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>  News Releases >   2006 >   September

John A. Rich '80 gets a really nice surprise:a 2006 MacArthur Fellowship

Dartmouth College Office of Public Affairs • Press Release
Posted 09/19/06 • Roland Adams • (603) 646-3661

[EDITOR'S NOTE: In addition to Rich, MacArthur Fellowships were also received by 2005 MALS graduate Anna Schuleit and former Assistant Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences Jennifer Richeson.]

John A. Rich, a 1980 graduate of Dartmouth, got a wonderful unexpected call from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation last week, informing him of his selection as one of the 25 MacArthur Fellows for 2006. The appointment provides each fellow $500,000 in "no strings attached" support over the next five years to help accelerate important work he or she has under way or take the work in new directions. This year's awards were announced to the public today (Tuesday, Sept. 19).

John A. Rich
John A. Rich

"Selection for a MacArthur Fellowship is the culmination of an intensive review of the creative efforts and promise of each Fellow. Our call comes as a complete surprise and offers the new Fellows the gift of time and an unfettered opportunity to reflect, explore, and create," said MacArthur President, Jonathan Fanton.

Rich, a physician and chair of the Department of Health Management and Policy at Drexel University in Philadelphia, has become a leader in addressing the health care needs of one of the nation's most ignored and underserved populations -- African-American men in urban settings. In its announcement, the foundation noted, "By linking economic health, mental health, and educational and employment opportunities to physical well-being, Rich's work on black men's health is influencing policy discussions and health practice throughout the United States. He has created clinical programs that promote health by addressing overall wellness, recognizing that young, urban men of color face especially difficult challenges in accessing health care. Taking an original approach to social epidemiology, he conducts in-depth personal interviews with young black men to understand and underscore the contextual details attending prevalent illnesses and the cycle of violence that creates recurrent injury risk. ... By focusing on the realities of the lives of young African-American men, he designs new models of health care that stretch across the boundaries of public health, education, social service, and justice systems to engage young men in caring for themselves and their peers."

Among his many interventions, Rich established the Young Men's Health Clinic at the Boston Medical Center, which provides primary care to men ages seventeen to twenty-nine, many of whom are victims of urban violence. He also initiated the Boston HealthCREW, a community health-worker training program for young black men to conduct peer outreach in general health education and men's reproductive health.

Rich says his Dartmouth education had a major impact on his work in this area. "I was an English major, and in Dartmouth's English department I came across incredible people like Professors John Rassias, Bill [William W.] Cook, Rogers Elliott and Errol Hill who exposed me to the power of language," he said. "As an undergraduate I knew I wanted to become a physician of some sort, but I also knew that this was one last opportunity to really study something other than science. Partly through my Dartmouth experience I learned that my heart was with people's stories."

Rich, who is originally from Queens, New York, said another particularly memorable aspect of his undergraduate career was his work as a teaching assistant for Rassias, helping carry out language drills using the famed Rassias Method, which relies largely on role-playing, storytelling and dramatic techniques. "One of the things I got to do in that work was help when a group of New York Transit Police officers came to Dartmouth for instruction in Spanish."

"I look back on my time at Dartmouth as an amazing time," he said.

After receiving his A.B. degree from Dartmouth, Rich received an M.D. (1984) from Duke University Medical School, and an M.P.H. (1990) from Harvard School of Public Health. He completed his internship and residency at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston (1984-1987) and was a fellow in general internal medicine at Harvard Medical School (1987-1990). He was an associate professor of medicine and of public health at Boston University (1997-2005), the medical director of the Boston Public Health Commission (1998-2005), and until 2005, the director of the Young Men's Health Clinic.

Rich said it was during his time in Boston, and through the work of his mentor Dr. Elliot Mishler (a Boston psychologist) that he came to understand "how you could use people's stories to understand phenomena you can't grasp through statistics or medicine." Through such stories, he learned that many victims of urban violence, particularly young African American men, were not getting primary health care, which led to his creation of the Young Men's Health Clinic to try to address that need. He said that while he will need some time to decide how best to use his MacArthur Fellowship, he expects it will help him focus on "how we can listen to voices of people who usually don't get heard, including the narratives of young men in the inner city who are traumatized by violence who usually don't get heard."

The inaugural class of MacArthur Fellows was named in 1981. Including this year's Fellows, 732 people, ranging in age from 18 to 82 at the time of their selection, have been named MacArthur Fellows since the inception of the program.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is a private, independent grantmaking institution dedicated to helping groups and individuals foster lasting improvement in the human condition. Through the support it provides, the Foundation fosters the development of knowledge, nurtures individual creativity, helps strengthen institutions, helps improve public policy, and provides information to the public, primarily through support for public interest media. For more information or to sign-up for MacArthur's e-newsletter, visit

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