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Vital Signs
Here and Abroad
Forever Altered

Bottom Line

6.7 million: Approximate number of steps it will take Johns Hopkins employees to walk across the country (virtually, of course).

This January, the university will kick off a 12-week "Steps Across America" program, designed to encourage people to be more active. Participants can get a free pedometer (on a first-come, first-served basis). Then, as they exercise, they can log on to the Healthy@Hopkins Web site to record the number of steps they take each week. The program will add everyone's miles together and track progress along a virtual cross-country route. It'll take about 3,100 miles to get there, with stops along the way.

"We're still mapping out the final route," explains Heidi Conway, senior director for benefits services and HR shared services. "We want to go to New York, to Philly, to Chicago."

The program is part of the university's larger initiative to encourage healthy habits-and reduce health care costs. According to Johns Hopkins Human Resources, the university spent $87 million on health care for faculty, staff, and retirees in fiscal year 2007, and costs have been rising by at least 10 percent each year. Increase healthy habits now, and you decrease health care costs later. Healthy@Hopkins offers a number of programs, including smoking cessation, meditation, stress management, Weight Watchers, and a new Healthy Start Program, a free eight-week supervised exercise program at the Maryland Athletic Club. —Catherine Pierre


Vashti Bartlett graduated from the Johns Hopkins Hospital Training School of Nurses in 1906. She then embarked on more than a dozen years of foreign service that you can follow at Vashti Bartlett — A Hopkins Nurse on a Global Mission, an electronic exhibit of photographs and documents from the Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives at Hopkins.

Bartlett is described as "firm of character and physically strong," which she must have been, as well as dauntless. When physician Wilfred Grenfell came to Baltimore looking for nurses to staff his Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen, Bartlett responded and spent seven months as chief nurse at St. Anthony's Hospital in Newfoundland. After the First World War broke out, she sailed to France in March 1915 and nursed war casualties there and in Belgium. Next stop, the American Red Cross Mission in Siberia. Eight months after arriving, she had to flee Vladivostok just ahead of the advancing Bolshevik army. Within a year, she was in Haiti, treating victims of a smallpox epidemic.

The online exhibit includes photos, examples of her Hopkins class notes, and a chronology of her career. If for no other reason, visit the Web site for examples of the remarkable hats ladies wore in those days. —Dale Keiger

Vital Signs

Uric acid linked to mini-strokes
Accumulated damage to the brain from mini-strokes can lead to cognitive and memory deficits in older adults. Now researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine have found a link between these strokes and elevated levels of uric acid. David Schretlen, associate professor of
psychiatry and lead author of the study, and his team studied MRI scans from 177 people, ages 20 to 92. Those with higher levels of uric acid showed 2.6 times the volume of small dead areas of the brain caused by tiny strokes. The findings appeared in the October 2 issue of Neurology.

Too much television harmful to tots
A study out of the Bloomberg School of Public Health has found that sustained viewing of television — two hours or more per day — by young children is associated with subsequent behavioral problems and poor social skills. The research analyzed data from 2,707 children who were between 2 and 5 years old. Children who watched fewer hours of TV as they approached age 5 were at reduced risk. Doctoral candidate Kamila Mistry was lead author of the study, published in the October issue of Pediatrics.

New combination of drugs speeds treatment of TB
Substituting the antibiotic moxifloxacin for ethambutol in the standard four-drug mix used for treatment could shorten the time needed to cure tuberculosis from six months to four. Richard Chaisson, professor of medicine at the School of Medicine, presented the finding last September at the 47th Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. Chaisson noted that a shorter treatment time could also reduce transmission of the disease to others. — DK


Inside your inner ear, a network of structures called the vestibular system tracks your head's movement and alerts your brain to its orientation. When the system is damaged — by trauma, infection, chemotherapy, or certain antibiotics — the result is lost balance and wobbly vision. "People can't keep their eyes on a target, and they feel like they're watching the world through a video camera," Charles C. Della Santina, director of the Johns Hopkins Vestibular Neuroengineering Laboratory, says of the roughly 30,000 Americans who suffer from this damage. "Every time their heel hits the ground, the world bounces."

