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


Medicine: Zerhouni to Direct NIH

University: Gala Launch of $2 Billion Campaign

University: Alumna Einhorn to Lead SAIS

In Memorium: Biagi, Bologna Center Professor, Killed by Terrorists

University: Hill Named Dean, Aims to Make Hopkins Nursing "the Epicenter"

University: Biotech Park to Fight Blight

University: An Altered Perspective

Education: It's the Principals That Count

Policy: IPS Study Finds Positives in Public Housing

Medicine: Championing the Art of Deduction

Sports: Strong Seasons for Lacrosse, Baseball

Sports: Strong Strokes for Hopkins Swimmers

Science: Tapping Trees for an Ancient Weather Report

Religion: Toward a Spiritual Awakening

Science: Pharmaceuticals in Waterways Could Be Bitter Pill for Health, Environment

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

Zerhouni's goal: an NIH that's "factual" not "factional." He will draw on his considerable skills to negotiate political mine fields in the months ahead. Medicine
Zerhouni to Direct NIH

Elias Zerhouni, a 51-year-old Hopkins radiologist who made a meteoric rise through the administrative ranks of Johns Hopkins Medicine, has been appointed director of the National Institutes of Health. The NIH is the nation's largest source of funding for academic medicine, with 27 institutes and centers and a budget of $23.6 billion in the 2002 fiscal year.

Zerhouni, nominated in March to the post by President George W. Bush, sailed through U.S. Senate confirmation hearings in late April and was officially approved by the full Senate May 3. "I think we have a rare find here," said Sen. Paul Sarbanes of Maryland in introducing Zerhouni at the hearings.

Zerhouni will step down as executive vice dean of the School of Medicine at Hopkins to begin work at NIH immediately. He takes the reins at a point crucial to the very future of biomedicine. At issue: To what extent should the NIH fund research involving embryonic stem cells? And, should the NIH allow scientists to use cloning technology to create stem cells that are compatible with a patient's immune system?

Proponents of expanding stem cell research believe it holds the key to curing everything from cancer to Alzheimer's disease. Opponents, most notably the president himself, argue that destroying embryos -- a step necessary to creating embryonic stem cells -- and cloning violate the sanctity of life. In an announcement last August 9, Bush restricted federal funds for stem cell research to a limited number of stem cell lines in existence at that time. Bush, in announcing his nomination of Zerhouni, said, "Dr. Zerhouni shares my view that human life is precious, and should not be exploited or destroyed for the benefits of others. And he shares my view that the promise of ethically conducted medical research is limitless."

During the confirmation hearings, Zerhouni said, "You can do a lot" with the limited number of cell lines. But he also emphasized his strong support for stem cell research, citing the central role he played in establishing the Institute for Cell Engineering (ICE) at Hopkins. The first of its kind in academic medicine, the institute draws together researchers from across many disciplines. The scientists' goal: to program stem cells or other cell types to form new tissue or neural tissues. ICE was launched in part by an anonymous $58.5 million gift that Zerhouni helped to attract.

On the issue of using cloning technologies to create stem cells, Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy asked the nominee whether he would provide objective scientific information. Zerhouni replied, "The NIH and its director should not be or made to be factional but must always remain factual."

Zerhouni said his first priority at NIH would be to recruit top scientists to fill vacant posts (five institutes have no permanent directors). He will also work to increase protection for human subjects involved in clinical research trials, support collaborative projects that would span scientific disciplines, and consider establishing a separate center to support the study and manipulation of matter at the atomic level.

Those who have worked closely with Zerhouni during his more than two decades at Hopkins say he is the consummate consensus builder with the right combination of managerial skills and clear thinking to negotiate the political mine fields that lie ahead. Zerhouni is "one who often sees solutions clearly where others only see problems," says Hopkins President William R. Brody.

Bush has described Zerhouni as a "quadruple threat" -- a physician who excels at teaching, research, patient care, and management.

Together with his wife, physician Nadia Azza, Elias Zerhouni arrived in the United States from Algeria in the early 1970s with just $300. He started his residency in radiology at Hopkins in 1975 and was named assistant professor of radiology four years later. Considered one of the world's premier experts in magnetic resonance imaging (he has authored more than 150 papers), he is credited with helping to move the field forward from simply providing snapshots of gross anatomy to being able to visualize how the body works at the molecular level. Zerhouni developed a technique that gives physicians detailed pictures of the beating heart -- a tool now in widespread use. He was named director of the MRI division at Hopkins in 1988 and became a full professor in 1992.

Edward Miller, CEO and dean of Hopkins Medicine for the past five years, has turned to Zerhouni to fill a variety of pivotal leadership positions. Says Miller, "Whenever I needed someone for a key role, he was there for me and for Hopkins."

