Matters of note from around Johns Hopkins
On Monday, March 10, the Johns Hopkins community got the news that William R. Brody's 12-year run as university president was coming to an end. In an email announcement — in which he called the presidency "the best job I'll ever have" — he told students, faculty, and staff that he would be retiring December 31, at the conclusion of the Knowledge for the World capital campaign.
"There has been no more rewarding assignment in my
professional life than to lead this great university," he
wrote. "There has been no more satisfying task than to
support the work of the men and women who make it great.
There has been no more invigorating relationship than with
our students, the lifeblood of the university, the best of
the best, and the future of our society."
|Photo by Jay VanRensselaer||
Brody has led the university since September 1, 1996. His
dozen years at Hopkins' helm make him the fifth-longest
serving of its 13 presidents, and he has an extensive list of
accomplishments to show for it. He created a university-wide
Commission on Undergraduate Education to improve the
undergraduate experience both in and out of the classroom. He
has committed the university to gender and racial equity,
with a Commission on Equity, Civility, and Respect set to
release recommendations soon. He established two new schools,
the School of Education and the Carey Business School (which
were formerly combined as the School of Professional Studies
in Business and Education). He oversaw a $1.52 billion
campaign in 2000 and is completing the current campaign,
which is expected to raise $3.2 billion. He oversaw the
master plans and continuing construction of the Homewood and
East Baltimore campuses, and worked to improve the
|Photo by Will Kirk||
Brody has also turned his attention to issues beyond Hopkins
and academia, as an advocate for increasing the country's
competitiveness in science, math, engineering, and
technology; and for creating a safer and more cost-effective
health care system.
In an accompanying announcement, Maryland Governor (and former Baltimore mayor) Martin O'Malley called Brody a man of "vision, integrity, and courage." New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Engr '64, called him the "greatest president that any university has ever had."
Brody is leaving Hopkins at the end of the Knowledge for the World campaign, he says, because the university will be well-positioned to find his replacement. "There comes a time when leaving is most natural, least disruptive, and in a way, most constructive," he wrote.
He and wife Wendy will continue to live in Baltimore, in the Federal Hill home they bought last year. Brody says he is taking time to "recharge" and to work on a few book projects. He will also continue speaking on national issues.
With nine months to go until his retirement, Brody ended his announcement by saying that it was not yet time for good-byes. "There is plenty of time for that," he wrote. "I'll see you in the coming months, at lacrosse games and Commencement, on the quads and in the corridors. Until I do see you, please know that I am proud of you, grateful to you, and ever thankful to be, like you, from Johns Hopkins." — Catherine Pierre
|Photo courtesy NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / Carnegie Institution of Washington||
This crater-pocked image may look lunar, but it's not. On
January 14, NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft, built and operated
by the Johns Hopkins Applied
Physics Laboratory, produced this image of Mercury. For
almost 40 months, MESSENGER had been orbiting the sun on a
carefully plotted trajectory that swept it to within 120
miles of Mercury's surface. The data and pictures from the
flyby were the first from the innermost and smallest planet
since the Mariner 10 mission of 1974-75. MESSENGER will
encounter Mercury again in October, and once more in
September 2009 before scientists maneuver it into orbit
around the planet in 2011.
The crater at lower left of the image measures about 60 miles across. Scientists believe the dark halo around the crater formed either from material ejected by the impact of an asteroid or comet, or from surface rocks melted by the heat of the collision. Dale Keiger
A 39-year-old patient came to the hospital suffering from
persistent weakness. She couldn't walk, had a hard time just
sitting up, and had mild retardation. That's all Ben Tu knew
about her. To flesh out the picture, Tu, an intern, and
doctors at Johns
Hopkins Bayview Medical Center took a brief medical
history from her, ordered a batch of tests, and called in
But Tu did more. As part of a program started last year at
Bayview, he took time to get to know the woman he refers to
as "Ms. W."
He went over her symptoms, then followed up with questions about her life — where she'd been, what she enjoys doing. He learned that she loved playing with Missy, her cat. That she lived with her mother, who helped care for her. That she had become a modern-day Wimpy, obsessed with the idea that she could stay healthy by eating only hamburgers. "I could delve into all of that more because I had the time," says Tu. "It was a big help in figuring out that she had a combination of disorders, including neurological and psychiatric ones."
