Johns Hopkins Magazine
Johns Hopkins Magazine Current Issue Past Issues Search Get In Touch
Wholly Hopkins
Bottom Line
Vital Signs
Here and Abroad
Up and Comer
Forever Altered

Bottom Line

Last year, more than 800 undergraduate and graduate students sought help at the Johns Hopkins University Counseling Center, which serves Homewood, Peabody, and the School of Nursing. The nine psychologists and three psychology interns at the center provide invaluable services to students in crisis.

886: Number of students who received counseling, up 10.5% from the previous year.

71: Number of students in group counseling in 15 groups, including the Dissertation Support Group, the International Students Discussion Group, Stress Management/Relaxation Workshops, and Survivors of Sexual Abuse and Assault.

251: Number of students who were prescribed medication.

44: Number of students in suicide tracking. Students who seem especially at risk for suicide receive intensive treatment, which may include more frequent counseling sessions and psychiatric consultations. Careful monitoring makes sure these students don't fall through the cracks.

81: Number of clients believed to have been prevented from harming themselves or others.

47: Number recommended for mental health leave.

36: Percent of students who came for "feelings of being overwhelmed," the most common complaint.
-Catherine Pierre

Vital Signs

Some Kids Outgrown Peanut Allergies

Children who suffer from serious and life-threatening peanut allergies may outgrow their allergies, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Children's Center and Arkansas Children's Hospital reported in the July issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

The study, led by Robert Wood, pediatric allergist and immunologist at the Hopkins Children's Center, found that more than half of the study group had outgrown their allergies and that children who were thought to have outgrown their allergies did not experience a recurrence. Experts had previously believed that peanut allergy, which affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans and is on the rise, was a lifelong problem.

As a result of the study, Wood recommends that children with peanut allergy be tested on a regular basis, every one or two years. "Peanut allergy has a huge effect on the lives of that child and the family," Wood says. "If you can find even 20 percent of children who outgrow it, then it is worth the work." -Maria Blackburn

Stem Cells Improve Mobility

Injecting human stem cells into the fluid around the spinal cord of paralyzed rats clearly improves the animals' ability to control their hind limbs, according to a recent Hopkins study.

Scientists first thought the functional recovery had come from human cells reconstituting destroyed nerve circuits, according to first author Douglas Kerr, assistant professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. In fact, the human embryonic germ cells created an environment that protected and helped existing rat neurons to survive.

This discovery will help with the analysis of the potential of various types of stem cells in disorders of motor neurons, according to Jeffrey Rothstein, director of the Robert Packard Center for ALS Research at Johns Hopkins and a research team member.

Kerr, Rothstein, and their colleagues reported their findings in the June issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. -MB

Here and Abroad

Injuries from automobile crashes, drowning, and other causes cost China $12.5 billion a year in medical expenses and lost productivity, according to a study by researchers from Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health and the School of Medicine. In the study, published in the June issue of Injury Prevention, the researchers calculated the human toll lost annually to be 12.6 million potentially productive years-more than the years lost from respiratory disease, heart disease, cancer, or infectious disease.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has committed $40 million to the Bloomberg School of Public Health to aid in improving reproductive health in the developing world, where unintended pregnancies and unsafe childbearing are a major cause of illness and death. The grant, announced in June, will increase funding for the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at Hopkins, which trains leaders of these programs in developing countries and conducts research.

When Johns Hopkins Vice Provost Steve McClain attended a reception at the Presidential Palace in Lisbon, Portugal, during the European Foundation Center's annual conference in June, something unexpected happened. The president of the Portuguese Republic, Jorge Sampaio, introduced himself to McClain in the crowd. Upon learning that McClain was with Hopkins, a delighted Sampaio revealed that his father had graduated from the School of Public Health in 1947. He then led McClain on a personal tour of his offices, where he proudly revealed a large framed pen-and-ink drawing of the Hopkins dome, circa 1940, hanging on the wall. -MB