Tapped in 1997 to be executive vice dean and vice dean for clinical affairs, Zerhouni successfully converted Hopkins' Clinical Practice Association from a billing operation into a well-regarded academic faculty practice. He also negotiated Hopkins' purchase of Howard County General Hospital and, most recently, worked closely with community leaders and city planners in negotiating plans for a proposed biotech park near Johns Hopkins Hospital (see this page).

Though buoyed by Zerhouni assuming the top spot at NIH, his Hopkins colleagues are sorry to see him go. Says Medicine CEO Miller, "The nation's great gain will be Johns Hopkins' great loss." --Sue De Pasquale

Gala Launch of $2 Billion Campaign

Johns Hopkins kicked off an ambitious fund-raising campaign May 4 with a gala evening at Homewood's Ralph S. O'Connor Recreation Center, including a performance by the Peabody Symphony Orchestra and Chorus. The goal: $2 billion by 2007, for buildings, endowment, and student aid across the campuses. For more on the campaign, see $2 Billion and Beyond.

Jessica Einhorn, new SAIS dean
Photo by Kaveh Sardari
Alumna Einhorn to Lead SAIS

An alumna of Hopkins' Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) has returned as dean -- the first former student to lead the graduate international affairs school since it was founded nearly 60 years ago.

Jessica Einhorn '70 has worked for top financial and policy-making institutions, including the World Bank for nearly 20 years. She has served in positions at the U.S. Treasury Department, U.S. State Department and, most recently, as a consultant in the Washington office of the public affairs firm Clark & Weinstock. Her non-profit board affiliations include the Council on Foreign Relations and Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

"She has both a strong academic perspective on public policy and a profound practical grasp of international finance, a combination particularly relevant to SAIS' mission," noted Hopkins President William R. Brody in announcing Einhorn's appointment.

As a managing director of the World Bank from 1996 to 1998, Einhorn was responsible for financial management of the world's largest lending institution for developing nations. She also served as the World Bank's vice president and treasurer, a position she had held since 1992. During her tenure, Einhorn was credited with helping modernize the bank's financial policies and loan programs, among other reforms.

Though her background is primarily in international finance and monetary policy, Einhorn does not expect SAIS to become more business-oriented, a concern expressed by some students and alumni. "I think that institutions evolve," she says. "If the 1990s were about finance and economics, clearly September 11 has shifted attention back to both the classical security issues, and created a new menu of them. I feel very lucky to be coming to SAIS at a time in which both sides are highly appreciated."

Einhorn succeeds former dean Paul Wolfowitz, who resigned in spring 2001 to become deputy secretary of defense. Among other goals, she hopes to bring new funding resources to the school. "Money can help in a lot of ways -- pay for trips to conferences, pay for research, pay for programs, pay to recruit the kind of students you want."

She also expects to tap her vast network of contacts to link faculty with policy-makers and corporate leaders, and students with internships and jobs.

Einhorn earned a bachelor's degree in government from Barnard College, Columbia University, in 1967, and a doctorate in politics from Princeton in 1974. At SAIS, she focused on Latin America. She was awed by the exposure the school gave her to Washington's diplomatic corps, international development organizations, and think tanks.

The SAIS faculty, she recalls, "managed to mix reality and skepticism, as well as optimism and idealism." She said she and her classmates came out knowing "there were problems that are virtually intractable, but you could work on them." --Joanne Cavanaugh Simpson

In Memoriam
Biagi, Bologna Center Professor, Killed by Terrorists

Marco Biagi, a beloved professor at Hopkins' Bologna Center, was assassinated March 19 while biking to his home in Italy.

A top adviser to Italy's labor ministry, Biagi, 51, had recently helped draft controversial legislation to loosen Italy's rigid employment rules and make it easier for employers to fire workers. In a newspaper article published in Italy on the day he was shot, Biagi argued that the country was being harmed economically by a pension system that allows workers to retire in their 50s.

An offshoot of the Red Brigades, a far-left terrorist group, claimed responsibility for Biagi's death. Biagi had been protected by state bodyguards at the Bologna Center and elsewhere, but that protection ended when the Italian government apparently reassigned police to other duties after September 11.

A father of two, Biagi had been an adjunct professor at the Bologna Center since 1981, teaching courses in comparative industrial and labor relations, and in politics and government in industrial societies. He was also a law professor at the University of Modena. In an outpouring of grief, Bologna alumni and staff sent e-mails to the graduate studies center, part of Hopkins' Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.

"I learned a lot in his class and from him," wrote Ursula Soyez '98, of Germany. "I am really saddened -- and appalled -- and pretty speechless. It is a great loss."

