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September 25, 2013
By: Lucas Bezerra
John Wilhelm, M.D., MPH Project HOPE's New Alumni Association President

John Wilhelm, M.D., MPH will serve as Alumni Association President from July 2013 – June 2017.

Dr. Wilhelm is trained as an obstetrician-gynecologist-endocrinologist. He has a  medical degree from Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine; and a Master’s Degree in Public Health from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He worked for Project HOPE for 13 years in clinical and administrative assignments in Jamaica, Brazil, Grenada, the Mexican border and at HOPE Center. In 1990 he was named Bureau Chief for Public Health at the Chicago Department of Public Health, became the Deputy Commissioner for Medical Affairs in 1993 and, from  2000-2005, was the city’s Commissioner of Public Health.

Dr. Wilhelm is excited to be “re-treading” – a term that he uses to describe his alternative to “retiring”. With fresh eyes, excitement and energy, he is re-engaging with Project HOPE through the Alumni Association to help alumni reconnect with one another and help Project HOPE continue its mission.

John Wilhelm, M.D., MPH in Armenia for Project HOPE airlift

Project HOPE conducted a brief interview with Dr. Wilhelm to learn more.

Question: Can you comment on your fondest memory while working with Project HOPE in the many ways that you did?

Answer: It’s interesting that I have only vague recollections of the work accomplishments but vivid memories of the people. They are always extraordinary. It is the same answer I provide people who ask about my favorite country.  It’s the people - not the country.

Question: How would you describe the Alumni Association?

Answer: I would describe the Alumni Association as a “jewel in the rough”.  There are a number of alumni for whom Project HOPE has changed their lives (personally and professionally).  The Alumni Association can be the vehicle to remain connected with one another, to help the next generation of HOPIES have similar experiences and to continue to make a difference in the world.

Question: Can you comment on your vision for the Alumni Association during your term as President?

Answer: I would like to work with the Development staff at HOPE Center to build a strong working relationship; enhance and expand our alumni database; develop better communication among alumni by sharing updates and information on the alumni section of Project HOPE’s website; and increasing alumni support for  the activities that the Alumni Board considers important.

Question: In what way did you see your Project HOPE experiences influence your work with the Chicago Department of Public Health? 

Answer: My international work with Project HOPE helped me understand how important it is to develop partnerships with the community. Chicago is a city of ethnic neighborhoods, so seeing them as “small countries” was not difficult.  I came to the position knowing that the health department’s perception of a problem may not always be the community’s perception.  I realized how important it was to work on change together --- consensus in identifying the problem, a shared vision for what “could be” and then finding the leadership in the community to affect the change.

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