Celebrating Black Epidemiologists
In Honor of Black History Month, February 2022
Dr. Sherman James
Sherman A. James, PhD, is a social epidemiologist and the Susan B. King Professor Emeritus of Public Policy at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy. He is well known for developing the “John Henryism hypothesis,” which posits that effortful active coping in response to adversity can result in accumulated physiological damage. The hypothesis is named for the legend of John Henry, a Black man who worked as a “steel-driving man” and allegedly defeated a mechanical stream drill in a battle of “man versus machine.” After his victory, John Henry died from exhaustion. This term has come to symbolize the effort required from minoritized individuals to deal with the day-to-day stress of interpersonal and structural racism. Dr. James developed a 12-item scale to measure John Henryism that has been used widely in epidemiologic studies and has been demonstrated to contribute to the elevated risk of hypertension among Black individuals.
James received his A.B. degree in psychology and philosophy from Talladega College in 1964 and his Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Washington University in 1973. Before joining Duke, Dr. James served on the faculty of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and the University of Michigan, where he was Chair of the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education and founded the Center for Research on Ethnicity, Culture and Health. He has received many accolades in his illustrious career, including election to the National Academy of Medicine in 2000 and President of the Society for Epidemiologic Research (2007-2008).
To learn more, watch Dr. James speak on Racial Health Equity in America.
Dr. Chandra L. Ford
Chandra L. Ford, PhD, is an epidemiologist and Professor of Community Health in the Fielding School of Public Health at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). She is the Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Racism, Social Justice & Health, and her work focuses on racism as a public health problem. Dr. Ford, along with Dr. Collin Airhihenbuwa, originated “the Public Health Critical Race (PHCR) praxis” which aims to move beyond the mere documentation of health disparities towards the goal of understanding and challenging underlying power hierarchies. In developing PHCR, Drs Ford and Airhihenbuwa have tailored core tenets of Critical Race Theory for application in public health research and practice. Dr. Ford’s empirical research examines inequities in HIV testing, care, and prognoses and documents barriers to services among LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence.
Dr. Ford received a Bachelor’s degree in Nutrition from Pennsylvania State University, a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science and a Master’s in Public Health from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Ph.D. in Health Behavior from the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina. Prior to joining UCLA, she completed her postdoctoral training in Social Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, where she was a W. K. Kellogg Foundation Health Scholar. Dr. Ford has received many teaching awards and several notable honors, including the 2020 Wade Hampton Frost Award from the Epidemiology Section of the American Public Health Association and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Black Women Physicians.
You can follow Dr. Ford on Twitter!
To learn more, watch Dr. Ford's lecture on racism in Public Health.
Dr. Lisa A. Cooper
Dr. Lisa A. Cooper, MD, MPH is a Bloomberg Distinguished Professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health. She is also the James F. Fries Professor of Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine and a core faculty member in the Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology, and Clinical Research, and she holds a joint appointment in the School of Nursing. Dr. Cooper was born in Liberia, West Africa, where she witnessed the effects of social deprivation on the health of many of her fellow citizens and developed the passion that would drive her career in medicine and public health.
A general internist, social epidemiologist, and health services researcher, Dr. Cooper was one of the first scientists to document disparities in the quality of relationships between physicians and patients from socially at-risk groups. She then designed innovative interventions targeting physicians’ communication skills, patients’ self-management skills, and healthcare organizations’ ability to address needs of populations experiencing health disparities. She is the author of over 250 publications and has been the principal investigator of more than 20 federal and private foundation grants. She has also been a devoted mentor to more than 70 individuals seeking careers in medicine, nursing, and public health. Currently, Dr. Cooper directs the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity, where she and her transdisciplinary team work with stakeholders from healthcare and the community to implement rigorous clinical trials, identifying interventions that alleviate racial and income disparities in social determinants and health outcomes. The Center also provides training to a new generation of health equity scholars and advocates for social change with policymakers.
A compassionate physician, prolific researcher, and devoted mentor, Dr. Cooper has received several honors for her pioneering work. These include a prestigious 2007 MacArthur Fellowship, elected membership in the National Academy of Medicine, the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the Association of American Physicians, and Delta Omega Public Health Honor Society. She has been listed on Thomson Reuters’ top 1 percent “most cited” list for Social Sciences several times. Dr. Cooper has received the George Engel Award from the American Academy on Communication in Healthcare, the James D. Bruce Memorial Award for Distinguished Contributions to Preventive Medicine from the American College of Physicians, the Herbert Nickens Award from the American Association of Medical Colleges for outstanding contributions to promoting social justice in medical education and health care equity, and the Helen Rodriguez-Trias Social Justice Award from the American Public Health Association.
With regard to mentoring, Dr. Cooper has received the David M. Levine Excellence in Mentoring Award from the Department of Medicine, an Annual Sponsorship Award from the Women's Task Force of the Department of Medicine, the Vice-Dean’s Award for the Advancement of Women in Science, the Provost’s Inaugural Award for Excellence in Faculty Mentoring, and the Provost’s Inaugural Award for Excellence in Diversity.
You can follow Dr. Cooper on Twitter @LisaCooperMD and the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity @JHhealthequity.