"How could this happen to Marco Biagi?" wrote former Bologna Center director Stephen Low. "A gentler soul would be hard to find."

Labor relations advising in Italy is a dangerous business. In 1999, Massimo D'Antona, a law professor and adviser to the labor minister, was murdered in Rome. According to press reports, ballistics tests show the weapon used in D'Antona's killing was the same one used to assassinate Biagi. --JCS

Nursing Dean Martha Hill University
Hill Named Dean, Aims to Make Hopkins Nursing "the Epicenter"

Martha N. Hill (PhD '86), interim dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing since last summer, in May was appointed dean, effective July 1.

"Martha is a national leader and is universally recognized in the field of nursing," said Hopkins President William R. Brody. Noting that a university search committee "enthusiastically recommended" Hill after a national search, Brody said, "We are confident she will move the School of Nursing to the very forefront of the field."

"The school is beautifully poised with a very nice foundation to move forward," says Hill, who was among the first four faculty members tapped to teach at Nursing when it emerged as an independent, degree-granting division of the university in 1983. "It is a niche school with a splendid student body. And it's exciting to be here in the middle of this research-intensive environment with very high standards and remarkable students."

There are currently 55 full-time faculty members at the School of Nursing and about 500 students. The school is particularly well regarded for its program in community health nursing, and is home to the nation's only Peace Corps Fellows program in nursing. In fiscal year 2001, it ranked 9th among nursing schools in research funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), up from 15th the year before.

After earning a diploma from the Hopkins Hospital School of Nursing in 1964 and a bachelor's degree in 1966 from what is now the Johns Hopkins School of Professional Studies in Business and Education, Hill earned a master's in nursing from the University of Pennsylvania in 1977 and her doctorate in behavioral sciences in 1986 from the Hopkins School of Public Health.

Hill has been an influential figure at Hopkins and on the national and international scene throughout the 22 years she has served on the Hopkins faculty. She has chaired the university's Committee for the 21st Century strategic planning effort and co-chaired the Urban Health Council, launched and continues to direct the School of Nursing's Center for Nursing Research, and has conducted influential research in improving hypertension care among urban-dwelling poor young black men. In 1997-98, she served as president of the American Heart Association, the first non-physician ever to be elected to that position.

Noting that Hopkins historically has aimed to prepare nursing leaders -- in clinical practice, nursing education and administration, and, more recently, in research and policy-making -- Hill says she will strive to further raise the school's visibility, partly by forging stronger partnerships with Hopkins Hospital, School of Medicine, School of Public Health, and JHPIEGO.

"When people think about Hopkins Medicine, we also want them to think about Hopkins Nursing," she says. "As for partnering with the School of Public Health and JHPIEGO, the goal there is to make public health nursing at Hopkins No. 1 in the world again, like it was in the '30s, '40s, and '50s. When people think about professional nursing, they will think of Hopkins as the epicenter."

Says Hill, "In 2003, we will be 20 years old. That will be a wonderful time to not only look at what we've accomplished, but to prepare nurse leaders in a time of unceasing turmoil in the health care system -- of which the nursing shortage is a critical piece." --SD, JCS

Biotech Park to Fight Blight

After months of behind-the-scenes discussions, Baltimore City officials are moving forward with an ambitious plan that would transform a blighted neighborhood bordering the Johns Hopkins Hospital into biotech research space and as many as 1,500 new or rebuilt homes.

Mayor Martin O'Malley's proposal calls for rebuilding an 80-acre swath which, despite sitting in the shadow of the nation's preeminent medical complex, has been devastated by poverty and drug abuse. In all, the project calls for $200 million in public-sector investment from federal, state, and city sources, and hundreds of millions of dollars more from private investors.

The redevelopment centers on a proposed East Baltimore Research Park planned for 22 acres -- about a quarter of the overall site -- directly north of Hopkins Hospital.

City officials hope their proposal for a biotech research park and new housing will transform the neighborhood north of Hopkins Hospital.
Photo by
Chris Hartlove

Planners hope to attract as many as 50 companies to the park, which will include office space, research facilities, and locations for small research-to-market incubators. City officials expect to draw heavily on Hopkins' world-class contingent of scientists and researchers. In all, planners say the park could generate up to 8,000 new jobs in an area desperate for economic revitalization.

O'Malley envisions razing hundreds of decaying or abandoned houses and opening the vacant land to residential and commercial development. A new approach is needed after the failure of house-by-house renovation efforts of the past, the mayor said. "We need to realize that if we are to move forward, we have to start over, while protecting historically significant buildings."

Hopkins will play an important role in the redevelopment effort, agreeing, for example, to lease space in the research park. Hopkins has also agreed to contribute an unspecified amount to a fund to help current residents relocate.

