Johns Hopkins Magazine
Johns Hopkins Magazine Current Issue Past Issues Search Get In Touch
Wholly Hopkins
Matters of note from around Johns Hopkins


Students: Students Win Rhodes, Marshall Scholarships

Sports: D-I Tradition Continues

Politics: Historic Shift in Hispanic Voting

Policy: Secret Service Hits the Books

Humanities: Novel Approach to Nigeria

Research: Fruit Flies' Clues to the Birds and Bees

Mathematics: Mathematical Pluck

Sports: Great Autumn for Athletics

Music: Peabody Expands Its Repertoire

In Memoriam: Hugh Kenner, Revered Literary Critic

Health: Nursing Abused Women Back to Health

Wholly Hopkins Departments: Bottom Line | Here & Abroad | Vignette | Datebook | Syllabus | Findings | Academese | Forever Altered | Vital Signs | Up & Comer | JHUniverse

Hopkins Students win Rhodes, Marshall Scholarships

When Hopkins senior Wen Shi, 20, first arrived in the United States four and a half years ago, he barely spoke English. This fall, he became one of only 32 students in the country-and the only one in Maryland-to win the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. Rhodes Scholars receive two to three all-expense-paid years of postgraduate study at Oxford University.

Wen Shi is the first Hopkins student to win a Rhodes Scholarship since 2000.
Photo by Will Kirk
Shi came to the United States in 1999, when his father, a computer engineer, emigrated from Beijing to Michigan. Entering the 10th grade, Shi knew only basic English. "I was going to have to take the SAT's, and so I memorized 100 to 200 words a day over the summer," Shi remembers. He developed a system for learning words and reading them in context to better understand their meaning. He soon excelled both academically and extracurricularly, and he tutored foreign students to help them master the language quickly.

He applied that same focus and methodology to his academic studies at Johns Hopkins. Shi originally planned an engineering degree, but a cancer research project with Kathleen Gabrielson, assistant professor at the School of Medicine, encouraged him to enter medicine. Shi began examining the role of hypoxia inducible factors in cancer cell biology, a study that could help make cancer manageable, like heart disease, and was co-author with Gabrielson on two papers. Shi will use his scholarship to continue cancer research at Oxford's Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine. He ultimately plans to earn a doctorate in molecular oncology.

In his Rhodes application, Shi addressed his international background and his language deficit. "I had to adjust to the culture and excel very quickly," Shi says. "I have greatly benefited from the tolerance and inclusiveness of this environment. This is a promising area of research, and it is my way to give back to the community."

Two other Hopkins students, Sondra L. Hellstrom, a double major in physics and electrical engineering, and Daniel T. Davis, a dual major at the Krieger School and the Peabody Institute, are also the recipients of impressive scholarships. This fall, they were two of only 40 students nationwide to receive Marshall Scholarships, which are awarded by the British government to commemorate the Marshall Plan, the U.S. effort that helped to reconstruct post-war Europe.

Sondra Hellstrom
Photo by Will Kirk
Hellstrom, a 20-year-old senior from Ellicott City, Maryland, will pursue a master's degree in the study of nanomaterials at the Imperial College of Science, Medicine and Technology in London. She became intrigued with nanotechnology through an internship at the Stanford Nanofabrication Facility in 2001. "After I got back, I added a physics major [to my electrical engineering major and math minor], and I have been on that track ever since," she says. "This is a great area to be in right now because a lot of fundamental discoveries are still being developed."

When not in the lab or the classroom, Hellstrom sings contralto with the Johns Hopkins Choral Society and with the Peabody Chamber Singers. She plans to continue her study of music while in London.

Daniel Davis
Photo by Will Kirk
Davis, 22, of Waxhaw, North Carolina, is a senior at Peabody, where he is working toward a bachelor's degree in piano composition. He already holds a bachelor's degree in history from Johns Hopkins and is on track to earn his master's in May from the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

The Peabody Camerata and the Peabody Opera Workshop will present the world premiere of Davis' chamber opera, If I Were a Voice, this April. The opera follows the lives of the Hutchinsons, a 19th-century family of singers and radical reformers. Davis credits the university's unique dual degree program for allowing him to compose this work. "I see myself as a literary composer. My interest in the humanities and history and literature feeds into my musical work," Davis says. "This is one of the only places in the country where you can have a dual degree program like this."