Should you take the ground floor efficiency in Bradford & Briarley, or the fifth floor efficiency in Jefferson House? Is Pete's Grill on Greenmount Avenue worth the wait for blueberry pancakes, or are the Papermoon Diner's banana pancakes better? And what time does the post office in Gilman close? Find these answers and many more at The Daily Jolt, Hopkins edition. Project Jolt started at Amherst College and now covers more than 100 college campuses nationwide. JHU's edition of The Jolt is locally produced by Hopkins students, thereby ensuring that it's current, useful, and often pretty funny. In addition to posting such useful information as a calendar of on- and off-campus events, job openings, and a ride share bulletin board, the site also offers blunt anonymous restaurant reviews and an addictive relationship forum presided over by Dr. Jolt. He isn't a doctor, but the student team that plays him on the Web still manages to skillfully hold forth on anything pertinent to Hopkins dating life. -MB

Up & Comer

Name: Tobie Meyer-Fong
Age: 36
Hopkins assistant professor of

Stats: BA '89 summa cum laude in history, Yale; PhD '98 in history, Stanford Scouting report: "Tobie Meyer-Fong has staked her claim to being the most original and important cultural historian of late imperial China," says William T. Rowe, senior historian of China at Hopkins.

Research: Specialist in 17th-century China. First book, published last March, is Building Culture in Early Qing Yangzhou (Stanford University Press), about cultural reconstruction in the city of Yangzhou after the Qing conquest in 1644. "The Manchu conquest of China posed a major political and cultural challenge to Chinese elites. People used culture as a sphere in which they could reconnect with other members of the elite and, ultimately, the new regime." Currently researching the cultural impact of the 19th-century Taiping Rebellion that killed millions.

Language skills: Fluent in modern Chinese and Japanese: "Doing classical Chinese scholarship requires a streak of determination to the point almost of masochism. I showed up for first-year Chinese and cried hysterically because I thought I couldn't do it. I was tone deaf and couldn't visualize how to write characters. By [third] year I just loved it so much. I can't draw to save my life and Chinese gave me a whole new scope for doodling. My notes from college are covered with characters."

Change of direction: Originally planned to be a premed. "Then I got the course catalog and thought, I'm going to have to take calculus and organic chemistry. If I don't go premed, I can take anything I want. And my 'want list' was all history classes. That's when I thought maybe I was pursuing the wrong thing."

Mentors: Her Stanford graduate advisers, Harold L. Kahn and Lyman P. Van Slyke. "They not only taught me how to be a good professional historian, but how to be a good grown-up." -Dale Keiger

Forever Altered

"When I was a medical student, Arnall Patz was the director of Wilmer. He had discovered that giving pure oxygen to premature infants causes them to go blind. He also built one of the first lasers to treat diabetic retinopathy.

"Dr. Patz placed a priority on being as helpful as possible to students. I had some issue related to my residency application, and I had to talk to Dr. Patz. So at 6 o'clock at night, Dr. Patz is the only person in his office, and I am a medical student that he doesn't know from Adam. I knock on the door and introduce myself. Dr. Patz stops everything and wants to hear about my little issue. The impression he gave me was that I was just about the most important person who had come to see him that day.

"When I was a resident, he'd ask what you thought of some patient, and if you got the correct answer, he would not only tell you, but everyone else around, that you were the most impressive diagnostician he'd ever seen. If anyone walking around Johns Hopkins had the right to have a real swagger, it was Arnall Patz. But he showed by example you could have no apparent ego and just be a brilliant and incredibly supportive person.

"The only prize he doesn't have in medicine that's of interest, I think, is the Nobel Prize. It would be hard to imagine a physician-scientist in the history of our field who had more impact on ophthalmology than Dr. Patz. So everybody who's reading this who's on the Nobel nominating committee should quickly make sure they nominate him."

Peter McDonnell, MD '82, became the director of the Wilmer Eye Institute this past July. Known for his work in the field of refractive surgery, he is currently working to understand the causes of, and thus prevent, refractive error, and through gene therapy, to control corneal scarring from laser surgery.


Big Macs. Big farms. Big SUVs. It's a big unhealthy world out there, and the Center for a Livable Future at the Bloomberg School of Public Health is working to make our food, health, and environment safer for all. It's a big job, and it takes a lot of unfamiliar buzz words, such as:

Food security: They're not talking about locking the fridge. Food security is a condition in which all people at all times can acquire safe, affordable, nutritionally adequate, and culturally acceptable foods through local, non-emergency sources.

