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Gates charity endows Hopkins Microsoft chief, wife give $2 million to curb births in Third World

The charitable foundation set up by multibillionaire software magnate Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda French Gates, has awarded more than $2 million to the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health to help develop programs to train professionals in emerging nations about population control.

The school's new Family Planning Leadership Education Institute, based in the department of population dynamics, intends to offer training for health leaders in underdeveloped nations to try to hold down birthrates in those countries.

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Hopkins officials said the health leaders are likely to be from countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America.

"Melinda and I are anxious that the wonderful progress which has been made in diminishing the world's potentially disastrous birthrate over the last 30 years continues," Gates said in a written statement released through Hopkins. "We believe that a critical ingredient in this progress is indigenous leadership and expertise."

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The $2.25 million initiative, which is being funded over five years, has several parts.

Under the most formal academic part of the institute, one or two students will be brought to the East Baltimore campus to start doctorates each year, and continue until their completion.

Second, a group of fellows -- senior government or university officials -- will be brought to Baltimore from abroad each term for intense, briefer periods of study.

Third, the public health school wants to employ computer-based long-distance learning projects to reinforce lessons taught in Baltimore for officials who cannot make the trek here.

And fourth, the public health school has agreed to send faculty members on brief trips to the countries of graduates of the Gates-sponsored program to help the graduates resolve dilemmas as they arise.

"We wanted to end up with trained cadres of people within these countries themselves who can carry out these programs," said Laurie Schwab Zabin, a professor of population dynamics who will be involved in the institute.

Hopkins officials said they hoped to build on their expertise in addressing international health problems, as shown in collaborative efforts in Bangladesh to keep birthrates down.

Neither Gates has a personal tie to Hopkins -- he dropped out of Harvard University to write computer programs, and she received degrees from Duke University.

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But Hopkins is known for its work on family planning, an interest of Bill Gates' father, William, who runs the foundation. And the elder Gates asked Zabin and Dr.W. Henry Mosley, chairman of the population dynamics department, to submit a proposal on how they would address questions of family planning.

Bill Gates, chairman and founder of Microsoft Corp., is believed to be the wealthiest person in the world with a fortune estimated this year at more than $23 billion.

Pub Date: 5/15/97


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