Because of the Aliki Initiative, a new program exclusively offered to residents and interns at Bayview, patients might come to expect more from caregivers than the cold touch of a stethoscope and rote questions about where it hurts; they might also, its leaders hope, receive more exacting care. Started last November after a gift of $2.4 million from Aliki Perroti, a Greek philanthropist who was pleased with the care some of her countrymen had received at Bayview, the initiative is designed to give residents a better chance to learn about the people they serve by cutting their patient load in half (from a typical "long call" night of five patients to two or three) and encouraging them to use their time differently.
David B. Hellmann, Med '77, director at the Center for Innovative Medicine at Johns Hopkins and chair of Medicine at Bayview, says the Aliki Initiative is the only program of its kind in the United States. It forces clinical residents to view people as more than their afflictions-something he noticed wasn't happening while performing rounds one day at Bayview. "Sometimes, residents think we're only interested in complicated cases," he says. "One day, a resident said to me, 'Sorry Dr. Hellmann, but all we had tonight was a woman with asthma.' It was clear to me then that there was a problem. I felt we needed to teach people like that resident about the person behind the disease."
Each year, Bayview residents will receive two to four weeks of training and seminars that focus on learning about the lives of patients, meeting with their primary care physicians outside the hospital, traveling to pharmacies with them to see what it's like to pay for prescriptions, making home visits to discuss biopsies and diagnoses, visiting places where they work, and personally following up with patients who have been sent to other medical facilities. So far, more than 20 residents have undergone Aliki training. Eventually, all 49 Bayview residents will go through the program during their three years there.
Hellmann says the timing of the program's start-up is propitious: More than 60 percent of Americans surveyed in a poll for Consumer Reports said that their doctors don't know them as people, while an emerging body of research shows that patients benefit by interacting more with physicians. Bayview's patient demographics make it even more important to understand the people behind the medical charts, he adds. More than half of those admitted are poor, and 20 percent have no health insurance, meaning they are more likely to end up in emergency rooms and clinics. Eventually, Hellmann hopes the Aliki Initiative can garner enough support from philanthropy to measure outcomes, and spread the approach to other medical campuses. "It would be great if things got to the point where members of the public would demand to see an Aliki doctor or go to an Aliki hospital," he says.
Some residents already are seeing results. After Ms. W. was sent to a long-term-care center at Bayview, Tu and other members of the clinical staff went across campus to see how she was doing. "She smiled at the idea that these people she knew had come to visit her," says Tu, adding that he helped physical therapists get her to sit up-by asking her to show him how she holds her cat. — Michael Anft
Spirits torment a depressed new mother in The Yellow
Wallpaper. Peabody Opera premièred a new operatic
version of the Charlotte Perkins Gilman short
Photo by Cory Weaver
If Valentine's Day brings roses and chocolate to mind, think
again. On February 14, the Peabody Chamber Opera marked the
day with the world premiere of The Yellow Wallpaper, a
dark, dramatic feminist opera in one act, about a woman
confined to bed by her physician husband as a "rest cure" for
post-partum depression. During her confinement she slides
deeper into madness, imagining malevolent spirits emerging
from the room's peeling wallpaper.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman's 1892 short story of the same title, now considered a landmark work of feminist fiction, has been adapted for the musical stage before. Peabody chose this score, by composer Catherine Reid and librettist Judith Lane, because it stayed close to the original story and could be staged in the close confines of Baltimore's Theatre Project. The theater lacks an orchestra pit, so the music was performed by an on-stage ensemble of flute, cello, synthesizer, and piano. The opera's cast requirements — one male, six female voices — also suited Peabody, says Roger Brunyate, artistic director of the Peabody Opera Department: "We have a preponderance of women to men, so an opera about one woman having visions of a lot of other women emerging from the wallpaper had obvious attractions."