Ecological footprint: The biologically productive area needed to produce the resources used-and absorb the waste generated-by a single person. The average American footprint is 24 acres; the average Canadian, 17. Calculate your own ecological footprint at

Sustainable agriculture: A farming system that is ecologically sound, economically viable, socially just, and humane. The opposite of IAP.

IAP: Industrial Animal Production. A system of agriculture also called "factory farms" in which the goal is to produce as much grain, meat, or milk as possible, without taking into account the impact on the environment or the health of the animals being raised. Most of the meat consumed in the United States comes from IAPs.

CAFO: Confined Animal Feeding Operation. Factory farms that raise more than 1,000 "animal units" in confinement, such as 1,000 dairy cows or 55,000 chickens. CAFOs are considered a growing public health threat because they produce and store large quantities of animal waste in lagoons that can leak and pollute water and harm air quality. -MB


July 3, 2003

The Executive Health Program at Hopkins Hospital caters to an A-list clientele, each year attracting more than a thousand VIPs from across the country and around the world. We tagged along with personal representative Janice Walters-equal parts secretary, valet, and liaison-to see what it's like as she escorts her clients behind healthcare's velvet rope.

6:30 a.m. Walters hurries through the lobby of the Outpatient Center, grabs a Wall Street Journal, and heads upstairs to check on her clients' complimentary breakfast.

7:00 a.m. Walters confers briefly with another personal representative (there are three) about the day's complicated schedule: shepherding five VIPs through appointments with as many as 18 different departments each.

7:10 a.m. Walters' beeper goes off; the first patients of the day are here: Douglas and Peggy Hale, from Mercersburg, Pennsylvania. "It's an excellent program; I've been coming for five years," remarks Doug Hale, headmaster of a prestigious private boarding school.

7:20 a.m. Walters takes Peggy Hale for a blood test, then hands out menus and takes lunch orders.

7:30 a.m. Physician George H. Sack Jr., who launched the program eight years ago,greets the Hales. Then Walters is off to take Peggy Hale for her mammogram.

7:40 a.m. Doug Hale's preliminary physical. It's all over by 8 a.m. Time for a quick breakfast before his next appointment.

8:15 a.m. Walters greets the newest arriving patient.

8:30 a.m. Time to take Doug Hale to Pulmonary, then pick up Peggy from Mammography and drop her off at Nuclear Medicine for a bone density test.

9:00 a.m. Walters escorts Peggy Hale to Pulmonary.

10:00 a.m. She drops off lunch orders at the Tower Terrace Restaurant on her way to the Wilmer Eye Institute with Peggy Hale. Doug Hale is due at Wilmer at 11.

Noon Walters escorts the Hales and other Executive Health patients to the Tower Terrace. Their lunches are ready and waiting.

1:15 p.m. Walters drops by Express Testing to pick up the results of the morning's tests. Then it's Doug Hale to Dermatology, Peggy to Audiology.

3:15 p.m. The Hales meet with Sacks. They leave weary but reassured: An army of Hopkins healthcare professionals has determined they're both in great shape.

3:30 p.m. Walters prepares entrance folders for Monday's patients. Then she heads home, where she has a different set of VIPs to cater to: Her youngest son leaves for Australia in two days. -Patrick Tucker


Scientists Count 70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 Stars

Counting the stars in the sky has long been one of the most common comparisons when describing impossible tasks. But that didn't stop a group of astronomers that included a Hopkins researcher from taking a shot at it.

Their estimated total: 70 sextillion, or a 7 followed by 22 zeros. Or, by some estimates, more than all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the Earth.

"The headline in the Sydney Morning Herald was, 'What astronomers do when they have too much time on their hands,'" Nicholas Cross, an associate physics and astronomy research scientist, notes with a laugh.

The estimated star count was more than a time-killer, though; it was a byproduct of a serious scientific investigation into the evolution and structure of the universe. Cross and astronomers from various institutions in England, Scotland, and Australia were working on a project called the Millennium Galaxy Catalogue, a meticulous assessment of the number and brightness of galaxies in a patch of sky.

