To say that Simeon Margolis, a professor of
biological chemistry at the School of
Medicine, has an attention to detail might be a supreme
Case in point: Margolis pulls out the "final" proof of
a recent edition of the Johns Hopkins
Health After 50, a publication
he's overseen since its founding by an outside publisher
in 1988. Margolis had made copious edits and notes on the
cover page alone, pointing out concerns with
style and clarity.
To put it bluntly, nothing is ever final until
Margolis has signed off. He takes the role as medical
editor for Johns Hopkins' consumer health publications
— an unofficial title he's held for 20 years now
— very seriously.
Margolis said that a health publication, especially
one with the Johns Hopkins name on it, has to
be 100 percent reliable.
"I've always been annoyed when magazines and
newspapers write on health issues but get it all
wrong, or don't provide enough background," Margolis said.
"One of the reasons I got involved with
consumer health publications is that I wanted to provide
information to the general public that was
accurate. They are exposed to all kinds of inaccurate
information, and that has only gotten worse with
the advent of the Internet. They are some really good
resources out there, but also a lot of junk."
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Health
After 50 newsletter and Margolis' role as
consumer health champion, Johns Hopkins Medicine will host
a reception in his honor from 4 to 6 p.m.
on Wednesday, Oct. 15, in the Houck Lobby of the Phipps
Building. The invitation-only event will
feature Peabody musicians and a plaque presentation by
Edward Miller, dean of the medical faculty
and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Known to friends and colleagues as "Moan," a nickname
he picked up during his hoop-playing days
in high school, Margolis has spent nearly his entire career
at Johns Hopkins.
He came as an undergraduate to JHU, where he was a
standout on the varsity men's basketball
team. His single-game scoring record of 44 points still
stands, a fact he's proud to point out. He
earned his medical degree from the School of Medicine, and
after a two-year stint with the National
Institutes of Health, he returned to Johns Hopkins in 1961
and has been here ever since, in varying
roles as professor, researcher and administrator. From 1968
to 1982, Margolis was director of the
Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism in the Department
of Medicine. From 1992 to 1997, he was
co-director of the Ciccarone Center for Prevention of
Margolis first became involved with consumer health in
1987, when he served as the School of
Medicine's associate dean for academic affairs, a position
he held from 1984 to 1992.
The Baltimore Sun had approached Johns Hopkins
about becoming involved with a health
supplement. The newspaper wanted someone who could
authoritatively write a weekly column.
Joann Ellison Rodgers, who is now executive director
for marketing and communications for
Johns Hopkins Medicine, said that she and others in the
media office immediately knew that Margolis
was the perfect man for the job.
"He is just a great generalist and an incredible
teacher," Rodgers said. "We thought it would
make for a very happy marriage, and it did. Certainly at
Johns Hopkins, Moan has pioneered the idea
that a physician could go directly to the public through a
column and talk about medical issues. He has
been our face and voice for health issues for two decades
now, and he's done it all the right way."
Margolis wrote for the Sun, sometimes twice a
week, from October 1987 to June 1997. The
columns where short but detailed. Margolis frequently laced
his columns with his trademark wit.
One person had written to the paper that he and a
group had just returned from Cancun with
intestinal problems. He wanted to know how to avoid this
from happening again.
"I said, 'Don't go to Cancun next time,'" Margolis
said with a big grin. "Well, you know, it is a
500-word story. I had to be brief."
In 1988, a medical publishing firm in New York — then
called Rebus and now part of Medizine —
approached Johns Hopkins to partner on a new consumer
health publication aimed at those over age
50. Once again, Margolis was tapped.
The articles for Health After 50 were vetted by
an editorial board of School of Medicine
faculty and written by freelancers and the publisher's
staff in New York. In 1991, Margolis become
medical editor of the publication, charged with reviewing
the final draft of each issue. At its high
point, the publication had 550,000 subscribers, and it is
still going strong today.
Margolis has also served as medical editor for a
number of books co-published by Johns Hopkins
and Medizine, namely The Johns Hopkins Medical Guide to
Health After 50, The Johns Hopkins
Consumer Guide to Drugs and The Johns Hopkins Consumer
Guide to Medical Tests.
He has also been intimately involved with the Johns
Hopkins white papers, 50-page guides to
common health problems written for a general audience and
available by subscription. He wrote his
first three in 1993, covering the topics of coronary heart
disease, hypertension and arthritis. He has
also authored or edited white papers on depression and
anxiety, prostate disease, diabetes, low back
pain, vision disorders and other topics.
"I've very proud of the white papers," he said. "To be
honest, I think they are just very, very
From 1996 to 2000, Margolis was Hopkins' faculty
editor of InteliHealth, the highly visible and
successful consumer health Web site Hopkins produced in
collaboration with Aetna Insurance.
Margolis said his work with consumer health
publications has been a labor of love.
"I really enjoy doing it," he said. "I like to write,
and to keep aware of the latest developments
in medicine. People say I'm an endocrinologist and an
expert on diabetes and obesity. This was a way of
keeping up with areas outside my own specialty. I look it
up, and I learn something. I'm always
Since 2005, Margolis has written a medical blog for
Yahoo.com. He originally wrote just on
heart disease and diabetes for the blog, but he didn't want
to be pigeonholed.
"Now I write about whatever I want, any subject that
strikes my fancy," he said. "Actually, I
have two columns due soon. I'm currently trying to decide
what to write about."
With that, Margolis looks to the ceiling. He has a
couple of subjects in mind, and he can't wait to
For a look at Health After 50, go to:
For more on the Johns Hopkins white papers, go to:
www.johnshopkinshealthalerts.com and click on "special