Alfred Sommer

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Alfred Sommer
Alfred Sommer.jpg
Alfred Sommer
Born (1942-10-02) 2 October 1942 (age 74)
New York, New York, USA
Nationality United States
Fields Ophthalmology
International Health
Alma mater Union College (B.S., 1963)
Harvard Medical School (M.D., 1967)
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (M.H.S., 1973)
Known for Vitamin A deficiency
Blindness prevention
Notable awards Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Fries Prize for Improving Health (2008)
American Academy of Ophthalmology Laureate (2011)
Helen Keller Prize for Vision Research (2005)
National Academy of Sciences (2001)
Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award (1997)
National Academy of Medicine (1992)

Alfred (Al) Sommer is a prominent American ophthalmologist and epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. His research on vitamin A in the 1970s and 1980s revealed that dosing severely vitamin A deficient children with an inexpensive, large dose vitamin A capsule twice a year reduces child mortality by as much as 34 percent.[1] The World Bank and, recently, the Copenhagen Consensus list vitamin A supplementation as one of the most cost-effective health interventions in the world.[2][3]


Sommer was born in 1942 in New York City and graduated from Union College in Schenectady, New York in 1963. Sommer has an MD from Harvard Medical School (1967) and an MHS from the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health (1973). He is professor of Epidemiology and International Health at the Bloomberg School and Professor of Ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He was dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health from 1990-2005,[4] where he was instrumental in growing the student body and faculty, and raising funding for an unprecedented expansion of the School's research and size, including $130 million for the expansion and renovation of its facilities.[5] During his tenure, the school was named #1 on the first U.S. News & World Report Graduate Schools of Public Health ranking, where it remains today.[6]

Because of Sommer's vitamin A research, he has won the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research in 1997,[7] the Danone International Prize for Nutrition in 2001,[8] and the Helen Keller Prize for Vision Research[9] among other honors.[4] The 2005 PBS documentary Rx for Survival featured Sommer as a "global health champion."[10]

Sommer became chair of the Lasker Foundation's Board of Directors in 2008[11] and serves on the board of Bloomberg Philanthropies.[12] He is also director emeritus on the corporate Boards of Directors of Becton Dickinson and T. Rowe Price.[13]

His current research involves the cause, magnitude, consequences, and control of vitamin A deficiency.

Sommer Scholars[edit]

In 2004, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health established a $22 million scholarship program in honor of Dr. Sommer called the Sommer Scholars. The programs aims to "recruit the next generation of public health leaders to devise new, effective interventions to improve global health."[14]


  1. ^ Sommer A, Tarwotjo I, Djunaedi E, West KP Jr, Loeden AA, Tilden R, Mele L. Impact of vitamin A supplementation on childhood mortality. A randomised controlled community trial. Lancet 1986; 24: 1169-1173
  2. ^ World Development Report 1993. World Bank, 1993.
  3. ^ Copenhagen Consensus 2008. Accessed on 2009-03-19.
  4. ^ a b Alfred Sommer Biography, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
  5. ^ Shea, Dennis (May 16, 2005). "Klag Named Dean of Bloomberg School of Public Health". Headlines@Hopkins. JHU Press Releases. Retrieved 10 October 2016. 
  6. ^ "Best Public Health Programs | Top Public Health Schools | US News Best Graduate Schools". Retrieved 2016-10-10. 
  7. ^ Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award. Accessed on 2009-03-19
  8. ^ Danone Institute Prize for Nutrition. Accessed on 2009-03-19
  9. ^ Alfred Sommer - Helen Keller Foundation (with video)
  10. ^ Rx for Survival: Global Health Champions. Accessed on 2009-03-19.
  11. ^ The Lasker Foundation - About the Foundation. Accessed on 2009-03-19.
  12. ^ "Board of Directors - Bloomberg Philanthropies". Bloomberg Philanthropies. Retrieved 2016-10-10. 
  13. ^ Alfred Sommer M.H.S. Profile at Forbes. Accessed on 2009-03-19.
  14. ^ New Scholarship to Recruit Public Health Leaders of The Future.