In addition, Hopkins recently announced a $1 billion plan to rebuild its 52-acre East Baltimore medical campus (see "$2 Billion and Beyond").

"The long-term success of the hospital and the health sciences ... depends on having a vibrant and vital neighborhood," said university President William R. Brody. "I think the whole idea of trying to fix up the neighborhood one house at a time clearly hasn't worked. A bold proposal is what's needed."

Brody added that putting a research park next door to the medical complex represents a new willingness by Hopkins to work with private, for-profit companies. "We'll be opening our doors to more industry collaboration than Hopkins has been comfortable with," he said. "That's a major step."

O'Malley -- aided by city business groups and foundations -- began working on the proposal more than a year ago, keenly aware of the long-standing mistrust by many in the East Baltimore community when it comes to Johns Hopkins. Although Hopkins officials can point to a long list of community initiatives the institution has undertaken, many longtime residents view the hospital as an uncaring neighbor.

Such attitudes have only exacerbated the inherent problems of planning a major redevelopment.

"It's a very difficult balancing act, but one we've been able to pull off so far," O'Malley said in a recent interview. "I think that people who live in East Baltimore actually stand to benefit the most from our leveraging the job-creating potential of Johns Hopkins to move opportunity to our people, instead of moving our people to the opportunity."

In April, O'Malley announced that the city would pay as much as $70,000 to residents whose houses are taken during condemnation proceedings, money that could be used to purchase new homes in the area. He also spelled out efforts he said would increase minority participation in the redevelopment. A new quasi-public corporation will oversee the project. Hopkins will appoint two people to the company's 11-member board; local community leaders will also name two members.

The Rev. Johnny N. Golden Sr., who heads a group of clergy active in community development in the area, said he remains skeptical about the intentions of Hopkins and the city. He worries residents displaced by an economic rebirth won't be able to afford the rebuilt neighborhood. "There's always a concern about gentrification," Golden said.

One community leader who took part in the discussions with the city, state Delegate Hattie Harrison, said she was pleased the project was gaining momentum. "This area has needed something like this for a long time."

A market analysis done for the city found that dozens of biotech companies would consider renting space in the proposed research park. The analysis also concluded a biotech research park would create demand for housing starting at $115,000 in a neighborhood where houses now sell for a fraction of that price. --Tom Waldron

An Altered Perspective

"When people try to kill you or attack you because they hate freedom, other issues like 'Franken-food' ... and even important issues like the environment begin to look different," commented National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who gave the annual Rostov Lecture at Hopkins' Nitze School of Advanced International Studies on April 29. Rice, who was originally scheduled to speak on September 11 but was instead whisked into a bunker during the terrorist attacks, touched on international issues ranging from the economic crisis in Argentina to weapons of mass destruction in Iran, a nation she reiterated was "squarely in the axis of evil."

Principal David Clapp and mentor Tom Husted at Baltimore City's Barclay School
Photo by Chris Hartlove
It's the Principals That Count

David Clapp still recalls the terror he felt that hot July day four summers ago when reality fully sank in. He'd been appointed principal of the Barclay School in Baltimore City, a K-8 public school near the Homewood campus with 36 teachers and 440 students.

"They said, 'Here's your $1.7 million, go staff your school,'" recalls the 29-year-old. There were staffing charts to finalize, and textbooks to buy. Parents with "strange addresses" who were intent on getting their children enrolled in the popular neighborhood school, veteran teachers unhappy that a newbie had been appointed their boss, and a faulty elevator that stalled with two teachers inside. "I wanted to call a 'time-out,'" Clapp recalls, smiling. "I wanted five more months to get ready for the school year to start. It was very overwhelming. I didn't know how the system works -- where even to begin."

Fortunately for Clapp, help was close at hand, in the form of the Johns Hopkins principals mentoring program. Operated out of the graduate division of education at Hopkins' School of Professional Studies in Business and Education (SPSBE), the program aims to give new principals in Baltimore City schools the support they need to make it through their first year on the job -- and to stick around.

Over the past decade, high turnover among principals has plagued the city's school system, which provides principals with a high degree of autonomy, including the ability to decide just how their school's budget should be allocated. A strong principal can set the tone for the entire school, inspiring teachers, students, and parents, and instituting programs that uniquely meet the needs of the specific neighborhood. But weak leadership can be catastrophic, and by the summer of 1998, the system was losing 37 principals each year. "It is part of a national trend in urban centers. Where once people came for a full career, now the stressful working conditions are prompting them to say 'I've given it all I can,' and to step away from the job," says Tom Husted, himself a veteran teacher and Baltimore City principal who served for six years as the city schools' director of professional development.

