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Wholly Hopkins
Matters of note from around Johns Hopkins


Medicine: A Measured Smallpox Vaccination Plan

University: Scientists Lose Research in Shuttle Tragedy

Policy: SAIS Center to Address Plight of War Refugees

Public Health: Campaigning for Meatless Mondays

University: Trustees Approve Modest Tuition Hike

Museums: Gilded Bath a TV Star

Books: Politics, Literature Intersect in Memoir

Peabody: Singapore Conservatory Tunes Up

Nursing: Grandmothers' Helpers

Sports: Hopkins Players Hot During Cold Season

Archaeology: Scholar Ponders Significance of Ossuary

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

A Measured Response for Smallpox Vaccination Plan

When President George W. Bush called for the immediate nationwide vaccination of 500,000 health care workers in late 2002, Johns Hopkins' response was "Whoa, there." Hopkins health professionals -- including Alfred Sommer, dean of the Bloomberg School of Public Health -- deemed large-scale inoculation unnecessarily risky. Instead, the university has developed a "Low Risk, Go Slow" vaccination policy that has since been adopted by the state of Maryland.

In early March, Hopkins began its first wave of smallpox inoculations. Over the next six to eight months, a total of 525 people -- a group that includes doctors, nurses, and facilities workers who would, in case of a bioterrorist attack, set up a staging area for mass inoculations -- will be vaccinated.

Illustration by Michael Morgenstern "[Maryland] initially wanted to do things in three to four weeks," says Gabe Kelen, director of the Johns Hopkins University Office of Critical Event Preparedness (CEPAR). But Hopkins put the brakes on. There are risks to being inoculated: According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), for every 1 million people vaccinated, 1,000 develop serious, but not life-threatening, reactions; 14 to 52 people have potentially life-threatening reactions; and one or two people will die. A number of conditions put people at higher risk for serious reactions to the vaccine, including skin conditions like eczema, burns, shingles, herpes, severe acne, or psoriasis, as well as people with weakened immune systems and women who are pregnant.

Because the live virus used to inoculate against smallpox (a "pox"-type virus called vaccinia) can be spread through direct contact with the vaccinated site before it heals (usually in three weeks), or even through contact with bandages, clothing, or other materials that have touched the site, Johns Hopkins decided in its plan to reassign those who are vaccinated so that they are not in contact with patients who have risk factors. "We have a high HIV and immunocompromised population," says Christina Catlett, deputy director of CEPAR and one of the first to be vaccinated at Hopkins. The challenge facing administrators: making sure they don't inoculate too many workers in the same department at once. Under the "Low Risk, Go Slow" plan, 10 to 15 employees will be inoculated a week, on a voluntary basis.

According to the CDC, most people will experience only mild reactions to the vaccine -- flu-like symptoms, a sore arm. Should a Johns Hopkins employee become sick enough to miss work or require hospitalization, worker's compensation coverage will be provided, the employee will not have to use any paid time off, and treatment will be provided by Johns Hopkins physicians.

Says Kelen, "We wanted to go slow, get a sense of what's going on, and we wanted a plan that would be less disruptive to our institution." Hopkins presented its plan to the state of Maryland, and the state in turn modified its agenda to comply with Hopkins' terms. "It was amicable," says Kelen. "But to operationalize all this took an extraordinary number of meetings."

School of Public Health Dean Sommer, who has publicly opposed mass inoculations for smallpox, approves of the plan: "I think the hospital has a thoughtful plan to slowly and gradually immunize a small number of people, so in the unlikely event we experience a bioterrorist attack, the hospital will be well-positioned to deal with it. It's a question of the known risks of the vaccine vs. the unknown and unknowable risk of being attacked."

Sommer points out that once a person is exposed to smallpox, he or she has four to five days to receive the vaccine and be protected from illness. "If we have all the systems in place, we could vaccinate everyone in New York within a week" in the event of smallpox exposure, he says.

Last seen in the United States in 1949, smallpox was eliminated from the world (after a final recorded case in Somalia in 1977) through a World Health Organization campaign led by Donald A. Henderson, MPH '60, former dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and now principal science adviser on public health preparedness for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In the United States, inoculations for smallpox (usually effective only for three to five years) were discontinued in 1972; thus, an attack using smallpox would potentially meet a highly susceptible nation.