Della Santina has invented a matchbox-sized, multi-channel pros-thesis, pictured here, to help restore balance. The box, which contains gyroscopes that measure the head's movement and transmit electronic pulses to the brain, is the first implant that tracks movement in three dimensions, just like an inner ear.

Though it hasn't been tested on people yet, it has been tried on some dizzy chinchillas. The animals were given the antibiotic gentamicin, which impaired their inner ears, and then were rigged up to a prosthesis. When the device was activated, the chinchillas regained some of their vision-stabilizing reflexes.

Testing on human volunteers is at least a few years away, and there are still refinements to be made: lowering the power requirements, reducing electrical interference with other nerve branches, improving the timing patterns of the electrical stimulation, and shrinking it to fit beneath the scalp behind the human ear. Although Della Santina doesn't expect the demand for such a device to be as great as for a cochlear implant, which helps restore hearing, he notes that people who need it are often severely affected. "Some people are really desperate for anything that will help," he says. —Kristi Birch


Course: Soup du jour - EVERY jour!

Instructor: Larry Simmons, teacher and chef at Bolton Hill Nursery School, has studied cooking at Peter Kump's New York Cooking School and Baltimore International College. This is Simmons' fourth year teaching a four-week soup class for Baltimore Free University, part of the Johns Hopkins Center for Social Concern. "Soup is just so good," he says. "It's my favorite food. And like all one-pot meals, it's good for fellowship."

Selected works:
- Beef, Fish, and Vegetable Stocks: The Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Rombauer
- Pasole (Pork and Hominy Stew): A friend's Chilean aunt
- Korean Noodle Soup: Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven, by Mollie Katzen
- Salmon and Corn Chowder and Shrimp Gumbo: An African American Cookbook, by Phoebe Bailey
- Tom Yum Goong (Thai Shrimp Soup): The back of a package of Thai noodles
- Black-Eyed Pea Soup: Turn Up the Heat with G. Garvin, by Gerry Garvin

Recipe: Chop an onion and some garlic and toss it in a pot with oil. Invite 10 people into the kitchen and have them take turns adding such ingredients as homemade stock, hominy, coconut milk, shrimp, and black-eyed peas. Stir. Listen to Simmons talk about starting soup with a recipe but making it your own. "Once you have your broth, go crazy with it," he says. "Always add and change things." Sit around the kitchen and talk as soup simmers. Ladle into bowls and serve with a hunk of bread and a glass of wine. Spoon. Slurp. Repeat.
—Maria Blackburn


APL astronomer may have found new Earths in the making
Carey Lisse, an astronomer at the Johns Hopkins
Applied Physics Laboratory, has found a belt of warm dust that may be coalescing into planets around a star 424 light-years away. Furthermore, the belt exists in the middle of what would be the star's terrestrial habitable zone — the region where any rocky planets that form could have liquid water. Lisse used NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope to study the dust surrounding the star HD 113766, which closely resembles the Earth's sun. Says Lisse, whose paper on the research has been accepted by Astrophysical Journal, "It is fantastic to think we are able to detect the process of terrestrial planet formation. Stay tuned — I expect lots more fireworks as the planet grows."

New model helps explain how bacteria divide
Rod-shaped bacteria such as E. coli reproduce by splitting in two, but scientists do not understand how they do it. A new mathematical model developed by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering explains part of the mystery. A team led by assistant professor of mechanical engineering Sean X. Sun studied the Z-ring, a little-understood band that tightens around a bacterium's mid-section and pinches it into two pieces. They were able to apply their new model to calculate the necessary force exerted by the ring; scientists were surprised to learn that the force was much less than expected. The new research was reported in the October 9 edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. — DK

Here and Abroad

... In October, Johns Hopkins' Nitze School of Advanced International Studies named Jan Kiely the new American co-director of the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, a post-graduate program run jointly by Hopkins and Nanjing University. Kiely, who was the director of the Furman in China Programs and an associate professor of history and Asian studies at Furman University in South Carolina, will be responsible, along with the Hopkins-Nanjing Center's Chinese co-director, for managing the center's affairs. He will also teach courses at SAIS on the history of U.S.-Chinese social and cultural interaction.