The Marshall Scholarship will allow Davis to spend two years in Great Britain, pursuing a master's degree in music composition at the Royal Academy of Music. Says Davis, "British composers have traditionally worked from notably different aesthetic sensibilities than American composers, and, though I most certainly consider myself an 'American-sounding' composer, I am thrilled at the prospects of gaining new perspectives on the art."
—Elizabeth Evitts

D-I Lacrosse Tradition Continues

On January 12, the last day of the NCAA Convention, Division III colleges and universities overwhelmingly rejected a proposal that sought to strip eight D-III schools, including Johns Hopkins, of the right to award athletic grants-in-aid in sports in which they compete on the D-I level.

Scholarships attract the athletes who make Hopkins lacrosse a regular contender for the national championship. Had the proposal passed, Hopkins, which competes in both men's and women's D-I lacrosse, would have been forced either to stop awarding lacrosse scholarships or leave Division III in its 42 other varsity sports.

As passed, the amended proposal continues a waiver, granted in 1983, that allows the eight schools to provide athletic financial aid in their traditional D-I sports, but will bar any other schools from doing so in the future.

"The compromise amendment adopted by Division III today recognizes that our eight schools have long traditions of competition and success at the highest level, traditions that have for decades helped to define their spirit and culture," said Hopkins president William R. Brody, who spoke during the debates at the convention in Nashville, Tennessee. "We are grateful to our Division III colleagues for today reaffirming the division's previous votes and longstanding approach to this issue."
—Maria Blackburn

Historic Shift in Hispanic Voting

This year, Super Tuesday could be dubbed "Hispanic Tuesday," says Adam J. Segal, director of the Hispanic Voter Project at Johns Hopkins. On February 3, for the first time in history, two states with large, growing Hispanic populations-New Mexico, with 42.1 percent, and Arizona, with 25.3-will participate in the first multistate round of Democratic presidential primaries.

"The upcoming election is going to outpace all of the others," says Segal, author of the recent study "Hispanic Tuesday: The Hispanic Vote and the 2004 Democratic Primaries" and a recent master's degree graduate of the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences' Washington Center for the Study of American Government. "Hispanic voters have a truly historic chance to influence the outcome of the national election."

Adam Segal says Hispanic voters across the nation will flex their political muscle on February 3, Super Tuesday.
Photo by Sam Kittner
Segal, who works as a senior associate at Rabinowitz Media, a prominent media strategy firm in Washington, D.C., founded the Hispanic Voter Project while researching his master's thesis on the impact of Hispanic voters on the 2000 presidential election. He is currently designing a new course on ethnic marketing and political communication that he will teach this spring as part of Hopkins' master's program in communication in contemporary society and government.

The Hispanic Voter Project's goal is to draw attention to the growing political importance of the nation's Hispanic-American voters.

"Our single greatest contribution to the effort is in increasing the overall attention candidates, political parties, and interest groups pay to Hispanic voters," Segal says. "When more attention is paid to Hispanic voters, many more of them will see an incentive to participate in the process."

Hispanic population and Hispanic voting are both on the rise. In 1996, Hispanics were 5 percent of the overall vote, Segal says; in 2000, that number jumped to 7 percent. Meanwhile, the African-American figure remained at 10 percent.

"Hispanic voters are growing so rapidly that very soon it is expected that they will surpass the number of African-American voters," says Segal. Hispanic voters tend to be economically liberal, socially conservative, and vote Democrat by a margin of 2-to-1. However, because the group is so diverse, Republicans as well as Democrats are courting them, he says.

"To be most successful, the candidates are going to have to develop very extensive networks of supporters within the [Hispanic] community, within the neighborhoods in each of those key cities and states," Segal says. "Candidates and their top staff and strategists will have to devote important resources to grassroots and direct communication efforts that will reach Hispanic voters in their own homes and workplaces."

Illustration by Robert Neubecker

Secret Service Hits the Books

They're known for their sunglasses, vigilant stares, and a no-nonsense approach to guarding the president and other dignitaries. And by this spring, two dozen members of the United States Secret Service will also be known as Johns Hopkins graduates.