Husted suggested partnering with Hopkins to create the mentoring program for new principals, and it was launched in 1998 with him at the helm. The program takes a team approach, grouping two or three new principals with two successful veteran principals and a facilitator from Johns Hopkins or the school system's administration. The group members meet monthly for dinner and communicate almost daily by phone and e-mail, giving the fledgling principals the opportunity to share frustrations, ask for advice (What's the most effective way to conduct a teacher performance evaluation?), and discuss the latest research on curriculum and instructional methods. Once a month, all 37 of the new principals in David Clapp's class met for a daylong briefing on everything from good hiring practices to how to make sense of the budget process.

Clapp found the regular get-togethers to be a salvation. "Having other people with whom to share the mistakes you've made was a huge, huge help. To find out 'I'm not alone in this' was so comforting," says Clapp, a youthful man with a ready grin who favors fanciful neckties with school buses and balloons.

The group mentoring approach, says Husted, "is more powerful than one-on-one," where an improper match can quickly derail things. It's not unusual, however, for participants to forge a strong bond with one particular mentor. For Clapp, that mentor was Husted. Throughout Clapp's first year, Husted made frequent visits to Barclay to observe, and offer advice and feedback. "It was 'no-fault,'" says Clapp. "I could share everything that's going on without any fear of retaliation."

The mentoring program appears to be working. Husted says that all the new principals who started in 1998 with the first mentoring class are still in the city school system, and turnover has been significantly reduced in subsequent years. "Principals are finding satisfaction and therefore staying," Husted says.

Clapp is now in his fourth year as principal at Barclay and his initial terror has been replaced by confidence. He is particularly proud that 100 percent of the school's eighth-graders have passed the state's functional reading test for the past two years. Enrollment has grown, and he's forged close bonds with teachers, students, and parents.

Though Clapp is no longer a neophyte, he still talks regularly with Husted and keeps in touch with colleagues from his mentoring group. One day soon, he says, he'd like to serve as a "veteran" principal, in an attempt to give back some of what sustained him so effectively that crucial first year on the job.

"I don't know if I would have made it without that support -- and that's a prevalent feeling," says Clapp. Without it, "we might have just pulled our hair out, quit, and walked away." --SD

IPS Study Finds Positives in Public Housing

Public housing projects -- often perceived as magnets for crime and other urban woes -- nonetheless could provide a more stable environment for children than other low-income housing alternatives, according to a study published recently by researchers at the Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies.

The IPS researchers, analyzing 25 years of data, found that young adults who had lived in public housing as young adolescents between 1968 and 1982 spent less time on welfare, earned slightly more, and had a better chance of being employed in their mid-20s than non-public housing residents.

Among other factors, public housing is sometimes in better condition than landlord-owned properties in low-income areas. "Public housing might also result in more stable housing either because the subsidy might make it easier for the family to pay its rent, or because [laws] make it more difficult to evict families," wrote IPS Director Sandra J. Newman and fellow researcher Joseph Harkness in the study published in the Winter 2002 issue of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

"Children who move often are also likely to change schools more frequently, putting them at greater risk of grade repetition and poor academic performance," they note.

Whether public housing affects a person's economic future is central to debates over the changing role of federal public housing. Nationwide, there are about 470,000 households with children living in public housing. The IPS study was funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Ford and Rockefeller foundations. -- JCS

Wakenda Tyler and Edward McCarthy share the art of observation.
Photo by Chris Hartlove
Championing the Art of Deduction

The aspiring doctor, Wakenda Tyler, recalls sitting on the bench, cappuccino in hand, feeling both uncomfortable and skeptical. What was she doing hanging out in the Towson mall on a weekday afternoon with her professor anyway? Gaping at strangers outside the food court, no less.

An elderly woman passed by. Tyler's bench partner, the School of Medicine's Edward McCarthy, gave his student a nudge. The lesson was about to begin.

McCarthy, a professor of pathology and orthopedic surgery, pointed out the woman's short and slow steps, the lack of full range of motion in her legs. The woman also had an uneven gait, McCarthy informed Tyler, clearly favoring her left side because of a stiff right knee.

Then, with a look at Tyler that said "this is child's play," McCarthy offered his on-the-spot diagnosis.

"Immediately he said to me, 'That person has very bad arthritis in that one knee. She probably has no cartilage left there if she was doing that much of a shift,'" Tyler says. "I was very impressed. 'Wow. How did you know that?'"

Elementary, dear Tyler. Elementary.

Tyler's slightly voyeuristic mall experience was a lesson in basic observation, a somewhat "lost art" in the medical profession, McCarthy says, because of an ever-increasing reliance on technology. To fill this perceived void, McCarthy passionately prescribes to his medical students the value of noticing the "total patient" - - his or her unique physical and psychological characteristics -- rather than relying solely on charts, X-rays, and lab results. True observation, McCarthy says, injects a needed dose of humanity into the doctor-patient relationship, which in turn aids in healing.

