Debra “Debbie” Dickson, the longest-serving employee of the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, died on Dec. 31 after a long illness. She was 65.
“Debbie had tremendous dedication and passion for her work,” said Susan Krenn, CCP’s executive director. “Over the years, she mentored many younger colleagues ensuring they received training and experience to grow and flourish. She will be truly missed by so many.”
Debbie came to CCP 40 years ago, initially working on the Population Information Program (PIP), followed by the Information and Knowledge for Optimal Health (INFO) project, the Knowledge for Health (K4Health) and K4Health-II projects and, most recently, the Knowledge SUCCESS (Strengthening Use, Capacity, Collaboration, Exchange, Synthesis, and Sharing) project.
She was best known for her role as the manager of the POPLINE database, a comprehensive web-based collection of population, family planning, and reproductive health and development literature. Debbie ran POPLINE from the days when it was a paper-based project where materials were sent by snail mail to those who requested it and led its digital makeover.
She managed a large team of people, working with librarians, catalogers and indexers to grow POPLINE. As technology changed, she transformed the processes to keep pace with the digital age.
“She was dedicated to ensuring that access to this information was not a barrier for family planning/reproductive health colleagues around the globe, always going the extra mile to help with search strategy and finding the specific resources needed,” says Sara Mazursky, deputy director of the Knowledge SUCCESS project. “Debbie was always willing to help others with projects, going above and beyond her own job including developing an online database of global health journals.”
In her role, Debbie also worked closely with USAID and partner organizations to support the delivery of web-based information products and services, specifically supporting the High-Impact Practices in Family Planning (HIPs) activities where she provided technical assistance and expertise on HIP brief production and the development of the HIPs website.
Debbie served as president and member of the Association for Population/Family Planning Libraries and Information Centers-International (APLIC-I) Board of Directors. During her tenure as president in 2014, her colleagues liked to tease her about “using her gavel,” in large part because this was very much outside of her soft and quiet way of leading.
Beyond her professional accomplishments, Debbie was known for her great love of her family, especially her four cherished grandchildren, her sense of humor and her love of cooking and baking, estate auctions, plants, her Boston Terriers and weekend drives to Amish country. Please join us in fondly remembering and celebrating Debbie’s life.