The class of 24 Secret Service employees began a two-year program at the School of Professional Studies in Business and Education's Division of Public Safety Leadership in the fall of 2002 and will finish in the spring with Master of Science in Management degrees. The goal is to hone the leadership skills of Secret Service employees who could be in the top ranks of the agency in the next several years.

"The Secret Service is not putting these folks in this course to get a degree; that's only a byproduct," says Joseph N. McGowan, a former police training director and Bethlehem Steel executive who oversees the program. "They want to create a pool of talent that in time will enhance the agency's leadership capabilities."

Hopkins officials say this is the first time a federal agency has contracted with a university to set up a special graduate degree program for a cohort of its employees. The graduate degree program grows out of a long-standing relationship between the agency and SPSBE. Since 1997, more than 700 Secret Service agents and other personnel have completed training courses offered by SPSBE's Public Safety Leadership Program.

The Secret Service, which was recently transferred from the Treasury Department to the newly created Department of Homeland Security, selected 24 employees interested in taking part in the leadership program.

Among the courses are Ethics and Integrity, Crisis Management, and an overview of the federal budgeting process. The curriculum largely resembles that used by the school's Police Executive Leadership Program, which focuses on training public safety officials.

"The curriculum gives you a variety of things to look at, but all of it equates to leadership," says A.T. Smith, a member of the class and the deputy special agent in charge of the Secret Service's New York field office. "These 24 have been identified as hopefully future leaders of the Secret Service."

As part of one leadership class, the Secret Service group made a field trip last fall to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to study the Civil War battle and discuss how its leaders performed. Among those analyzed was the oldest general on the battlefield, U.S. Army General George Green. Following orders, he worked his troops hard to build earthworks on Culp's Hill, a construct that seemed useless but proved invaluable in turning back a Confederate attack on the battle's final day.

Hopkins management professor Pete Petersen, who led the Gettysburg seminar, said the lessons of Gettysburg hold true for Secret Service agents who may be asked to sacrifice their own lives in the line of duty.

"The lesson," Petersen says, "is you have to do your job, even in adverse conditions."
—Tom Waldron

Novel Approach to Nigeria

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's writing has been compared to Chinua Achebe's and Gabriel Garcia Marquez'. She has been shortlisted for the 2002 Caine prize for African writing and had a story selected for publication in the 2003 O. Henry Prize compilation. Her first novel, Purple Hibiscus (Algonquin Books, 2003), which she wrote during her senior year at Eastern Connecticut State University, has been acclaimed internationally for its original voice and tragic beauty. A few short weeks after the book was published, 26-year-old Adichie started at Hopkins as an MA candidate in the Writing Seminars.

Johns Hopkins Magazine: Since you are already on your way to becoming a successful author, why enroll in a writing program?

Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: I think it's good for me to be here as a writer, to look at my work through other people's eyes while it's still in the process of being created. Also, I wanted a degree in writing in case I want to teach at some point.

JHM: What is it like balancing a book tour with being a graduate student?

CNA: It's difficult. I teach Monday through Wednesday and have classes on those days. For the past five weeks I've left for the book tour on Thursday and gotten back on Saturday or Sunday. Then I have to prepare for class. On the book tour I've seen a bit of America-places like Iowa, Michigan, Philadelphia, New York, Atlantic City. I like hearing what people have to say about the book, although people usually assume [Kambili, the narrator] is me. I'm amused by it, but I tell them, while I have so much sympathy for the character, this is really fiction. I really made this up.

JHM: Your book, which is about a sheltered Nigerian girl with an overbearing father, draws so strongly from Nigeria, its culture, politics, and people. What is in it that people in the U.S. respond to?

CNA: All good literature is universal. I can read good literature from Russia or Bangladesh and identify with something in it even though I'm not from there. I'm really pleased that people are responding to the book. I do think it's time people read about Nigeria and Africa. It's been neglected too long-not just neglected, it's also been misrepresented. People either view Africa as a backdrop for famine or AIDS. That's not what Africa is about. People in Africa are regular, ordinary people who are crying and laughing. They're people.

JHM: You gave up studying pre-med at college in Nigeria to study communications and become a writer instead. Have you ever regretted that decision?

