this building because public health is all of us.”

Arman Majidulla, PhD ’24, primarily works at Wolfe Street and looks forward to more opportunities to interact with the former Hampton House departments, not to mention it will be much easier to attend those departments’ lectures and programs. "In terms of space, I’ll share a real-life challenge that arose from a new multi-school and multi-department consortium project: our most recent meeting had to be held at the School of Nursing which is not even connected to the project. The organizers cited incompatible meeting spaces at the Wolfe Street building to accommodate our global partners. Whether it’s meeting space, virtual connectivity, or being together in one location, I think having a state-of-the-art facility that matches our leadership position in public health will be a gamechanger." 

Dean MacKenzie, BSPH students, and staff pose with shovels at South Building groundbreaking ceremony

Ready with shovels, Bloomberg School students, staff, and Dean MacKenzie celebrated during the South Building groundbreaking ceremony. 

Irene Frary, Health Advisory Board member, commented that the event was thrilling in that it recognized all members of the Bloomberg School and that “the new building will mark the accomplishments of the past as well as enable students, faculty, and staff to do more of what they do best: improve health and save lives—millions at a time!”

Kathy Ludwig, Health Advisory Board vice chair and Center for Public Health and Human Rights Advisory Board chair, believes “Dean MacKenzie offered the most ambitious message when she said that we are ushering in a new era,” also noting that “just about every speaker used the same word to describe the effect this building will have on the School and public health: transformational.” 

Stephen Moore, MPH ’04, University trustee, Health Advisory Board and former chair, commented on the palpable enthusiasm and energy among the attendees, and an awareness that the group was participating in an historic event. “The new building, along with the renovated Wolfe Street building, will serve as our public health home, gathering us together in a safe, nurturing, collaborative community.  Being together and working together on shared goals energizes and inspires us.  Public health changes the world, and this amazing building will give us a home for public health for the next 100 years.”

Faith Thomas, Health Advisory Board member, noted that as soon as she arrived at the Wolfe Street entrance, she could feel the electricity and the anticipation of what she and others would see during the program. “The new building is inspirational, forward-thinking, thoughtfully designed, and inclusive. The spaces will allow for even more collaboration and likely spark students to stretch their aspirations.”

Dean Ellen MacKenzie and members of the Health Advisory Board pose on stage with shovels and hardhats at the South Building groundbreaking event


As the program wrapped up and people returned to the Gallery for a piece of celebratory cake designed in the shape of the new building, the feeling of being a witness to a new era in the Bloomberg School’s history did not dissipate. Everyone understood that this much-anticipated new space is intentionally designed to generate and sustain a dynamic agenda for public health research and practice.

Suzanne Flinchbaugh is a writer in the Office of External Affairs at the Bloomberg School. For more on the event, read the HUB article,  "A New Era of Public Health as the Bloomberg School Looks to the Future." To learn more about how the Bloomberg School's physical campus is evolving, visit the Our Campus section of the School's website