After a symptomless incubation period of seven to 17 days, people infected with smallpox experience high fever, head and body aches, and vomiting. During the next phase, red spots appear on the tongue and mouth; the person is most contagious when these spots become sores that break open and spread into the mouth and throat. The rash then spreads to the rest of the body, and by the fourth day, the bumps fill with a thick, opaque fluid. Over the next two weeks or so, the bumps become pustules, form a crust, and scab. Patients are contagious until the scabs have fallen off.

Smallpox is fatal in about 30 percent of people who contract it; among survivors, 65 to 80 percent will have deep, pitted scars, according to the World Health Organization. The CDC classifies the disease as one of six 'Category A' bioagents -- pathogens with the most potential threat to public health.

Says Sommer of the "Low Risk, Go Slow" plan: "If we knew somebody was going to attack us with smallpox, it would change the cost/benefit equation entirely. But we're not at that point, and I hope we never get there." -- Sally McGrane, MA '02

Two Hundred Strong, Steves Take a Stand on Science

A statement supporting the teaching of evolution in schools was released in February with signatures of 220 prominent scientists -- all named Steve. Says Eugenie C. Scott of the National Center for Science Education, "Creationists are fond of amassing lists of PhDs who deny evolution to try to give the false impression that evolution is on the verge of being rejected by the scientific community. Nothing could be farther from the truth.... And we asked only scientists named Steve [or Stephanie] -- who represent approximately 1 percent of scientists." On the list: Hopkins professors Steven L. Salzberg, Steven M. Stanley, and Steven Yantis, as well as Hopkins alum Stephen D. Hauschka.

Scientists Lose Research in Shuttle Tragedy

Part of the mission of the doomed shuttle Columbia was to take into space a number of scientific experiments; two Hopkins projects to assess the problems that near-zero gravity causes astronauts were among those lost.

The team led by Artin A. Shoukas, Hopkins professor of biomedical engineering and physiology, hoped to determine whether models being used to study the effects of microgravity on astronauts were valid. "We were addressing a problem faced by astronauts who experience prolonged space flight, then return to a gravity field," says Shoukas of the symptom orthostatic hypotension, which causes astronauts to faint from lack of blood supply to their heads upon return to Earth.

Few astronauts have experienced prolonged space flight, so researchers have had to rely on experimental models that attempt to reproduce the phenomenon on the ground. In the "hind-limb suspended rat model," a harness is rigged on a laboratory rat to force it to move about its cage on its front paws suspended at a 35- to 45-degree angle. The procedure has been used for more than six years, but scientists are not certain it truly models microgravity.

In Shoukas' experiment, hind-limb suspended rats on Earth served as controls to be compared to litter-mates sent into space. If the effects of hind-limb suspension closely matched the effects of microgravity on the rats, the model would be validated.

Kimberly O'Brien, associate professor of human nutrition at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, was principal Hopkins investigator on an experiment to study astronauts' loss of bone. "During space flight, you lose on average 1 1/2 percent of your bone mass per month," she notes. In contrast, a typical elderly person loses about 1 percent per year.

"It's known that in astronauts absorption decreases, urinary calcium goes up tremendously, and a lot of calcium is released from the bone," O'Brien explains. "There's no weight-bearing on the bone and so it begins to unload -- a lot of mineral is lost. During flight, some individuals lose much more than others, and it's not known what are the primary determinants. It doesn't appear to be just related to diet or how much they exercise. This is one of the major issues that needs to be addressed for long space flight."

The experiment called for four members of the crew to ingest a stable isotope of calcium and also inject each other with the isotope. Throughout the mission the crew collected blood, saliva, and urine samples so the researchers could trace how fast the astronauts' bodies were clearing the isotope.

Had Columbia's crew returned safely, researchers would have repeated the isotope studies the day of landing and two weeks later. -- DK

SAIS Center to Address Plight of War Refugess

In the past decade, conflicts within regions across the world have created an estimated 25 million war refugees who cannot seek safety across international borders but instead live in fear under regimes hostile to their ethnic or religious groups.

A Center for Displacement Studies has been created at the Hopkins Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) to focus on the plight of populations such as the Kurds in Iraq. The center, through conferences, seminars, lecture series, research projects, and other efforts, will draw attention to a pressing human rights and security issue.

Francis Mading Deng, director of the new Center for Displacement Studies at SAIS
Photo by Kaveh Sardari
"Internal displacement is a global crisis," notes Francis Mading Deng, United Nations undersecretary general on Internally Displaced Persons, and recently named director of the new SAIS center. Many of these refugees live out of reach of humanitarian, legal, or political aid, says Deng. "These people are uprooted and forced to flee from their homes as a result of armed conflicts, communal violence, grosviolations of human rights, and other man-made or natural disasters."