CNA: Not for one minute. In Nigeria when you do well in school you are expected to be a doctor because you can then open a clinic and be gainfully employed. After I took the West African School Certificate Exams in high school and got the best grade in the school, my teacher said to me, "You're going to be a doctor or engineer." I understood what she meant and it made sense. But after a year of pre-med I realized I wasn't happy. Writing is what makes me happiest. I've always been writing.

JHM: You were born in Nigeria and grew up there, but attended college in the United States. After writing for a while about the kind of people in your English reader at school, you switched and began writing about Nigerians. Where do you consider home?

CNA: Home is Nigeria. Nsukka is the home of my heart-where I grew up and where I want to go back and set up a bohemian writers' colony. I will always feel like I don't belong here fully. Even though I also feel I'm an observer in Nigeria, I also never question my place. I'm most comfortable there.

Fruit Flies Offer Clues to the Birds and the Bees

From a strict, albeit reductive, standpoint of developmental biology, organisms exist primarily for the perpetuation of germ cells, the reproductive cells from which the organism arises. Only germ cells, the chromosomal repositories that produce sperm and eggs, contribute to the next generation. But for all their importance, not that much is understood about germ cells, especially about their development.

Mark Van Doren, a Hopkins assistant professor of biology, studies germ cells in Drosophila, the fruit fly. In a study published in the August 2003 issue of the journal Developmental Cell, Van Doren and colleagues at the Biology Department's Integrated Imaging Center found that a pathway to male gonad development in humans also exists in fruit flies. The finding strengthens the hypothesis that a pathway controlling sexual dimorphism-the differentiation between male and female-exists in common among a wide array of species.

Says Van Doren, "In a very crude sense, flies are making boys and girls different from one another in the same way humans might be."

The biologist studied a Drosophila gene called Sox100B. The gene is a correspondent of a human gene named Sox9. In people, Sox9 is expressed only in the male gonad and is essential for development of male testis. By using an imaging technique known as immunofluorescence microscopy, Van Doren and his colleagues found that Sox100B is expressed the same way in male Drosophila.

Sox9 figures in certain human disorders that lead to sexual reversal; that is, people with the chromosomes of one gender but physical characteristics of the other. If genes like Sox9 and pathways to gonadal sexual differentiation are similar in humans and fruit flies, then fruit flies might prove to be a good model for the study of other genes involved in human sex reversal.

Van Doren's research also found that, to the scientist's surprise, a fruit fly's embryonic gonad is already differentiated as male or female when it just begins to coalesce in the embryo. Van Doren explains that biologists had believed development of the gonad included a phase when it was bi-potential and could turn out to be either male or female. "But actually," he concludes, "there's no bi-potential phase."

Coauthors included Tony J. DeFalco, Geraldine Verney, Allison B. Jenkins, and J. Michael McCaffery, all of Hopkins, and Steven Russell of the University of Cambridge, in England.
—Dale Keiger

Mathematical Pluck

The next time you watch Bela Fleck or some other banjo picker, just remember this: You are witness to a connected one-dimensional dynamic wave-bearing system driven harmonically by a unit force. Joseph Dickey says so, and he's got the math to back it up.

A research scientist at the Whiting School of Engineering, Dickey also plays banjo in a bluegrass band named Crabgrass. The two interests intersected in 2002 at a meeting of the Acoustical Society of America. Dickey says, "I happened to sit next to a music guy, and I asked him, out of the blue, if he knew of any technical papers on the banjo. He said that to his knowledge there never has been one." Dickey decided to poke around the literature. "There were tens of thousands of papers on violins and guitars, analyzing glues and varnishes and all manner of esoteric things. There were papers on didgeridoos and papers on all kinds of drums that you've never heard of, from places you've never heard of. But not one paper on the American five-string banjo."

There's one now. The November 2003 issue of the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America contains "The Structural Dynamics of the American Five-string Banjo," by Joe Dickey. It begins, "The banjo is a simple, if not subtle, instrument."