Baltimore Sun music critic Tim Smith praised Peabody soprano Jennifer Holbrook, who sang the lead role, which is known only as The Woman: "Her sunny, flexible voice filled the space vividly; her astute acting caught the nuances in the character's vulnerability and slide." Peabody faculty members Garnett Bruce and JoAnn Kulesza were stage director and music director, respectively.
Peabody Chamber Opera has become known for taking on unconventional projects such as this. "A conservatory has to look at the traditions of the past and educate students about them," says Kulesza. "But it also has to look ahead to keep music alive, vibrant, and growing." — Siobhan Paganelli
Robot vehicles, like those illustrated here, can conduct
scientific surveys in deep ocean.
Illustration by E. Paul Oberlander, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
When scientists discovered "hot spots" at the bottom of the
Pacific Ocean three decades ago, they'd located new territory
ripe for scientific inquiry. These small areas of the
seafloor, called hydrothermal vents, are where water
temperatures can reach 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Not only do
these spots represent virgin territory for researchers, they
could provide clues as to how life evolved and the planet was
formed by tectonic plates and volcanoes. But the human body
isn't made to withstand the pressure of plunging a
quarter-mile or more into the drink to find vents and what
lives around them. What's more, vents sometimes form and then
disappear within a few years; once a vent is found, it has to
be studied quickly. To find them, scientists would need to
rely on machines. Which is why, last January, Louis Whitcomb
of the Johns Hopkins
Whiting School of Engineering could be found near
Ascension Island in the Atlantic Ocean, testing submersible
Earlier experiments using underwater technology to find vents had been hit-or-miss. "We would drop machines down on a cable, dredge some stuff, and see if we got lucky," says Whitcomb, a professor of mechanical engineering. Communicating with the machinery was problematic because technology that works above ground, such as cell phones, global positioning systems, and radio waves, is useless underwater.
So beginning in 2004, Whitcomb and researchers from Hopkins, several other U.S. universities, the government of Japan, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution spent much of the next four years (and $4 million of a National Science Foundation grant) developing technologies that would allow submersible robots to plumb the oceans' depths and communicate with one another. "Our goal has been to find a way to program robots to do a survey of the seafloor in a grid system — kind of like mowing the lawn," says Whitcomb, who has been studying the issue and designing underwater robot systems for 15 years.
To map portions of the seafloor and report to each other and the expedition's ship, the robots "talk" by using acoustic technologies, developed by Whitcomb, that generate sound waves that travel through the water. A test of the new tools occurred in January, when Whitcomb and another investigator led a team of 15 on the experiment off Ascension Island, near the equator. The 18-day trek included sending two camera-carrying robots — known as autonomous underwater vehicles, or AUVs — along part of the subterranean mountain ridge that runs like a spine along the Atlantic from north of Iceland south to just above Antarctica. A British team had earlier found evidence that the warm waters indicative of hydrothermal activity could be found around Ascension.
Although the two AUVs — named Jaguar and Puma — did not find vents, Whitcomb considers the expedition a success because the two robots could communicate at depths of more than two miles below the surface, which allowed each to understand what the other was mapping. They also sent back thousands of images to the main ship.
During the next five years, Whitcomb plans to work with the Woods Hole team to hone the technology so that several AUVs can link up and map ever-larger segments of the ocean's bottom. "We're developing new tools for ocean science," he says. "We can do direct sampling now and see what we need to see while we're out there. We've come a long way from [just] scooping things up and sending them off to the lab." — MA
Asthma afflicts more American children than any other chronic disease. It is especially a problem in Baltimore, where researchers have found that one out of every five school-aged kids has the ailment. Study of the disease at Johns Hopkins got a significant boost recently when the National Institute of Environmental Health (NIEH) granted $12 million over five years to the Bloomberg School of Public Health, to establish a new Center for Childhood Asthma in the Urban Environment.
For years, Bloomberg School Professor Patrick Breysse and Gregory Diette, an associate professor at the School of Medicine, have researched the role of environmental pollutants in causing or exacerbating childhood asthma. One of the center's first projects will be a study of how rodent allergens factor into the disease. Previous studies by Bloomberg researchers found the allergens present in 100 percent of surveyed homes. Says Diette, "It's an emerging story, what [mouse allergen] is going to mean in the asthma epidemic." Three other new studies will examine airway inflammation, the biochemical mechanism by which pollutants produce asthma symptoms, and how exposure to particulates in the air interacts with allergens to make asthma worse.