Deng points out that cultural and religious rifts within a country determine -- depending on who is in power -- which groups are accepted and which are considered outsiders and often persecuted. "The challenge demands a fundamental restructuring of the equations of power-sharing. What is required is a framework of peace with justice and a mutual sense of belonging and participation," he says.

Deng is a former Sudan ambassador to the United States, Canada, and Scandinavian countries, as well as a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution. Among other accomplishments, he helped develop the "Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement" for the United Nations, a document outlining human rights norms and law. At SAIS, Deng has been named a research professor of international politics, law, and society. The new center will be under the umbrella of the SAIS Foreign Policy Institute. -- Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson

Public Health
Health Stakes High in Meatless Monday Push

Robert and Cynthia Lawrence like to go to the Ambassador Restaurant not far from their apartment on Baltimore's North Charles Street. The Indian menu reminds them of their travels, and it's a great place to have a vegetarian meal.

Over a meal of samosas, spinach saag, and vegetable biryani with a side of naan, Lawrence, associate dean at Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health, describes his latest undertaking: Meatless Monday, a nationwide campaign to convince Americans to go meatless once a week. The strategy, Lawrence notes, would reduce a person's consumption of meat by 15 percent to meet "Healthy People 2010" goals, and at the same time help to protect the environment.

Robert Lawrence
Photo by Bruce Weller
Lawrence, a founding member of Physicians for Human Rights and winner of the 2002 Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism, is at no loss for figures: The average U.S. citizen is responsible for 800 kilos of grain consumption per year, compared to 250 in China. Our grain, you see, goes to feeding livestock, mainly beef, one pound of which takes 7,000 pounds of grain to produce. And it takes 1,000 pounds of water to produce a pound of grain.

Then there's the issue of environmental degradation: polluted ground water surrounding the massive slaughterhouses in the South and Midwest, and the dioxins that build up exponentially in the rendered fat of animals raised for human food -- fat that's then fed to the next generation of animals to be consumed. And we haven't even gotten to the health risks associated with eating too much saturated fat.

The average American male, Lawrence points out, eats 180 percent of the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommendation of protein, and the average female eats 140 percent, leading to a host of long-range problems, from obesity to cardiovascular disease.

Illustration by Mike McConnell Meatless Monday, Lawrence hopes, could be the start of a larger push to limit other animal products, such as eggs and butter, that contain saturated fat.

The campaign, launched in January, is the brainchild of Sid Lerner, a retired New York advertising executive.

Lerner hopes to link with major media outlets, from Parade Magazine to network television, as well as food companies that specialize in alternative means of protein, such as the California-based Boca Burger, to implant the phrase Meatless Monday in the American consciousness.

Lawrence believes that the simplified message of Meatless Monday will catch on. "Hearing about the plight of the developing world doesn't have resonance for many Americans these days," he laments. "Focusing on this as a health issue will work much better."

Already, the deans of 28 of the nation's 32 schools of public health have signed on to the campaign, "even a few located in places where meat production is high," notes Lawrence.

The term Meatless Monday actually dates to World War I. As head of the War Food Security Commission, Herbert Hoover came up with catchy phrases to ease consumption of rationed commodities -- Wheatless Wednesday was another. Lerner points to a modern-day model: "The term 'designated driver' was a Harvard School of Public Health initiative," he notes. "Now try typing the phrase into Google." -- Martha Thomas

Trustees Approve Modest Tuition Hike for Hopkins Undergraduates

Tuition for full-time undergraduates at Johns Hopkins' Homewood campus will increase by 4.9 percent in 2003-2004, up $1,340 to $28,730, according to new rates approved by the Board of Trustees at its December meeting.

The increase, which affects roughly 4,000 students in the schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering, represents a continuation of the university's efforts in recent years to rein in increases of the early 1990s and before. During those years, tuition hikes had exceeded 5 percent for 22 straight years, hitting 10 percent or more seven times during that span.

During the last seven years, the university has held increases to less than 5 percent for all but two years. The exceptions: the years when charges to operate two new student life-related buildings -- the Mattin Center and the O'Connor Recreation Center -- were built into the pricing structure.

