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Bottom Line

6 million: The number of children whose lives could be saved annually if proven medical interventions were made widely available in 42 impoverished or developing African and Asian countries.

According to a study published in the June 25 edition of The Lancet, the cost of those interventions would be a mere $877 per child. Robert E. Black, chairman of the Bloomberg School of Public Health's Department of International Health, was one of six co-authors of the study. Says Black, "Achieving the [United Nations'] Millennium Development Goal for child survival is clearly affordable."

The researchers began with the work of the 2003 Bellagio Study Group on Child Survival, an international team of experts who estimated that 90 percent of the worldwide deaths of children age 5 or younger in 2000 occurred in India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and 37 other nations. The leading causes of mortality included preterm birth, severe infections (such as sepsis, pneumonia, tetanus, and diarrhea), and asphyxia at birth. Black et al. examined the costs of 23 proven interventions, including improved sanitation, certain immunizations, provision of skilled attendants at childbirth, and antibiotics for neonatal sepsis. The researchers concluded that $5.1 billion invested in those interventions would save 6 million children each year.

The experts note that their estimates represent only a portion of total costs. For example, the figures do not cover training health care workers or developing management capacity. But their paper argues that the $5.1 billion represents an affordable program that only awaits resolve on the part of donor nations. The study's concluding statement: "Passivity by policymakers with respect to child survival means that about 170 children have died in the time needed to read this paper." —DK


Yes, there is a cartooning class at Johns Hopkins, and cartoonist Tom Chalkley (whose work has appeared in The New Yorker) has been teaching it for some 15 years. "To some extent I teach cartooning as a language," Chalkley says. "It's not just written words plus pictures, it's actually a complex matrix of written words, pictures, and icons."

Speaking of complex, cartoonists must convey a lot of information in a tiny amount of space, and they have to navigate a fair amount of jargon, too. Here's a taste:

"Symbolia": The (rarely used) comics vocabulary invented by Mort Walker of Beetle Bailey fame. Words include briffit (the cloud of dust that appears when a comic character is running fast), plewds (the sweat droplets that appear around a character's head when sweating, working hard, or stressed), and grawlixes (that little set of typographical symbols that stand for obscenities).

Panel: The storytelling unit in comics. This can be inside a box or not. It can exist singly (like those New Yorker cartoons) or in triplicate (such as in the daily newspaper comics) or by the thousands (as in graphic novels). Each panel in a cartoon is like a scene in a movie or a sentence or paragraph in a story.

Gutter: The sliver of white space in between panels where the reader's mind transitions from one panel to the next. A wide gutter slows the action; a narrow one, or the lack of one, implies rapid-fire action.

Icon: A stylized or abstracted image. It can be anything from a word balloon to jagged explosion symbols.

Closure: How a reader fills in the gaps between what is shown in the comic and the entire story and puts all the pieces together.

Up & Comer

Name: Celso Brunetti
Age: 39

Position: Assistant professor of finance, School of Professional Studies in Business and Education

Stats: Laurea '92 in economics and banking, Universitá Catollica, Milan; MSc '94 in economics, Universitá Bocconi, Milan; PhD '99 in economics, University of London.

Scouting report: "He has potential to be a star" in his research, in which he's "developed a model to predict currency changes that can be applied in the real world," says Ken Yook, chair of SPSBE's finance department.

Research: In addition to developing new ways to forecast currency crises, Brunetti works to measure and forecast volatility in markets — "not only stocks, but any kind of financial asset." He also investigates illiquidity. An example: Suppose a bank holds many shares in IBM and decides to sell them. "But the market is not liquid — there is no one willing to trade because there is uncertainty in the market. Everyone agrees the right price is $80 per share, but you won't be able to sell at that. So, what price is the liquidation price?"

Mentors: Chris Gilbert, now a professor of econometrics at the University of Trento, and Frank Diebold, a professor of economics and statistics at the University of Pennsylvania.

Alternative career: Physicist. He explains: "Physics was my first choice from finishing high school. Economics has a lot of mathematics, and you can see a lot of commonalities with physics, from a mathematical point of view."