For Joseph Dickey, the notes add up.
Photo by Mike Ciesielski
For his paper, Dickey created a set of mathematical models. He regarded the banjo as an assemblage of interacting systems: each of five strings, plus the head, which is the circular stretched skin or piece of Mylar that vibrates under the strings and gives the instrument its distinctive sound and appearance. By the second page, the math starts to get a bit deep, if you're not an engineer, with variables such as bridge mass (mb, standard value 2.5 x 10-3kg) and pot mass density (mp, standard value 0.635 kg/m). But fathoming the conclusion requires no more than a working knowledge of English.

Dickey found that a lot of the folklore among banjo players and luthiers, what in his paper he calls the black magic of banjo set-up, is borne out by the instrument's structural dynamics. If you want to produce a loud tone, tighten the tension on the head and play the strings near where the banjo's neck joins the pot, which is the assembly of round parts that form the body of the instrument. For a brighter sound, choose a banjo with an unfrosted Mylar head, pluck or strum close to the bridge, and again keep high tension on the head. Most players, especially in bluegrass, want the note sounded by a plucked string to decay rapidly. For this, choose a frosted Mylar head and a heavy bridge. The math doesn't lie.

Response to Dickey's study has amused its author. "I've written a hundred papers in my life," he says. "The sum total of them has not generated the amount of attention that this paper has received. This thing could take over my life if I let it."

1st Team All-Centennial quarterback George Merrell
Photo by Rob Brown

A Great Autumn for Athletics

In 2002, Hopkins football concluded a benchmark season with nine wins and the East Coast Athletic Conference (ECAC) Southwest championship. The 2003 Jays wasted no time in consigning that season to second best. Coach Jim Margraff led the '03 squad to its best record ever, winning 10 games and the Centennial Conference co-championship, then defeating Kings College, 41-13, for the ECAC South Atlantic title. In that game, quarterback George Merrell '04 displayed great timing by posting the best passing day of his career, throwing for 267 yards and two touchdowns as he earned his second consecutive ECAC Most Valuable Player award.

Hopkins fielded one of the nation's best Division-III defenses, as the Jays outscored opponents 315-77. Leading tacklers on defense included Adam Luke '06, Max Whitacre '06, Paul Longo '04, and Matt Campbell '05, who became only the second player in Hopkins football history to be named 1st-team All-American. On offense, Adam Cook '05 had another sterling season, rushing for 1,047 yards, catching two touchdown passes, and leading the Jays in kick-return yardage. The Jays' top receivers were Brian Wolcott '05 and Anthony Triplin '07. Wolcott was also the team's leading scorer, with 10 touchdowns.

Junior safety Matt Campbell
Photo by Rob Brown
The Jays' lone loss, 14-6 to Muhlenberg College, cost them what would have been their first-ever invitation to the NCAA Division-III football championships. Hopkins finished as the 17th-ranked team in the country and posted a better record than unranked Muhlenberg. But by defeating the Jays, Muhlenberg won the tie-breaker for the automatic NCAA tournament bid.

Football was not the only championship sport in a great autumn for Hopkins athletics. The women's field hockey team won the Centennial Conference crown with a dramatic 4-3 overtime win versus Gettysburg College. That victory also earned the Lady Jays a trip to the NCAA tournament, where they defeated Wesley College, 5-1, to advance to a second-round match against third-ranked College of New Jersey. The Lions proved too much for Hopkins, ending the Jays' season with their 4-0 victory.

Men's soccer garnered an ECAC championship of its own, shutting down McDaniel College 6-0 in the ECAC South Atlantic final. Forward Chad Taraboulos '04, a D-III All-American, scored three goals in the championship game. The '03 Jays' 18 wins matched the team record, set in 1998. They were denied a Centennial Conference championship when they lost in the finals to Muhlenberg, 2-1.

Peabody Expands its Repertoire to Include Jazz Studies

Tim Murphy spreads his fingers across piano keys and pauses to think through what he's about to say. A roomful of students waits. Murphy plays a chord, then asks, "In this D minor chord, what's the melody note? Start on D below middle C, then just stack thirds until you get to G." He demonstrates. Then he plays something else. "Why does that ring so well?" he asks, then answers himself: "All those open fifths." A bit later, a student asks, "What was that voicing, Tim?" Murphy replies, "Stole it from Herbie Hancock."