"The administration, under the direction of the Board of Trustees, stands committed to holding tuition increases to a level below those of the early 1990s and before," says Krieger School Dean Daniel Weiss. "That, combined with our increased emphasis on financial aid in both our budgeting process and fund-raising efforts, has helped to minimize the impact of increased costs on students and their families."

Whiting School of Engineering Dean Ilene Busch-Vishniac notes that last year's tuition increase was the fourth smallest among a group of 18 peer universities, including all the Ivies, MIT, Stanford, and Chicago.

For many Hopkins undergraduates, financial aid will cut the true cost of next year's education to below the "sticker price." This year, 55 percent of Homewood undergraduates receive need-based aid; 47 percent receive grants from university funds. Total financial aid from all sources this year -- university funds, federal grants and loans, and private or other aid -- is $52 million.

Gilded Bath a TV Star

This winter, Home & Garden Television recognized something that the people at Johns Hopkins' Evergreen House have known all along: The university has one of the best bathrooms in America.

Evergreen House, built along Charles Street in 1858, was bequeathed to Johns Hopkins University by John Work Garrett and his wife, Alice Warder Garrett, both patrons of the arts. Today, it is open to the public for tours, as well as for concert series, special exhibitions, and lectures.

Now that's a bath: Robert Saarnio, director of Historic Houses at Hopkins, sits amid the gold leaf, brass, stained glass, and mosaic that made the Evergreen House Gold Bath a top-10 celebrity.
Photo by Christopher Myers
But the late Mrs. Garrett's Picasso and Degas treasures are not the only reasons to visit. The Gold Bathroom, added by the Garrett family in 1886, is one of the house's particularly bright spots.

Jim Mullen, executive producer of "Top 10 Fabulous Bathrooms" on HGTV, said his team culled the gold bathroom from more than 150 sumptuous bathrooms under consideration. They chose the Evergreen House bath because, "when it really came down to it, gold isn't something people use anymore. The Gold Bathroom really withstood the test of time -- it was fabulous when they built it, and it's still fabulous."

All the bathroom's wooden surfaces -- including the window shutters and the entirety of the toilet seat -- are covered in 23-karat gold leaf. The floor, walls, and ceiling are Roman-inspired unpolished marble mosaic (a mosaic of a tousled blond swimmer and his friend, who is riding a dolphin-like sea creature through the tiled waves, adds a nice element above the room's intricate fireplace mantel).

While the gold-tinted tub is in fact tin and copper, all the pipes in the room are solid brass, as are the three ornate medicine cabinets. Gilded Federal mirrors, a gold leaf standing cabinet, a large stained-glass window, and a porcelain waste bucket also help to, as Robert Saarnio, director of Historic Houses, puts it, "create a huge, dazzling impression on the user."

To illustrate his point, Saarnio shuts the bath's door, which stands just opposite the toilet. The door is covered in brass, with an intricate pattern of brass rivets. "You can imagine the impact the door would have had on someone actually using the bathroom," he says. "It must have just been unbelievable."

Evergreen House's gold bath was the only non-contemporary bathroom on the HGTV show and, at 10 by 12 feet, certainly the smallest.

The gold bath -- which, says Saarnio, is a perfect example of the tastes of the Gilded Age -- was the last bathroom presented. And, says Saarnio, "The Home & Garden people said, 'We've saved the best for last.'" -- SM

Politics, Literature Intersect in Memoir

In 1995, Azar Nafisi (pictured at right), now a visiting fellow at the Hopkins Nitze School of Advanced International Studies' Foreign Policy Institute, convened a discreet, almost clandestine class of seven young Iranian women in Tehran. Every Thursday for two years, they met at her house to learn about English and American literature, away from the arbitrary rules and imposed politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nafisi has just published a memoir of teaching these young women, and university literature classes, titled Reading Lolita in Tehran, A Memoir in Books (Random House, 2003). She recently discussed it with senior writer Dale Keiger.

Did you set out to write a "memoir in books"?

When I started writing this book, I did not think I would put so much of my own experiences into it. But as I started writing and thinking about these various authors, the circumstances [in Iran] became more alive in my memory.

When I would talk about Lolita to audiences in the States [after she left Tehran in 1997], people kept saying, "What does Lolita have to do with living in the Islamic Republic?" I had to explain the experience of [Humbert] wanting to take over this young girl's life and impose his own image upon her, and that's what Ayatollah Khomeini did to us.