The new center's team will tap a variety of disciplines: pulmonology, pediatric immunology, toxicology, environmental health engineering, epidemiology, and biostatistics. The NIEH grants have been designated for research that combines basic science with clinical practice. "We were already thinking about the asthma problem, working with real people in their home environments and researchers in the lab," says Diette. "The grant made a lot of sense for us." — SP
For decades, one question basic to the study of international relations has been why countries go to war. But Johns Hopkins political science professor Steven R. David believes that question has lost much of its relevance. The number of wars between countries has declined steeply since World War II, and especially since the end of the Cold War. Today, says David, 95 percent of major armed conflicts occur within countries, not between them.
"International war has been declining markedly, to the point that it is almost obsolete," says David, who directs the International Studies Program in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. "Meanwhile, conflicts within countries show no sign of going away. It occurred to me that the United States has more to fear from key countries falling apart as the result of civil wars, and unleashing inadvertent harm, than by a direct decision of a foreign government to attack us. There's a very different kind of threat out there."
David's forthcoming book explores this threat. In Catastrophic Consequences: Civil Wars and American Interests (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), he looks at the unintended effects that civil conflicts in China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Mexico could have on the United States. "In each of these cases, widespread civil conflict is plausible, and the effects would likely be ruinous for the United States," David says.
For example, Pakistan, host to the Taliban and birthplace of Al Qaeda, could easily disintegrate due to civil conflict, David says. "Pakistan has at least 50, maybe 100 nuclear weapons. What happens to those weapons if it falls apart? I think we have a much greater chance of being the victim of a Pakistani nuclear weapon that falls into the wrong hands because of civil conflict than we ever faced from the Soviet Union during the Cold War."
What can the United States do to protect itself? David advocates what he calls a "natural disasters approach." "We can't count on preventing a civil war, just as we can't prevent a hurricane," he says. "What we can do is prepare for what we will do if it occurs." For example, if Pakistan falls apart, U.S. officials should first think about how they can help Pakistani authorities secure the country's nuclear arsenal from terrorists, David says. "Failing that, the U.S. needs to be able to destroy the weapons before they can fall into the wrong hands. If the weapons do get into the hands of terrorists, we need to do better to protect our borders from these weapons being smuggled in." Because the bombs would probably be delivered by means of a cargo container or small ship, the U.S. needs to develop better radiation detectors, improve surveillance of American and foreign ports, increase the use of devices that could see through cargo containers, and tighten control of its borders, he says.
Accepting the inevitability of civil conflicts and preparing for their consequences marks a sea change, David says. "This is not your father's international relations," he says. "There's a very different kind of world out there." — Maria Blackburn
To the list of prestigious awards already won by Victor A.
McKusick, Med '46, add one more: The Science and Technology
Foundation of Japan announced in January that McKusick,
University Professor of Medical
Genetics at the School of Medicine, had won the 2008
Japan Prize in medical genetics and genomics. The prize has
been awarded to only 66 researchers since its inception in
1985; past winners have included Robert Gallo (co-discoverer
of the HIV virus), Timothy Berners-Lee (a founder of the
Internet), and Hopkins professor emeritus Donald Henderson
(one of the principals in the eradication of smallpox). On
April 23, the 86-year-old McKusick will receive a medal and
50 million yen, about $470,000, at a ceremony in Tokyo.
A pioneer of genetic medicine, McKusick came to Hopkins in 1943 when he entered the School of Medicine despite not having finished his undergraduate studies at Tufts University. Once at Hopkins, he never left. He completed his residency in internal medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital, then took up cardiology, with a special interest in heart sounds. This led to the definitive volume on the subject, Cardiovascular Sound in Health and Disease (1958). His study of Marfan syndrome and inherited problems among the Amish of Pennsylvania brought him to the new field of medical genetics, and in 1957 he founded at Hopkins the country's first training program in the specialty. As part of his work he began to catalog genes and chromosomes that create inherited disorders. In 1966, he published Mendelian Inheritance in Man, which in its present electronic form contains descriptions of all known human genes and remains a primary source for medical geneticists.