Murphy is a jazz pianist and faculty member at the Peabody Conservatory, where instruction in Herbie Hancock is a recent development. The Peabody Jazz Program will graduate its first four-year class in 2006. As far as Peabody Institute director Robert Sirota is concerned, it's about time.

"It seemed to me and quite a few people here that a preeminent American conservatory should have a high-level program in the most indigenous American music," Sirota says. "Particularly in a city that has a venerable jazz tradition, it was ridiculous not to have such a program."

Sirota began thinking about a jazz program not long after assuming Peabody's directorship eight years ago. The first step was finding people who might be interested in funding scholarships, faculty salaries, and new equipment such as microphones, amplifiers, speakers, and other electronics required for ensemble performances and touring. Once the money began to accumulate, Peabody searched the New York-to-Washington musical corridor for jazz players who could teach its courses. It hired two full-time and five part-time faculty members, musicians like Murphy, bassist Michael Formanek, and saxophonist Gary Thomas, who signed on as the director of Jazz Studies. The school formulated a curriculum, combining one-on-one instrumental tutorials and ensemble performance opportunities-there's a new Latin jazz ensemble and a Peabody jazz orchestra-with classroom work in theory, composition, ear-training, improvisation, and arranging. The first four-year class began in the autumn of 2002. Now 16 undergraduates are pursuing bachelor's degrees in jazz performance, and three grad students are working toward graduate performance diplomas.

Courses like Murphy's Jazz Arranging and Composition I benefit more than just jazz majors, Sirota says. "The skills of learning to improvise and be aware of the underlying melodic and harmonic principles of jazz composition broaden the training of any musician. It's a skill set that many of them are going to use in their professional lives."

Formanek, a much-in-demand bassist who recently moved to Baltimore to accommodate his teaching responsibilities, seconds the importance of broader musical skills, especially if the musician wants to find steady work. "It's not like there are a whole lot of new orchestras being formed," he says. Following graduation, "most people in the orchestral track here will still find themselves doing pop concerts. On Broadway, doing shows, the people who do well are always those who have some jazz background. I think that for the classical students, being around the jazz students will give them a little more experience at this. Playing jazz is so much about making decisions on the spot, learning to be improvisers not just in music, but in life."

In Memorium:
Hugh Kenner, Revered Literary Critic, Dies at 80

Hugh Kenner, one of literary modernism's most respected critics, died late last November at his home in Athens, Georgia. From 1973 to 1990, Kenner was the Andrew Mellon professor of humanities at Hopkins.

Hugh Kenner was a giant among giants in the field of literary criticism.
File Photo
A prolific critic, Kenner wrote 25 books and uncounted articles. His first book, The Poetry of Ezra Pound, appeared in 1951 and immediately established its author as a major scholar, as well as a proponent of Pound's work. Kenner's most acclaimed work included Dublin's Joyce (1956), The Pound Era (1971), and Joyce's Voices (1978). One of his more widely read works may have been a user's guide for the Heath/Zenith Z-100 computer, which Kenner wrote after he assembled one from a kit. Drawn to technical subjects, Kenner was a columnist for the computer magazine Byte and wrote a book on geodesic domes.

Pound had exhorted Kenner to visit "the great men of your time," and provided letters of introduction. Thus armed, Kenner did in fact visit T.S. Eliot, Samuel Beckett, Wyndham Lewis, William Carlos Williams, Marianne Moore, Basil Bunting, and Louis Zukofsky. This sort of zeal for delving into literature marked Kenner's work. Fellow critic Richard Eder once wrote that Kenner "doesn't write about literature; he jumps in, armed and thrashing. He crashes it, like a party-goer who refuses to hover near the door but goes right up to the guest of honor, plumps himself down, sniffs at the guest's dinner, eats some, and begins a one-to-one discussion."

Kenner was 80 at the time of his death.

Nursing Abused Women Back to Health

"Do you have any bones broken?" community health nurse Phyllis Sharps asks a woman with a scar across her cheek.

"No," the woman answers nervously. Mary (not her real name) appears anxious. Only yesterday her husband-in a drunken rage-hit her and threatened to kill her. She found shelter here at Baltimore's House of Ruth and now has reported to the shelter's health clinic, run by Hopkins' School of Nursing, for an assessment. She had come to the House of Ruth before, and returned to her husband and his abuse. But this time she's determined to stay here, she tells Sharps.