People have the right to live the way they want, even if they are like Lolita -- a little vulgar and not high-minded. I had to explain this constantly to my American audience, and without telling them about the life we led in Iran, it was difficult telling them why Lolita became so important to us.

Azar Nafisi, center, with the young women she taught English and American literature to in Tehran Another book central to your memoir is The Great Gatsby, which you taught at the University of Tehran.

Many of my [more anti-American] students felt that Gatsby represented the values that they were fighting against. So many people at that time were just against great works of literature. In one sense my teaching of Gatsby and other works was a sort of protest against their protests.

In the third part of your book, you discuss Henry James, especially his book Daisy Miller, about a young woman who defies social convention.

The whole experience of living in the Islamic Republic was a rediscovery of all I had found great in my life but had taken for granted. During the Iran-Iraq war, apart from one brief period, we didn't leave Tehran. We just stayed there during the bombardments.

I'm a bad sleeper anyway, and during the war I was so worried about my children that I used to stay awake most of the night.

I started rereading James. He just mesmerized me. I felt that James was really important to us living under those circumstances because he constantly brings up the question of individual conscience and sense of morality. Daisy Miller's kind of courage is not heroic, like a soldier giving his life for his country, but an unassuming, humble kind of courage.

In the final section, you return to the classes in your home, and now the central author is Jane Austen.

It was really in Iran that when I reread Austen, I discovered how when we talk about democracy we're talking about not just abstract ideas. Democracy needs a specific mindset. With Jane Austen, I could explain to my students what a genuinely democratic mindset was all about. The issue of choice is at the center of all her novels. I always mentioned how [in Austen] it is a woman who says no to the standards and mores that dominate her life, at the risk of living as a pauper. By saying no, she destabilizes the whole society around her. It was so important for my students to understand the value of themselves as individuals and how they should make their mindsets independent of the tyrannical political system dominating their lives.

You stress the importance of imagination.

The faculty that great works of literature awaken in us is the faculty of imagination. Through imagination we are able to empathize with others whom normally we would know nothing about. Without trying to imagine someone who is not like us, I don't think we can ever achieve anything good or great in life.

That's what great works of fiction do for us. A society that does not foster or tries to quash its citizens' imagination commits the greatest crime.

Singapore Conservatory Tunes Up for First Class

From the looks of the teen-ager testing and re-testing the sound of the marimba, this is a moment that matters. He's dressed casually in a black T-shirt and black slacks, but his concentration is evident. With two mallets balanced in each hand, he hammers a short segment of Bach's cello suite No. 3 in C major. Then he pauses and runs through the segment again. In a few minutes, his warmup will be over and his audition will begin.

Young musicians have played Bach to impress all around the world, but significantly, today's audition is taking place in Singapore. And the focused intent on the young man's face bespeaks the magnitude of this opportunity: He's vying for a spot to train as a percussionist in the first-ever class of the Singapore Conservatory of Music.

An artist's rendering of the new Singapore Conservatory building, to be built by 2005 The conservatory is an entity that's just now taking shape, and it's getting its legs thanks to a formal partnership with Hopkins' Peabody Institute. Singapore, a country of 4 million people, which built itself in the last 30 years as a high-tech, business-savvy hub in Southeast Asia, has never had an institute dedicated to training would-be professional classical musicians. In fact, no conservatories exist in any neighboring countries (the nearest are in China and Australia).

Now, the Singapore government is interested in prompting a cultural renaissance. Aspiring to create not simply a local music school but a world-class undergraduate institute on its National University campus, it turned to Peabody as a model of a major music center that's part of a research institution. "In addition, Singapore wanted an alliance that would help put its school on par with world-class conservatories in the U.S. and Europe," explains Steven Baxter, who directs the up-and-coming institute.

In turn, Peabody will benefit by extending its international presence and creating a new base for faculty and student exchanges.

Baxter, an exuberant man with a shock of silver hair, left the post he'd held for seven years as dean of the Peabody Conservatory to build the new school from scratch. The enterprise came with unexpected challenges. "This is a country where people work six days a week," he notes. "Music, art, sports have a different place on the value structure. There's no grassroots movement for a conservatory."

A young musician auditions for admission to the Singapore Conservatory of Music. He began creating the place by assembling a faculty, drawing on several of the principal players of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, and recruiting prominent musicians from the immediate area and abroad. "It's not like Baltimore, where you have a bottomless pit of talent and faculty who can hop on the train in New York. Here," he says, "drawing top-level people to move to the area, making those connections, takes time." Chinese violinist Quian Zhou, Filipino pianist Albert Tiu, and Thomas Hecht, an American pianist who emigrated to New Zealand, are among his recruits.

