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A global connection

Alumnus Ashok Agarwal bridges his professional role in India with his volunteer roles at Johns Hopkins
Posted December 17, 2014
Ashok and Manisha Agarwal Ashok and Manisha Agarwal

Current Johns Hopkins trustee and Bloomberg School Health Advisory Board member, Ashok Agarwal, SPH ’83, wants to spread the strengths of the Bloomberg School to raise the global profile across JHU divisions.  In his professional role, and volunteer capacity, he emphasizes the importance of bringing all the divisions together to solve the world’s biggest problems.

After completing a residency in internal medicine and emergency care in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in 1982, Agarwal contacted the head of the MPH program at Johns Hopkins, renowned epidemiologist Abraham Lilienfeld, SPH ’49, well past the application deadline. Lilienfeld "broke all the rules and made all the exceptions" to admit Agarwal after he heard Agarwal’s proposal to transform the health care system in India by establishing the first non-profit health management institute.

Following his graduation from JHSPH in 1983, Agarwal founded the Indian Institute for Health Management Research (IIHMR) in Jaipur, the first institute of its kind in Asia for research and training in public health and hospital management. Agarwal and his IIHMR colleagues had to win acceptance for their radical new ideas from both the government and the private sector. But on September 27, 2013, an act of the State Legislative Assembly of Rajasthan granted university status to IIHMR, making it the first research university to specialize in policy and management in the health sector.

After Michael J. Klag, SPH '87, was named JHSPH dean in 2005, he met Agarwal and became a key supporter of IIHMR, committing to a collaborative partnership with JHSPH to expand the scale of IIHMR research and education programs. Dean Klag has since enlisted JHU President Ron Daniels in working to develop and expand IIHMR. In the fall of 2013, JHSPH and IIHMR enrolled the first students in a Jaipur-based MPH program for residents of India and other low- and middle-income countries in the region.

In 2014, Agarwal joined the Johns Hopkins University Board of Trustees. His hopes and expectations for the university are high, and he intends “to learn a lot and bring that back to Indian universities.” With its ethos of “knowledge for the world,” Johns Hopkins has much to offer students from the U.S. and abroad who want to become agents of change in the affairs of nations and in international diplomacy.