In 1973, McKusick was named physician-in-chief of the hospital, a position he held for 12 years. His six decades of uninterrupted work at Hopkins make him the longest-serving faculty member in the 115-year history of the hospital.
In a statement, Edward D. Miller, dean and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine, said, "Johns Hopkins has been the proud beneficiary of Victor McKusick's pioneering talents and devotion to the advancement of science and human health for 60-plus years. He is indeed a Hopkins legend, and it is an honor for all of us to have known him as a clinician, scientist, teacher, and colleague." — Dale Keiger
Dawntaya Bright likes math. But the 16-year-old junior at
Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Baltimore wasn't thrilled
two years ago when she was advised to attend her school's
Saturday Algebra Academy. The morning algebra sessions, a
collaboration between Dunbar and the Johns Hopkins School of Education, were
aimed at preparing Dunbar ninth-graders for the state exam
they must pass to graduate. Algebra class? On a Saturday? No
thanks, she thought.
Bright went anyway because she wanted to do well on the Maryland High School Assessment (HSA) in algebra. After 10 weeks of classes, not only did she pass the exam, almost all of her classmates did too. In 2005, when students at Dunbar took the HSA algebra test without extra Saturday classes, they had a pass rate of 43 percent. As of August 2007, members of Dunbar's class of 2009 had a pass rate of 98 percent-the highest in the city.
In the spring of 2006, at the request of city school officials, Francine Winston Johnson, Ed '88 (MS), an instructor in the Department of Teacher Preparation at the School of Education, helped establish the Saturday Algebra Academy. The school system covered the cost that first year, roughly $10,000 for teacher stipends, professional teacher development, public transportation passes for the students, and snacks. Last year's Academy was funded by a professional development grant from the School of Education; this year the city has again picked up the tab for the classes, which began last month.
The program is open to all Dunbar ninth-graders currently taking algebra, who will be taking the HSA in May. All are strongly encouraged to attend the academy and about 35 out of 54 enrolled this year. They are taught by five Dunbar teachers and one intern from the School of Education. Each Saturday is devoted to a specific topic like measures of central tendency or probability. Students rotate through three 50-minute sessions devoted to problem solving, skill building, and using technology such as graphing calculators. After class ends for the day, the teachers have a working lunch to discuss that day's work, talk about strategies, and share information.
The Saturday classes are focused but relaxed. Teachers wear jeans. Away from the bustle of the regular school day, the students feel less hurried and more comfortable asking ques-tions. "Students needed to have more time with algebra," says Johnson, who has worked with teachers at Dunbar since 2003 and whose department has a long-running partnership with the school. "Teachers felt the time they had in class was not adequate, so we knew we needed a block of time to devote just to algebra."
Dunbar math teacher Sandy Schmidt, Ed '03 (MA), part of the Saturday algebra faculty, says, "The reason the Saturday Academy works is that it's a set time away from the regular school routine. All we are doing for that three hours is algebra." — MB
Fred R. Shapiro spent more than five years assembling The
Yale Book of Quotations (Yale University Press, 2006).
His idea was to put together an array of quotes more
contemporary, comprehensive, and American than the familiar
Bartlett's, plus use digital resources to more
thoroughly research accuracy and provenance. Throughout his
volume are a number of quotations from people connected in
some way with Johns Hopkins, and he compiled some of them for
Johns Hopkins Magazine:
Now, four centuries from the discovery of America, at the end
of a hundred years of life under the Constitution, the
frontier has gone, and with its going has closed the first
period of American history.
Conspicuous consumption of valuable goods is a means of
reputability to the gentleman of leisure.
Once lead this people into war and they'll forget there ever
was such a thing as tolerance.
Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own
specified world in which to bring them up in and I'll
guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become
any type of specialist I might select-doctor, lawyer, artist,
merchant chief, and, yes, even beggarman and thief,
regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities,
vocations, and race of his ancestors.
The Great Society created by steam and electricity may be a
society, but it is no community.