An even greater challenge, however, turned out to be drawing an eligible student body from Singapore and the surrounding region. "The better your students, the better your school," Baxter notes. "But it's hard to entice people to come audition for a conservatory that doesn't exist yet." Even the most fundamental means of trying to reach young people turned out to require savvy. "Kids in Ho Chi Minh City or Bangkok or Hanoi don't go to their rooms at night to surf the Net. They get the Internet at a cafˇ where they pay by the minute to be online. And they don't surf in their second language, so if you're going to reach them, your site better be in Vietnamese or Thai or Chinese." He and the faculty began traveling to preparatory schools and music centers throughout Asia to learn more about the young people in these regions.

Even the Singaporean teen-ager here today, poised for his percussion audition, acknowledges that he learned of the new conservatory through informal means. "Rumors," he says. "My friends heard about it." The student readies his repertoire for a judge of one: faculty member Jonathan Fox, principal percussionist/ timpanist of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra. The student begins with an excerpt on xylophone from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess Overture. He plays a short orchestral solo by Prokofiev on the snare drum. Fox jots notes, and then has the student repeat the military-like rhythm at a slower pace. "Very nice," Fox says. The student plays Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 3 on timpani, and Fox asks him to tune the low-bellied instrument, which the student does perfectly. ("I tried to trip him up," Fox says later with admiration. "I couldn't do it.") The audition ends with a rippling four-mallet piece by Bach on the marimba.

The in-person auditions are the easy ones for the faculty. More difficult are the many applications that come in the mail in the form of video or audiocassette from other parts of Asia where students don't have the means to travel. Some cassettes arrive with notes acknowledging that the instrument the student is playing is partially broken. The faculty go through these submissions in earnest. The conservatory will offer scholarships to students with financial need, whatever country they happen to come from. But Fox emphasizes that this first class is critical for establishing the high standards of talent the faculty expect in students.

As it turns out, applicants like the young man flourishing the four mallets are exactly what Fox is looking for. "I've been influenced by Jonathan Haas," Fox says later of the chair of Peabody's percussion department. "He's known for being outstanding at both the rhythmic and the pitched instruments. I'm looking for students who are already demonstrating that kind of versatility," and for "students who might have a legitimate shot in four years for grad work at a place like Peabody." The student auditioning today has ambitions of someday becoming a professional member of an orchestra, and Fox, impressed with the entire repertoire, will recommend he be admitted to the conservatory's inaugural class.

During the week of auditions, there are several tantalizing glimmers of what the future may look like for the Singapore Conservatory of Music. In a violin audition a day later, a young woman arrives with her parents from China. She acknowledges to the three judges, Russian Alexander Souptel, concertmaster of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra, and two members of a famous Singaporean string quartet, that she speaks little English, then readies her violin and plays without a shred of sheet music. She plays passionately, plucking and bowing, and the violin jumps to life like a capricious child she's not only won over but taught a few good tricks.

The judges listen without interruption. It's clear from the fervent notes what the conservatory will mean to such students who are eligible for admission. For a moment, it even seems clear from her playing what a world-class conservatory might mean to the spiritual life of the country. -- Kate Ledger

Grandmothers' Helpers

On the first Monday evening of each month, a dozen grandmothers, accompanied by their energetic charges, gather in the church basement of Amazing Grace Episcopal Church on McElderry Street in East Baltimore for dinner. The group opens with prayer, and then a children's story. But the important time comes later, when the kids are sent off with student nurses from the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing to do their homework, play games, or work on a project. That's when the grandmothers are left to take a deep breath, and as grandmother Mary Scott says, "kick with each other" -- chatting and sharing problems -- on issues ranging from enforcing discipline to paying the utility bills.

Callie Brown's biggest challenge involves helping her 5-year-old granddaughter with her homework. "Even though she's only in first grade, a lot has changed since I went to school," says the 54-year-old. Brown never expected to be raising her granddaughter alone, at this stage in her life. But with her daughter in jail, she has stepped in and won custody of the little girl.

