Johns Hopkins Magazine -- February 2001
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On Lives Touched

With this issue we bid a fond but sad farewell to our senior science writer, Melissa Hendricks, who is moving on to devote more time to her family, freelance writing, teaching, and community. Melissa joined the magazine more than 11 years ago, in the summer of 1989, and over those many years she has earned a loyal following among readers--and the respect of Hopkins's researchers--for her compelling coverage of the university's science and medical communities. That's hardly an easy task; have you ever tried distilling the essence of a quark into a 300-word article that is a) accurate and b) interesting and understandable to the intelligent layperson?

Though science writer
Melissa Hendricks
is moving on, the
goodbye is not a
final one.
I'm proud of the writing awards Melissa has garnered over the years, but prouder still of the way her words have touched the lives of so many readers. Ever since her November 1994 cover story on Hopkins pediatrics instructor Holmes Morton, "The Doctor Who Makes Barn Calls," for instance, we have received grateful letters from Amish and Mennonite parents who learned there is hope for treating genetic illness in their children. Similarly, her recent story on Hopkins's pain management specialist James Campbell (June 1999) prompted dozens of e-mails and letters from chronic pain sufferers--patients at the end of their endurance who were thankful to have a new shot at relief. Melissa's articles have even struck a spark among scientifically minded grade-schoolers. We regularly receive e-mails signed "Matthew P." or "Ashley, 4th grade"--young readers asking Melissa for more information about subjects she's covered, like tracking migration routes of peregrine falcons, or treating childhood epilepsy with an ultra-high-fat "ketogenic" diet.

Around the office we will miss Melissa's wit, kindness, and idealism. Happily for you readers, hers is not a final goodbye. She has agreed to continue her relationship with the magazine as an occasional freelancer, so you will see her name, and her stories, pop up in future issues.

If the frigid February weather is keeping you inside, you'll be happy to know this issue brings you several meaty articles that deal with important issues brewing within the scientific and medical communities. Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson takes a close look at the growing push to patent among university researchers, while Melissa Hendricks jumps into the controversy surrounding the notoriously long hours required of medical residents. And in "Subject to Dispute," I detail the work of a Public Health epidemiologist that explodes some commonly held perceptions regarding clinical trials and women. You'll find that emotions run high on each of these issues. And you may feel our articles wind up raising more questions than they answer. But that's okay. Perfectly fine, in fact. Because our purpose in tackling tough, crucial issues like these is to advance the dialogue.

So please, once you've digested the stories in this issue, take the time to weigh in. Share your own opinions with our staff and your fellow readers. Jot off a letter, zap us an e-mail, or visit the magazine's website and leave a message. Don't let the dialogue end here.