Unconventional source of inspiration: The comic strip Calvin & Hobbes. "I just love it. It's just a cartoon, but it's both funny and deep. I like the way Calvin makes fun of the educational system, particularly mathematics. I use it also as a teaching tool. When the students see Calvin and Hobbes, they laugh and it helps me create a connection with them."


Some senior classes give their colleges gazebos as parting gifts, others give park benches or patio furniture, athletic equipment or academic scholarships. This year the Johns Hopkins University Class of 2005 wanted to do something special: They wanted to preserve the memory of two classmates who died before graduation.
To do that they commissioned a stained glass window that evokes the Homewood campus on a perfect spring day. The four-by-six-foot window depicts three blue jays perched in the branches of a cherry tree blooming with pink blossoms. Honeybees with gilded wings buzz in the background. One of the brilliant blue birds represents Linda Trinh, who was killed in January 2005. Another represents Chris Elser, who was killed in April 2004. The third jay symbolizes the Johns Hopkins community.

When the sun shines through the 1,100 pieces that make up the panel, the effect is uplifting, not maudlin. "We wanted to do something that would make you smile when you saw it," explains Payal Patel, president of the Class of 2005.

The window was designed and fabricated by Martha Hanson, SPSBE '91, the founder and principal artist of Paned Expressions Studio of Edgewood, Maryland. Another of Hanson's pieces, a series of nine stained glass panels called "Persistence," was installed in the lobby of the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 2002.

The window, which will hang in an elevated walkway in the yet-to-be-completed Charles Commons student center, cost about $12,000. More than 130 seniors contributed to the gift — one of the best responses from a senior class at Hopkins in the last decade. —MB

Forever Altered

Mentor, hero, inspiration: Hopkins teachers who have left their mark

"I was an academically bored, frequently misbehaving 13- year-old languishing in a suburban public school in 1972 when I first met Dr. Julian Stanley, founder of the Center for Talented Youth. He was 55 years old — advanced in age for a psychologist to begin a second career as a counselor for and advocate of mathematically advanced youngsters. But he believed in his cause — there was an injustice being done to gifted students by minimally tracked, heterogeneously grouped classrooms.

"Before Bill Gates and the Silicon Valley explosion made brains popular, Dr. Stanley sought to provide his students with a refuge of challenge, an intellectual home, and a community of our own. He was a genteel cheerleader for our cause, a believer in our abilities. Quite frankly, his earnestness and his prescription for radical academic acceleration scared me. Nevertheless, only three years later, I was his advisee.

"When I initially listed my major as 'Undecided,' he suggested, instead, 'Confused,' which was far more accurate. Offering reams of facts and inescapable logic, he delivered his advice in such a charming and avuncular way that it was hard not to agree with him. His primary message was to reach for the brass ring and realize that our only limitations are those we place on ourselves.

"This message of determination, self-reliance, and self- confidence delivered first to a suspicious boy and later to an appreciative man, found its mark. Because of Dr. Stanley I still face every challenge with 'why not?' And I look forward, when I am 55, to finding a new pursuit that will hold even a candle to Dr. Stanley's second career."

Julian Stanley passed away on August 12. He was 87.

A.J. Shechtel, BA/BES '79, lives in Princeton, New Jersey, where he provides quantitative financial advice to nonprofits.

Vital Signs

An Rx for Medicare's chronic problems
Since its creation in 1966, Medicare has been oriented to respond to acute episodic illnesses. Yet two-thirds of the program's spending goes to 9.5 million beneficiaries who are beset by five or more chronic conditions. Gerard Anderson, professor of
health policy and management at Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health, has delineated three steps to help transform Medicare into the chronic-care program it needs to be. One is to create a ceiling for out-of-pocket expenses, to protect beneficiaries from incurring high costs not covered by insurance. Second, physicians should be paid to submit electronic medical records, to reduce duplicate tests, adverse drug reactions, and unnecessary hospitalizations. Finally, patients with multiple chronic ailments see, on average, 13 different doctors per year; Anderson says Medicare should pay one physician to coordinate each patient's care. Anderson's proposals appeared in the July 21, 2005, edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Stem cells show promise in heart disease
Hopkins researchers have, for the first time, successfully treated heart attacks in pigs by injection of stem cells. Lead investigator Joshua Hare, professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, led a study that took stem cells from one pig and injected them into the damaged heart of another pig that had suffered a myocardial infarction. In two months, the therapy restored heart function and repaired damaged heart muscle by 50-75 percent. Researchers at Hopkins have begun a Phase I clinical trial on human subjects, using adult mesenchymal stem cells to avoid immunosuppression problems. Hare says, "There is reason for optimism about these findings, possibly leading to a first-ever cure for heart attack in humans." The study appeared in the July 25, 2005, online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. —DK


