I recently spent an evening talking with inspiring medical students who have come to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine from all around the world. I also had the chance to pay honor to the late Dr. Paul Lietman, a true visionary and dear friend.
Eight years ago, Johns Hopkins Medicine International (JHI) created a need-based scholarship to support international students pursuing a medical degree at Hopkins. The scholarship was renamed soon after to honor of one of our earliest faculty champions—Paul.
I’m proud of this scholarship because it not only helps Johns Hopkins attract the brightest international students, but it also funds future medical professionals who otherwise might not get the financial support they need for their education. There are very few U.S. medical schools that offer any form of financial support to non-U.S. citizens. It shows that Johns Hopkins Medicine International is part of Johns Hopkins Medicine, and we’re supporting a group of people who will be vital to the future of health care around the world.
We recently held a reception to give the current class of 21 Lietman scholars a chance to receive recognition and to spend some informal time getting to know leaders from JHI and the school of medicine. It’s a special event for all of us.
I didn’t want the scholars to leave the event with just new contacts and their fill of hors d’oeuvres. I wanted them to know more about Paul so they could help carry out his legacy.
Paul was an immensely powerful individual. He was an M.D./Ph.D. who went to Columbia University for medical school. He then came to Johns Hopkins for his pediatrics residency and stayed for the next 50-plus years. He was a noted scientist, and did much of the original pharmacology work on the drugs originally used to treat HIV.
But what he loved more than anything was educating students. Paul led our school of medicine’s Division of Clinical Pharmacology for almost 30 years and mentored generations of medical students and scientists. He was also the director of the pharmacology course in the Year 2 Bridging Sciences curriculum for more than 15 years. Paul loved the back and forth of academic discourse. He never took things personally if someone disagreed with him because he thought this was how we elevate research, education and care. Students in both the basic sciences and clinical fields gave him faculty awards for teaching—an unusual distinction.
He also loved international collaborative health care and played a critical role in JHI’s infancy. Our first project 20 years ago was a joint venture in Singapore, and he was one of the original leaders of that project.
Paul invigorated a longstanding relationship we had with the American University of Beirut.
He re-established an affiliation we had with Peking Union Medical Center in Beijing, which William Welch had founded, but which had fallen fallow during the Cultural Revolution. Paul was one of the first people to go back to China to re-establish that relationship between Johns Hopkins and Peking Union.
He also forged a new relationship at Fudan University in Shanghai and helped the University of Trinidad and Tobago establish its Caribbean Herbal Medicine Research Institute.
Paul wanted to get Hopkins people out of Baltimore to learn and live life to its fullest. That was an obsession with him. He loved to travel and loved to eat. He had a big laugh. He was truly a larger-than-life individual and opened up so many opportunities to help JHI fulfill our mission.
It’s fitting that this scholarship is named for Paul.
He represented research. He valued education. He loved medical students. He thought patient care was one of the hallmarks of this place. And he championed JHI. He was everything that’s great about Hopkins.
On behalf of JHI, I hope and believe the scholars who bear the Lietman name will make the kind of impact Paul did, whether it’s in health care, in research or in the lives of medical students.