"Has physical violence increased?" Sharps asks, her friendly, round face sympathetic.

"Yes," Mary replies.

"Has he been drunk?"


"Does he have a gun?"

"Thank the Lord NO!"

"I don't have to tell you you're in danger...." Sharps locks the woman with a steady gaze that pushes Mary to contemplate the seriousness of her dilemma. "Anyway, I'm here if you need to talk about it."

We've found that the health of battered women is severely compromised. It's really important for them to have a way to reduce stress."
— Jacquelyn Campbell

Illustration by Scott Roberts

Through her nursing research and her work at the health suite here, Sharps is familiar with patterns of domestic abuse. The two-room clinic at the House of Ruth was a key component of its 84-bed shelter, which was completed in 1998, thanks in part to the vision of Jacquelyn Campbell, a national authority on domestic abuse and associate dean for faculty affairs at the School of Nursing. Campbell, who continues to serve on the shelter's board of directors, helped to find funding and develop a focus on wellness at the shelter. "We've found that the health of battered women is severely compromised. It's really important for them to have ways to reduce stress, to work on things" like finding housing or a job, she says. In addition to treating the most obvious physical wounds, the House of Ruth now offers yoga classes as well as lessons in massage, smoking cessation, dance, and exercise.

Nurses and nurse practitioners from the School of Nursing staff the clinic two days a week. (For emergency needs at other times, women seek treatment elsewhere.) Nursing students, under the supervision of the nurses and others at the clinic, expand the capacity of the shelter's staff by working closely with families, says Terri Wurmser, director of programs at House of Ruth. "The nurses are an incredible resource, addressing physical health issues and providing encouragement for using the other services available here."

As part of Mary's 30-minute examination, nursing student Sophie Hsu takes the woman's blood pressure, weight, and height. Sharps rummages through a well-stocked medicine cabinet for nicotine patches (Mary volunteered that she wanted to quit smoking) and helps locate Mary's prescribed medications for arthritis and depression. She also signs her up for the clinic's smoking cessation program, run by the School of Nursing, and encourages her to attend a massage lesson to reduce stress.

Running through a detailed questionnaire with Mary, Sharps turns up a complex health history typical of abuse victims: depression, severe arthritis, and past drug and heavy alcohol use. Mary says her husband has used alcohol heavily-a danger sign. In a recent study of 427 murders related to domestic violence in 10 cities, published in July 2003 in the American Journal of Public Health, Campbell and Sharps found that nearly half of the murderers had severe problems with alcohol. Possession of a gun, drug use, and forced sexual activity also figured in the profile of the abuser who ultimately commits "femicide," as advocates for abused women refer to the crime.

Campbell has refined the danger assessment tool that she developed in 1986 to determine the risks for victims of domestic violence. The questionnaire is used in shelters and clinics, as well as increasingly in emergency rooms, where cases of domestic abuse have in the past been overlooked. The more yeses, the more danger exists, alerting officials to take extra caution to protect domestic violence victims and give them a deeper awareness of the risks they face with a violent partner.

Sharps is working on a follow-up study of House of Ruth alumnae. After leaving the shelter, study participants continued to receive mental health services and medication as needed. Of eight women in the preliminary study, only one returned to her partner, and she is not in danger. Sharps is now working to form a nurse-led psychiatric team that would offer some promising new cognitive behavior therapies and "make sure women who leave the shelter stay healthy and connected." For her part, Campbell says she'd like to add more drug abuse treatment to the current in-house offerings.

Sharps and Campbell say they're encouraged by the impact that School of Nursing research is having in the field. "There are many quiet successes that people don't hear about," Sharps says. She mentions a victim of domestic abuse who was able to start a new life and go to nursing school; an immigrant who saved enough money to begin feeling independent; and even Mary, who is starting a program of change today, beginning with the smoking cessation classes. "We get to see the women from where they are, coming into the shelter, and where they go," she concludes.
—Lavinia Edmunds

Return to February 2004 Table of Contents

  The Johns Hopkins Magazine | 901 S. Bond St. | Suite 540 | Baltimore, MD 21231
Phone 443-287-9900 | Fax 443-287-9898 | E-mail