"You will see someone throw up an X-ray and say, 'This is the patient who has had a hip injury.' Well, actually, that is not the patient, that is just an X-ray of a patient," McCarthy says. "All this technology at our disposal often becomes a substitute for really seeing and listening to the patient. I tell people that to become great doctors, you have to first become a very good noticer."

In his musculoskeletal medicine course, McCarthy invites some of his third-year students to accompany him to a public place -- usually a mall or Baltimore's Inner Harbor -- just to people-watch. He instructs the student to take in the entire person, noticing gait, complexion, marks on hands and face, hair, clothes, tics and, if possible, even smell. In short, he wants specifics. In McCarthy's world, a person is not merely dark- or olive-skinned, he is Cuban, Native American, or perhaps a Gypsy. McCarthy says the way people suffer is often bound to their culture and socioeconomic status, details that can't be gleaned from even a full-body scan.

As part of the exercise, the doctor and student then take educated guesses as to the illnesses and impairments of passersby. Without pad or pencil, McCarthy says, the student learns to take detailed mental notes. In his bone pathology lectures to second-year students, McCarthy conducts other observation exercises, using slides of paintings.

McCarthy, who ascribes to the belief that doctors need to be good detectives, says Sherlock Holmes is both his inspiration and his model. Though McCarthy stops just short of making the fictional detective's exploits required reading in his classes, he does enjoy telling students how Arthur Conan Doyle based his famous character on the real-life Dr. Joseph Bell, one of the author's medical school professors who was legendary for his deductive powers.

For those who master observation techniques, he says, technology can be used as an "adjunct" to observation, in some cases reducing the need for costly and sometimes invasive testing.

The desire to improve the observation skills of med students is steadily gaining support, McCarthy says, thanks in part to a study published in the September 5, 2001, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Yale researchers set out to test the theory that studying art works could improve the observational skills of first-year medical students. Students were assigned paintings in the Yale Center for British Art and asked to observe and then describe them in detail. Later, in the classroom, the students were part of a larger group shown images of skin lesions and asked to write a description. Students who received visual training improved their observational skills by 10 percent, while there was no improvement in the control group.

Linda Friedlaender, curator of education at the Yale Center for British Art and co-author of the study, says the results should serve as a wake-up call. "The technology related to medicine has changed so much that there is a growing concern of too many people relying on machines or images to come up with the medical answers."

Wakenda Tyler, who graduated in May, says her experience with McCarthy has completely changed her outlook on clinical medicine.

"Every time I walk into a patient's room now I take a step back to notice everything, even before introducing myself," she says. "I see what is in the room, what is the patient doing. And then I take a very close look at the patient, eye color, hair color, condition of his teeth. Things I never paid attention to before. All of a sudden it made the patient a more complete person." --Greg Rienzi

Midfielder Adam Doneger '03
Photo by Rob Brown
Strong Seasons for Lacrosse, Baseball

There's a simple benchmark for success in Hopkins spring sports: If you're still playing in mid-May, you're having a good season. At press time, Blue Jay men's lacrosse and baseball teams were enjoying good seasons indeed.

Men's lacrosse finished its regular schedule 11-1, good for No. 1 in the national Division I lacrosse rankings, and for the No. 1 seed in the NCAA national championship tournament. This was the Jays' first top seeding since 1995. The 2002 Jays combined steady play from upperclassmen Bobby Benson '03, P.J. DiConza '02, and Nick Murtha '02, with the rapid emergence of stars like Kyle Barrie '05, Conor Ford '04, and Kyle Harrison '05.

Hopkins baseball earned a top seed in the NCAA Division III national tournament by winning the Centennial Conference championship. Jays' third-baseman John Krivonak '02 singled home the winning run in the 10th inning to defeat Muhlenberg in the dramatic conference championship game. Hopkins won its fifth Centennial tournament in the last nine years, compiling a sterling 34-7 record, good for No. 6 in the national Division III poll.

The 2002 Jays were an opposing pitcher's nightmare, averaging 9.84 runs per game, and hitting a team-record 52 home runs. --DK

Photo by Rob Brown Sports
Strong Strokes for Hopkins Swimmers

Hopkins swimmers (at left, Justin Brannock '03) concluded strong seasons in the water by turning in great performances at the 2002 NCAA Division III championships in early spring. The men finished second behind perennial national champion Kenyon College. The women placed fifth, repeating the performance of last year's squad. The Blue Jay men were led by Scott Armstrong '03, who finished second in both the 500- and 1650-meter freestyle, and fourth in the 200 free. He was also a member of the second-place 800 free relay team. For the women, Stephanie Harbeson '03 finished in the top 10 in seven different events, including second in the 500 freestyle. Head swimming coach George Kennedy was named NCAA Division III Coach of the Year for the third consecutive year.