"I've learned a lot from Amazing Grandmothers," says Callie Brown with her granddaughter. "I can give advice and tell other families where to go to seek food, clothing, and help finding a job.
Photo by Tamara Hoffer
Brown is not alone. According to 1999 census data, one in 10 grandparents is raising a grandchild, with that figure over 13 percent for African American families. And two-thirds of grandparent-headed homes are at or below poverty level. In Baltimore alone, there are 13,700 grandparents raising their grandchildren. A challenge in the best of circumstances, bringing up children can be especially difficult for those advanced in age and wearied by the years they spent juggling the needs of their own children. The situation is often intensified by grandparents' poor health, poverty, and grief over the loss -- through death, drugs, or incarceration -- of their own children.

Enter the Amazing Grandmothers program, funded with an initial $34,000 grant from Hopkins' Urban Health Institute, and staffed in part by student nurses from the Community Outreach program at the School of Nursing. The program is run in conjunction with the Amazing Grace Church and the Family Resource Center at Tench Tilghman Elementary School.

Sister Agnes Rose McNally, director of the Family Resource Center at Tench Tilghman (funded in part by the Julie Community Center), sees plenty of grandmothers dropping off children at school and knows parents are not in the picture because of drug use or incarceration. About 85 percent of the school's children come from families in which substance abuse is a problem. So when the Urban Health Institute was looking for substance abuse initiatives to fund, it made sense to design a program that would help these grandmothers, so that they could, in turn, help their grandchildren.

"A lot of families dealing with addictions are left to recreate themselves in new forms in order to care for the children," says the Rev. Karen Brau of Amazing Grace. "And while grandmothers step in out of love, sometimes they don't always welcome the way love stretches them."

Launched in January 2002, the Amazing Grandmothers group of 12 families initially met weekly to establish cohesiveness, says Lori Edwards, who directs the Community Outreach program at Nursing and serves as the project's principal investigator. But after the early "nurturing phase," she says, the meetings were reduced to once monthly. Initially too, the program included home visits by nursing students and faculty, along with health monitoring of the grandmothers. These services were curtailed, however, when the nurses found that "the grandmothers seemed to know what they were doing when it came to seeking health care," Edwards says.

More than a year into the project, it appears that the grandchildren are benefiting from the additional support. Brown has seen positive changes in her young granddaughter: "She's learning to trust people and share her feelings," she says, adding, "Sometimes it's easier to talk with someone outside your family." Mary Scott says her 14-year-old granddaughter has "blossomed" over the past year. While some credit for the change should go to the Catholic school that her granddaughter recently started to attend, Scott is also certain that regular gatherings with the Amazing Grandmothers has made a big difference. "She has really gotten a lot of confidence. When we come home, she tells me about the projects she's done with the student nurses, and about her friends," says Scott, who has cared for her granddaughter since the girl's mother died in 1992 as a result of drug use.

Carm Dorsey, clinical instructor at the School of Nursing, who helped to design the program and acts as a liaison with the Julie Community Center, says the most gratifying result is the grandmothers' desire to "give back." Both Scott and Brown are receiving training to be community advisers, so that they can reach out to their neighbors. "I've learned a lot from Amazing Grandmothers," says Brown. "I can give advice and tell other families where to go to seek food, clothing, and help finding a job."

And Scott has enjoyed sharing one of her passions with the grandmothers and the children: Last summer, a community garden yielded more than just vegetables to sell on the sidewalk. "It was a great experience working with the kids," says Scott, who was left to raise her own brothers and sisters after her mother died when she was 17.

"I guess it is my calling to keep raising children, whether they're mine or someone else's," she says. Nevertheless, she looks forward to a break one day. "I'm 55 years old and would like to have a little time to live my own life," she says. Until then, the Amazing Grandmothers offers an occasional reprieve. -- MT

Hopkins Players Hot During Cold Season

As winter slid toward spring -- on the couple of feet of snow and ice that blanketed campus -- fans of Hopkins athletics anticipated strong spring seasons while they celebrated winter success.

Baseball is set for a big year after two straight conference championships and appearances in the NCAA tournament. The Jays ranked 24th in the pre-season Division III national poll and are favored for a third Centennial Conference title.

Kathy Darling '03 drives the lane.
Photo by Rob Brown
Women's lacrosse prepared for its fifth season in Division I with its first complete roster of big-school recruits, and coach Janine Tucker had her eye on a top-10 ranking for the Lady Jays, who started the season by forcing second-ranked Duke to battle back for an 11-8 win.