They wanted to use their data to improve astronomers' understanding of the universe. But they realized that a galaxy brightness measurement can also be used to estimate the number of stars in a galaxy. Combining an estimate of the number of stars in the 10,000 galaxies they found with a few other estimated factors, such as the size of the universe, led them to the 70 sextillion figure. -Michael Purdy

Learning From Past Mistakes

In a study published in Neuron, researchers in psychological and brain sciences at Hopkins have directly observed a long-suspected component of the brain's ability to use past experiences to guide decision making.

Using electrodes inserted into two brain regions, the amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex, Geoffrey Schoenbaum, an associate research scientist, and colleagues directly recorded brain cell activity as rats learned to associate an odor cue with desirable and undesirable drinking water. As the normal rats learned to avoid the bad water, they had changes in orbitofrontal cortex activity that didn't show up in the experimental group.

"This is the most direct evidence yet for how one brain system, the amygdala, controls the way representations are made in another directly connected system, the orbitofrontal cortex," said Michela Gallagher, chairman of psychological and brain sciences and a co-author of the study.

Schoenbaum, who will become an assistant professor of anatomy and neurobiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine this month, wants to look at whether drug addiction may disrupt connections between the amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex, impairing an addict's ability to weigh the consequences of his or her actions. Gallagher will apply the data to studies of how aging can disrupt memory functions. -MP


It's common for scientists to guard their research. But a soldier posted at the door?

The warrior in question is Qin (pronounced "Chin"), named after the first Emperor of China. The scientists are John Groopman, the Anna M. Baetjer Professor and chairman of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences in the Bloomberg School of Public Health, and Tom Kensler, professor and director of the Division of Toxicological Sciences.

Groopman and Kensler have been working together for three decades, studying and ultimately trying to prevent liver cancer in China. About three years ago, they decided to merge their laboratories. That's when Qin came on board. Posted outside their new lab, Qin stands about five feet tall, weighs in at several hundred pounds, and has a faraway look about him.

He's also made of clay. Qin is a reproduction of one of the terra cotta warriors that 2,200 years ago guarded the emperor's mausoleum.

"We thought it would be fun to see if we could track down a reproduction warrior to sort of provide some dominating figurehead or stoic figure that represented us and our interests and our collaborations," says Kensler.

Kensler found Qin at the Museum of Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses, located at the emperor's burial site in Xi'an. The museum store sells reproductions made from clay found at the site.

Qin has become a beloved part of the department. The soldier is decorated seasonally, with lights at Christmastime, a flag on the 4th of July, and a gown for graduation. He's even dusted at night.

He also provides the department with a certain distinction. "It's hard around this place to introduce any individuality," says Kensler. "So this is our small way of saying, this is who we are and what we are about." -CP


Course: Introduction to Africana Studies

Instructor: Colleen O'Brien, Mellon Scholar in the history department

Course Description: This course, which serves as an introduction to the new Africana studies major, will explore patterns of change, movement, and adaptation among people of African descent in sub-Saharan Africa and the Americas. Comparing scholarship and creative projects from Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States, students will question the term "diaspora" (appropriated from Jewish history) and its historical relevance to the many cultures within and emanating from the world's second largest continent. Focusing on modern history, the course's interdisciplinary approach will meld socio-political and historical essays with specific narrative histories by Chinua Achebe, Malcolm X, Octavia E. Butler, and other authors. It will also incorporate shorter works by Derek Walcott, James Baldwin, Alice Walker, Bessie Head, and others. Films will accompany each section of the reading materials, as will brief forays into visual art and music connected to the topic.

Reading List:

Global Dimensions of the African Diaspora, Joseph Harris, editor (1993).

Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe (1958).

The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1965).

I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem, Maryse Conde (1992).

Parable of the Sower, Octavia E. Butler (1994).


Sankofa, Haile Gerima, director (1993).

Slam, Marc Levin, director (1998).

Everyone's Child, Tsitsi Dangarembga, director (1996).

Return to September 2003 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