Hope Jahren with a petrified prehistoric stump in Axel Heiberg Science
Tapping Trees for an Ancient Weather Report

Axel Heiberg Island sits way up in the Canadian north -- farther north than Iceland, the northern coast of Alaska, or most of Greenland. Present-day vegetation struggles to rise a mere few inches above the wind-scoured terrain. But millions of years ago, Axel Heiberg was forested with massive trees, some of them 10 feet in diameter. How could these behemoths have flourished in such a harsh, semi-arid climate?

Hope Jahren, an assistant professor of earth and planetary sciences, believes she has an important part of the answer. She recently co-authored a paper in GSA Today, a journal of the Geological Society of America, that posits a radically different weather pattern that transported water from points south of the United States due north to the Arctic. The evidence, she says, is in the mummified remains of that ancient forest -- stumps, trunks, roots, seeds, and cones of metasequoias that flourished 45 million years ago but are as well-preserved as driftwood that just washed up on shore.

Metasequoias, ancestors of the modern redwoods of California, were deciduous conifers; they had needles but shed them every year. For three summers, Jahren and her team have ventured to the island (via Canadian military helicopters), and collected tissue samples from these fossil trees. The basis of their findings and new theory is the trees' oxygen content.

When a tree absorbs water, it makes cellulose, and that cellulose retains a chemical signature of the water, including the composition of its oxygen content. "Oxygen comes in a few different flavors," Jahren says. "There's garden-variety oxygen, which is 16O, and there are rare isotopes, 18O, that have an extra neutron in oddly configured nuclei. In any handful of water, you've got a lot of 16O and a little bit of 18O. We know from studying today's climate patterns that water's isotopic composition -- the ratio of 16O to 18O -- is set overwhelmingly by the pathway the water took to get to there."

Jahren and her team analyzed the oxygen taken from the ancient tree tissues, then matched its composition to what is known about how water changes when it is transported by weather patterns. She says, "The composition of the water that must have fed these trees was very extreme, very different from what you get when you analyze trees today." The only way to reasonably explain these numbers, she says, is to have water transported a very long distance across land. "If you look at the world map the way it was then, the only way to get from the equator [to Heiberg] and consistently go over a lot of land is to go almost straight north from a southern place."

Jahren believes the water was picked up from as far south as the Pacific Ocean off the western coast of Mexico, then carried due north across North America to fall on Axel Heiberg. That requires a weather pattern much different from the present west-to-east airflow. "Not every drop of water that came to the Arctic came that way," she says. "Since the forest was near the ocean, you'd imagine that there were local storms. What the trees record for us is sort of a sample of the 'bulk water' of the environment."

Much more remains to be explained about the formerly towering forests of Axel Heiberg. For example, how could trees flourish in arctic sunlight, which is continuous for four months, and entirely absent for four months?

"This wasn't an ecosystem that was scraping along, the way we see these little mosses up there today," she says. "They were living large. One hypothesis is that they had incredible storage strategies. The sun shines 24 hours a day. If they could store some of this and make it through the winter, did they spend their dark months somehow feeding off their stored reserves? It forces us to acknowledge how much change the Earth is capable of. To redefine our ideas of what it means to be a tree, basically." She smiles. "I mean, trees that live in the dark ... who knew?" --DK

Illustration by Michael Morgenstern Religion
Toward a Spiritual Awakening

Inside the transparent walls of Homewood's Glass Pavilion, candles flicker and the gentle tones of Native American flute fill the air. A heavy piece of canvas with a circular labyrinth, 32 feet in length, has been placed in the middle of the large room; several people make their way through it at varying paces.

Hopkins chaplain Sharon Kugler, whose idea it was to provide the labyrinth on March 11, the six-month anniversary of last September's terrorist attacks, was not prepared for the powerful response it elicited. At one point, "15 people of different faiths and backgrounds were walking the labyrinth. It was so beautiful," she recalls. "It spoke to the possibility of people from any religion or culture being on a spiritual journey together."

The labyrinth -- billed as "a metaphor of life's journey" that combines both a "sense of unity and purposeful wandering" -- was the culminating event in a two-week symposium held at Homewood in early March titled "Open Hands Open Hearts -- Exploring Diverse Faith Traditions." A collaboration between Hopkins' Interfaith Council, Campus Ministries, and students from various Hopkins faith organizations, the series of 14 events drew more than 800 students, faculty, staff, and community members.

