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Indian American Shruti Mehta Named Chair of Epidemiology Department at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health

Indian American Shruti Mehta Named Chair of Epidemiology Department at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health

  • The infectious disease epidemiologist has also been appointed a Bloomberg Centennial Professor.

Infectious disease epidemiologist Shruti Mehta has been named the Dr. Charles Armstrong Chair in Epidemiology and professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, effective June 1. The Indian American’s work “focuses on ensuring equitable access to prevention and treatment services for vulnerable and disenfranchised populations, particularly people who inject drugs who are at risk for, or living with, HIV or hepatitis C.,” John Hopkins said in a press release. 

She succeeds David Celentano, who served as the department chair for 16 years. He will continue his research as a professor and remain director of the Johns Hopkins Center for AIDS Research Prevention Core, the press release said. 

Mehta has also been appointed a Bloomberg Centennial Professor, supported by the Bloomberg American Health Initiative through a gift from Bloomberg Philanthropies. The Initiative “focuses on addressing major health challenges in the U.S., including food systems, environment, substance use and overdose, violence, and adolescent health,” the press release said. 

Currently serving as the Department’s vice chair for Research and Administration, and a member of the Bloomberg School’s Research Council, she will continue as director of the HIV Epidemiology training program for predoctoral and postdoctoral fellows and the co-director of the Johns Hopkins University Center for AIDS Research, “which promotes basic, clinical, epidemiologic, behavioral, and translational research in the prevention, detection, and treatment of HIV infection and AIDS.”

She will also continue to co-lead domestic and international clinical trials and cohort studies including the long-standing AIDS Linked to the IntraVenous Experience (ALIVE) Study and the Johns Hopkins COVID Long Study that she and colleagues launched in February 2021. The ongoing COVID Long Study has recruited more than 15,000 persons to date, primarily in the U.S.

As chair, she plans to investigate how the Department can build new partnerships and utilize novel tools to tackle critical public health issues and train the next generation. “My goal is to innovate systems and build supports to free up space for creativity and to come together as a department to address the big challenges facing epidemiology and public health,” she says. “We do this by innovating within our existing programs but also by growing strategically through new partnerships within and outside the University, from industry to philanthropy, to address challenges like persistent health inequities and climate change while we leverage tools like data science and AI.”

She has led research programs in Baltimore and India that have produced more than 350 peer-reviewed papers. She has been continuously funded for more than 20 years with grants from the National Institutes of Health, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the National Science Foundation. 

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“Epidemiology is the thread that needles the who, what, when, where, and why of disease into a meaningful context,” the press release quoted her as saying. “It’s not just about identifying who is at risk for disease, but about the broader context in which this risk occurs and taking a step further to identify not only what the interventions are to mitigate disease, but how we deliver these interventions to populations that need them the most.”

She received a Master of Public Health from the Bloomberg School in 1998 and a PhD, also from the Bloomberg School, in 2002. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Art Theory and Practice from Northwestern University in 1995. 

After completing her undergraduate work, she took her first epidemiology course to bolster her knowledge for a job she’d taken as a research project coordinator. At about the same time, she read Randy Shilts’ book about the AIDS epidemic, And the Band Played On. Instead of heading to medical school, she applied to schools of public health. “The problem-solving aspect of epidemiology and the opportunity to work on issues at the population level really appealed to me,” she says.

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