Looking back on a year of strife caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Greater Baltimore Committee during its 66th Annual Meeting Tuesday morning honored four Baltimore organizations that rose to the challenges caused by the pandemic.
The committee awarded Johns Hopkins Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland, Baltimore, and the University of Maryland Medical System its 2021 Regional Visionary Award, citing their innovative and collaborative public health and medical work over the past year.
Presented by Howard Bank CEO and GBC Board Vice Chair Mary Ann Scully, the award seeks to celebrate individuals and organizations that have “significantly contributed to the betterment of the Greater Baltimore region.”
Scully cited major accomplishments over the past 14 months, such as Hopkins Medicine’s and UMMS’ work with the state of Maryland to launch the Baltimore Convention Center Field Hospital and their participation in state and city vaccination distribution efforts.
“Two organizations that were traditionally friendly rivals … have come together in unprecedented ways to confront a common problem,” she said. “They agreed to leverage their joint resources as part of a unified COVID-19 response effort.”
Scully also recognized UMB and Hopkins University for their work in the field of medical research. Most recently, she said, UMB has transformed a research lab into a testing center, worked to get vaccines to hard-to-reach populations and graduated nursing students early to support are hospitals and health centers.
She cited Hopkins’ Coronavirus Resource Center, a joint project of the university and health system, as an invaluable tool during the pandemic, having received over a billion page views since its early 2020 launch. Public health experts from the university have also contributed to both the city’s and the nation’s COVID-19 responses.
The presidents of the organizations — Mohan Suntha of UMMS, Kevin Sowers of the Johns Hopkins Health System, Bruce Jarrell of UMB and Ron Daniels of Johns Hopkins University — accepted the awards.
“Since the earliest days of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been awe-inspired by the work of our people and partners across the city,” Daniels said. “I have never been prouder to be part of an institution so devoted to research, education, an unyielding care for our communities each and every day, and especially during times of crisis.”
Last year, the Regional Visionary Award went to Diane Bell-McKoy, president and CEO of Associated Black Charities who advocates for the dismantling of systemic racism in the workplace.
Leaders from the six jurisdictions the GBC serves — Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard Counties, and Baltimore city — also spoke at the meeting, thanking the GBC for supporting area businesses throughout the struggles of the pandemic. They noted the importance of the efforts of frontline and essential workers who have continued to work in-person since the pandemic’s onset.
“To the frontline workers who protect and care for others to provide essential services every day, our gratitude cannot be overstated,” said Johnny Olszewski Jr., the county executive for Baltimore County. “To the health care workers, we owe each and every one of you for your strength and resiliency.”
The meeting’s keynote speaker was Thomas Friedman, author and New York Times’ foreign affairs columnist. Friedman spoke about three key themes for creating diverse and inclusive towns in the modern era — intentional, ownership and complex adaptive coalitions.
He drew on examples from his home state of Minnesota, including efforts that are being made in Minneapolis in light of the murder of George Floyd last summer, as well as the small town of Willmar, which has a large immigrant population.