Events ranged from an introduction to Buddhist meditation techniques to assembling care packages for the homeless, from a Shabbat dinner to a Muslim banquet, from a lecture on "Why God Won't Go Away" to student media presentations. At an opening panel discussion March 6, two rabbis, a United Methodist minister, two followers of Islam, a Buddhist, and a Unitarian Universalist hashed out the "tough questions" -- issues involving violence and non-violence in their particular faiths, and efforts to build bridges.

"Open Hands Open Hearts" was the brainchild of sophomore Sarah Berkson, a member of Homewood's Interfaith Council, a United Nations-like group of some 25 students who represent an array of faiths: Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam. Headquarters for the council is the Bunting-Meyerhoff Interfaith Center, established in 1998 on the corner of Charles Street and University Parkway.

Berkson realized that, unlike most student groups, the Interfaith Council did not have a large annual event to raise awareness about its mission. And after September 11, says Berkson, there was "a hunger for contemplation."

Kugler, who guided the students in planning the symposium, says, "I think September 11 woke everyone up. I wish we could keep that tender sense we had following the attacks. The symposium is one way to try and extend that feeling of awareness." She noted that the Interfaith Council intends to make the symposium an annual event.

Because of the positive response the labyrinth received, Kugler commissioned David Tolzmann, a Baltimore-based artisan, to create one for permanent use at Hopkins. Tolzmann constructed one that was in Trinity Church just blocks from the World Trade Center. When the smoke cleared after September 11, the circular path remained unharmed. At Hopkins, the new labyrinth was set up just as final exams began. --Jocelyn Kelly '02

Pharmaceuticals in Waterways Could Be Bitter Pill for Health, Environment

That pill you pop might end up making fish spawn.

Traces of the vast amounts of medicine Americans down each year are showing up in the nation's waterways, according to a recently released federal water survey. Now, environmental researchers at Hopkins' Whiting School of Engineering are offering new research tools to evaluate the potential impact such contamination could have on animals and humans.

When pharmaceuticals, hormones, and other compounds are ingested, traces are excreted by the body. What's more, most people dispose of old or unused medication by flushing it down the toilet or tossing it in the trash. (For proper disposal, consult a pharmacist.)

Researchers at Hopkins have estimated which of the 200 most-prescribed drugs are likely to turn up in levels that could harm aquatic life. They base their estimates of such "probable environmental concentrations," or PECs, on calculations of total prescription sales and a review of other factors, including drug biochemistry and aquatic toxicology data.

Their analysis shows that antidepressants, anticancer drugs, anticonvulsants, and antibiotics are among the classes of prescription drugs most likely to be found at "toxicologically significant" levels in the environment, according to team leader A. Lynn Roberts, associate professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering. Those findings can help shape which drugs scientists test for in the environment.

The long-term risk for humans remains unclear. "We certainly don't have any evidence that most pharmaceuticals pose a human health risk, although the potential presence of carcinogens or teratogens [agents causing birth defects], even at low concentrations, may be a human health concern," says Padma Venkatraman, a Hopkins postdoctoral fellow who presented the findings at the annual American Chemical Society meeting in April.

The Hopkins research team also includes undergraduate Kelvin Chan, professor Edward Bouwer, and undergraduate Michael Blumenfeld, who at the conference presented a new method for detecting minute amounts of selected drugs in water samples. Their findings are part of a three-year project funded by a $525,000 grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Hopkins team also plans to check the concentration of drugs and antiseptics in the Chesapeake Bay, to help determine how such chemicals might affect animal life. For example: antidepressants that alter serotonin levels in the human brain can apparently prompt aquatic creatures to spawn, disrupting natural breeding cycles. Environmental exposure to hormones has been associated with deformed sex organs in wildlife.

About a month before the Chemical Society conference, researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey published a three-year analysis of 139 streams in 30 states. The report, the first of its kind in the nation, found widespread, low-level contamination involving "pharmaceutical and personal care pollutants": chemicals used in beauty aids, contraceptives, pain killers, caffeine, nicotine, and the antibiotic triclosan, an active ingredient in antibacterial soaps. While most of the levels detected in the survey did not violate clean water laws, many of the substances do not fall under existing pollution regulations.

"Some drugs are not harmful -- a little caffeine buzz is not really a problem," says Roberts, who notes that potential adverse effects will depend on the exposure. "We can all tolerate low doses. The question is what concentrations we are being exposed to." --JCS

Return to June 2002 Table of Contents

  The Johns Hopkins Magazine | The Johns Hopkins University | 3003 North Charles Street |
Suite 100 | Baltimore, Maryland 21218 | Phone 410.516.7645 | Fax 410.516.5251