On the other side of the locker room, Hopkins men's lacrosse promptly defeated No. 1-ranked Princeton, 10-8. At press time, the Jays record stood at 3-1.

Women's basketball concluded its regular season with a 19-5 record, won its conference championship, and proceeded to the NCAA Division III tournament. The team won its first-round game vs. Hunter College, then fell to Messiah College, 86-60, to end its season.

Finally, the February 17 Sports Illustrated featured senior swimmer Scott Armstrong after he obliterated -- by more than 5 seconds -- the NCAA Division III record in the 1,650-meter freestyle December 5, 2002, at the Miami Invitational. -- DK

Scholar Ponders Significance of Ossuary

Last October, Biblical Archaeology Review announced the finding of a first century ossuary -- a box for storing bones in an ancient tomb -- that bore a startling Aramaic inscription: "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus." If the inscription is authentic, and if the Jesus referred to is that Jesus, the ossuary becomes one of the most important discoveries in New Testament archaeology.

Kyle McCarter, Hopkins professor of Near Eastern Studies, is a renowned paleographer, an expert on ancient alphabets who deciphered the Copper Scroll found in 1952 at Qumran, site of the Dead Sea Scrolls. He examined the ossuary's inscription last November at Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum (known as "the ROM"), and regarding its authenticity, he is semi-convinced.

McCarter has evaluated the inscription on the "James ossuary," on display, below, in Toronto in November.
Photo by Will Kirk
"The first question is whether the object itself is ancient," McCarter says. "I don't have any doubts that it's an ancient ossuary. The second question is whether the inscription is ancient."

The age of the ossuary was established to McCarter's satisfaction by laboratory analysis performed by the Geological Survey of Israel. The box is made of limestone, which through contact with air acquires a patina over the centuries. The GSI analyzed this patina, and found traces of it in the grooves of the inscription, indicating that the letters had not been incised at a significantly later date. But something else about the inscription troubles skeptical experts: At its midway point the inscription's lettering changes. The reference to Jesus appears to have been added later.

"My feeling is that it is an ancient inscription, but I think it was written by two different hands," says McCarter. "The first part" -- Ya'akov, bar Yosef -- "is written in a formal hand and script, very typical of the mid-first century and a script that I know very well because it's the script of the Copper Scroll. The 'brother of Jesus' part" -- akhui di Yeshua -- "is written in a more cursive hand and has individual letter forms that are attested only in the second century."

Is this evidence that the ossuary should not be regarded as that of Jesus' brother? Not necessarily, McCarter says. "Why would somebody in the second century add 'brother of Jesus'? I think there are two possible reasons. One is a pious fraud. There were people in the second century who already venerated the memory of James, and the second century is not too early for the beginning of the creation of relics. There were groups that could have taken an ordinary ossuary that had those two very common names on it -- James and Joseph -- then added 'brother of Jesus.'

Photo by AFP Photo/J.P. Moczulski "Another possibility, though, which to me is just as likely, maybe even more likely, is there were people who had knowledge of this family tomb. When James died -- according to Josephus he died in 62 -- he could have been buried in an ossuary that simply identified him as the son of Joseph. But by the second century, the early Christian church would have been well enough developed that it would have been important to identify him as the brother of Jesus. People would have wanted to go back and make explicit what was already implicit in the original inscription."

One problem with authenticating the box is that it was not recovered in a controlled archaeological dig. It surfaced in the private collection of an Israeli who claims to have bought it years ago on the antiquities market. "Typically [in an excavated tomb] you would find a group of ossuaries," McCarter says. "Burials were done in family tombs -- natural or artificial caves. Presumably, had this been found by an archaeologist, there would have been other ossuaries with it. Even inscriptions. All of that could have been used to authenticate whether this was the right family. If you had one more ossuary and it gave you a family member who was known to be part of that family, it would settle the issue. Suppose this is James of the New Testament. If we had the cave that this came from, think of what other ossuaries might have been in there."

McCarter acknowledges scholars may never be certain of the inscription's authenticity. He'd like to see more extensive laboratory testing of the box, but whoever ends up with jurisdiction over it may be wary of letting it travel after it arrived in Toronto with a new crack. "The ROM, I think, put out an announcement that it was a crack so thin that you could barely put a dime through it. But in fact you could put a wad of folded bills through it," he notes. "My guess is there was an ancient crack in the thing. Then the traveling probably aggravated that crack and it broke. It's a bizarre chapter in what is kind of a bizarre story anyway." -- DK

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