Chromium's answer to a hard problem
Undergraduate Christopher Kovalchick has fashioned a solution to a problem that's long vexed jewelry makers: Pure platinum is too soft for durable jewelry, yet many countries require platinum jewelry to consist of at least 95 percent platinum. This makes an alloy metal critical as a hardener. Kovalchick, a senior
mechanical engineering major at the Whiting School, tested copper-platinum and chromium-platinum blends. He found that an alloy using 3.2 percent chromium, cold rolled then heated to 300 degrees Centigrade for three hours, produced the strongest sample. Kovalchick used a microsample testing technique devised by his faculty adviser, Whiting School professor William N. Sharpe Jr. The technique lowered the cost of each test sample from an estimated $50,000 to around $200. Kovalchick's work, supported by a Provost Undergraduate Research Award, placed first in the student competition at last June's annual conference of the Society for Experimental Mechanics.

Pinpointing an asthma gene
Hopkins researchers have found that a single gene does much to determine susceptibility to asthma. A team led by Shyam Biswal, assistant professor of environmental health sciences at Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health, discovered that in laboratory mice, the absence of the gene Nrf2 increases the migration of inflammatory cells into their airways. In turn, the inflammatory cells release reactive oxygen species, or ROS, causing the linings of the airways to swell and restrict passage of air — that is, causing an asthma attack. Nrf2 appears critical for lungs to properly respond to allergens without the inflammation and hyperreactivity characteristic of asthma. A future study will test the targeting of Nrf2 as an asthma treatment for humans. The team's report appeared in the July 4, 2005, edition of the Journal of Experimental Medicine. —DK

Want to blog but don't know how to share your thoughts with the world? You need Hopkins Weblogs, the service founded by two Hopkins students in January 2004 to get the university community blogging up a storm. "Blogs let students, faculty, and staff publish easily, beautifully, and quickly online," explains senior Asheesh Laroia, who co-founded the service with senior Christopher D. Chan. Hopkins Weblogs is free to students, faculty, and staff. To date, the service has helped create nearly 100 JHU-related blogs. Don't think you want to share your life or your interests on the Web? That's okay, there's plenty of good reading here, too. So far, Hopkins bloggers have used this site to opine on everything from travels in Tanzania and the future of instructional software to the pain of unrequited crushes and the quest for the perfect plum pie. —MB


Course: International Trafficking in Persons

Instructor: Mohamed Y. Mattar, adjunct professor of law at the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), is executive director of the Protection Project, a human rights research institute. He is an expert on anti-trafficking legislation, specializing in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.

Course description: In the contemporary world, the trafficking of persons — which includes commercial sexual exploitation of women, as well as practices such as forced labor and the irregular inter-country sale of children for adoption or women for marriage — is considered a human rights violation as well as a form of slavery. This course aims to examine issues on the trafficking of women and children from a human rights-based approach, recognizing the trafficked person as a crime victim. Students will be encouraged to explore such issues as the role of government corruption in sustaining the practice of human trafficking.

"Trafficking in Persons, an Annotated Bibliography," Mohamed Y. Mattar (2004).

"The United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress, and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children," The United Nations (2000).

"Trafficking in Women: The Business Model Approach," Louise Shelley, in Brown Journal of World Affairs (2003).

"Prostitution Policy in Europe: A Time of Change?" Judith Kilvington, Sophie Day, and Helen Ward, in Feminist Review (2001).

"To Honor and Obey: Trafficking in 'Mail-Order Brides,'" Suzanne H. Jackson, in Geo. Wash. L. Rev (2002).

"Voiceless Victims: Sex Slavery and Trafficking of African Women in Western Europe," Melanie R. Wallace, in Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law (2002).

Return to September 2005 Table of Contents

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