[This book is] a floating opera, friend, chock-full of
curiosities, melodrama, spectacle, instruction, and
entertainment, but it floats willy-nilly on the tide of my
vagrant prose: you'll catch sight of it, then lose it, then
spy it again.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the
acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or
unsought, by the military-industrial complex.
Over increasingly large areas of the United States, spring
now comes unheralded by the return of the birds, and the
early mornings are strangely silent where once they were
filled with the beauty of bird song.
What we may be witnessing is not the end of the Cold War but
the end of history as such; that is, the end point of man's
ideological evolution and the universalization of Western
I do wish we could chat longer but I'm having an old friend
|Irv Litofsky has blown his horn with the Hopkins Band since he was a freshman. That was 37 years and many, many lacrosse games ago.||
Irv Litofsky, A&S '73, first walked into a Johns Hopkins Band
rehearsal in 1969. The trumpet-playing chemistry major
enjoyed his first year in the band, so he went back the next
year, and the next. Come the first autumn after he graduated,
he was back again. "I just kept showing up," he says.
Thirty-eight years later, Litofsky, now 56, is still showing up. Not only has he never missed a Hopkins lacrosse season with the band since his freshman year, he rarely misses a game. Last year he played at every game, including the national championship at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium. His wife, Cathy, finally got tired of being a band widow every Saturday during lacrosse season and joined the ensemble herself, playing cymbals or bass drum.
Over the years, Litofsky has observed interest in the band wax and wane. When he started, about 40 players typically would come out for a performance. But he says, "We've had lousy years when only three of us would show up for a game. The last few years the band has had a resurgence. The numbers are going up again." He estimates most games now bring out 20-25 musicians. These days, he's always the oldest, but he tries not to behave like it among his much younger band mates. "I still act like an 18-year-old when I'm around them. Who wants to sit next to a 56-year-old guy?"
Lacrosse is played in all weather, so Litofsky can recall
some extreme conditions. In the late 1970s at the University
of Maryland, the heat was so bad he remembers his wife's legs
twitching uncontrollably from dehydration. The coldest game
was a home match versus University of Maryland, Baltimore
County in 2005. "I had to keep going into the men's room to
thaw my trumpet," he says. "The spit — I guess for the
magazine I should say saliva — was freezing the valves.
I have never been as cold in my life as I was at that game."
But he adds, "I like lousy weather for games because only the
real fans stay."
|"I still act like an 18-year-old when I'm around them. Who wants to sit next to a 56-year-old guy?"||
After 38 years, Litofsky has become an institution, of sorts.
On job interviews, he has been recognized as the trumpet
player from the Hopkins band. A freshman once approached him
and said that he'd attended one or two Hopkins lacrosse games
every season since he was a 3-year-old growing up on Long
"I'd go to these games," the kid said, "and the one thing I always noticed was this same guy was there playing the trumpet. You're that guy." Litofsky's favorite story, though, involves another freshman, who at the band's first rehearsal that year just kept staring at him. Finally the young man walked up and said, "Are you a sophomore?" — DK
|Eric Fishel in his usual spot: winning another match||
Senior Eric Fishel concluded the greatest career in the
history of Johns Hopkins wrestling by
finishing eighth in his weight class at the recent NCAA
national wrestling championships. Fishel won 98 matches in
four years at Hopkins, what is believed to be a school
record. Last January he defeated Robbie Gotreau of Augsburg
College, who at the time was ranked third in the nation by
the National Wrestling Coaches Association. Fishel twice
ranked in the NWCA top 10 himself, the first time a Blue Jay
wrestler had ever appeared in the national rankings.
As the season progressed, a second Blue Jay wrestler, junior Tyler Schmidt, also made the top 10, in the 197-pound class. And for the first time in the program's history, Hopkins produced two conference champions in one season. Fishel captured his second straight Centennial Conference title at 184 pounds, and freshman Patrick Stanley won the 165-pound title. At the NCAA championships, Stanley lost in the first round to eventual champion Tyler Burkle of Coe College; he then won his first match in the consolation bracket before losing in the third consolation round. — DK
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