... A Bloomberg School of Public Health study, published in the September/October issue of Health Affairs, reports that the United States spends more on health care than other Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries (OECD is an organization of developed countries committed to democracy and the market economy), due to higher health care prices and per capita incomes. Using 2004 data, the most recent available, the study found that per capita health care spending here was two and a half times greater than the OECD median; we spend 15.3 percent of the GDP on health care; and we have fewer physicians, nurses, and hospital beds per capita than the OECD median.

... In September, JHPIEGO, an international health organization affiliated with Johns Hopkins University, was named NGO Leader of the Year by the Malaria Foundation for its work in Africa. The 2007 Malaria Awards also recognized the University Leader of the Year (the Bloomberg School), the Educational Document of the Year (the Bloomberg School's Malaria Course, one of its OpenCourseWare online lectures), Celebrity of the Year (Bono), Movie Actors of the Year (Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt), and the First Lady Malaria Advocate of the Year (Laura Bush), among others. — CP

Forever Altered

"This past summer, I was enrolled in four courses, including Systems Counseling and Consultation: Family, School, and Community, taught by Eric J. Green [assistant professor at the School of Education's Montgomery County campus]. From the moment I received the syllabus, I knew he set high expectations and that he would challenge us to do our best. Dr. Green has a way of making everyone feel comfortable. He has a reassuring voice and a one-of-a-kind sense of humor. He also shares a lot of his own experiences with us-he brings his own everyday life into the classroom and connects it to the curriculum so that we are able to fully understand the concepts taught. His positive energy and welcoming nature are contagious. Even after a strenuous day, I looked forward to sitting through one of his lectures.

"I already use what I learned in his course in my work as a teacher, collaborating and consulting with other staff members at the school-the principal, the management team-in order to better help students who might have behavioral problems, problems at home, or a language barrier. I can use the methods I learned in class to take a systematic approach to the consultation. If we don't collaborate, if we're not brainstorming, we don't have results.

"Besides being my instructor, Dr. Green is also now my adviser. Whenever I have a concern, I know I can rely on Dr. Green. He has guided me in making choices that have enabled me to thrive in the school counseling program."

Jaclyn Smith is a third-grade teacher at the Fields Road Elementary School in Montgomery County. She is working toward her master's degree in school counseling at Johns Hopkins' School of Education.


The Center for Africana Studies awarded grants of up to $1,500 each to six students last summer to support undergraduate and graduate research in African studies, African American studies, and African diaspora studies. Here's a look at two of the recipients:

Steffi Cerato, A&S '08: "A Glance at Savannah's Free Black Community in the Decades Before the Civil War"
Last summer, Cerato conducted research at the South Carolina and Georgia state archives on free blacks filing lawsuits in Southern courts prior to the 1860s. In the course of that research, she found documents for Savannah that detailed substantial portions of the area's free black population. The documents recorded their ages, occupations, residences, and birthplaces, as well as the names of white citizens who acted as legal representatives for the people listed in the registers. The result is a detailed picture of these communities in and around the city. Cerato says the records speak volumes as to the size and economic diversity of the free black population and provide information about family ties and migration patterns.

Lindsey Reynolds, SPH, second-year PhD student: "Orphans, Vulnerability, and the Politics of Development Aid in South Africa"
Reynolds' doctoral research focuses on the role George W. Bush's President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has in shaping children's programs in South Africa. PEPFAR guidelines define who is eligible for care-orphans and vulnerable children-and the services they can receive. Reynolds is examining how these guidelines shape not just the programs but also the experiences of children and families in AIDS-affected communities. Her work explores how a policy decision finds expression as it travels from Washington to local African communities and back. The grant enabled her to conduct preliminary research to plan her dissertation. —MB

Return to November 2007 Table of Contents

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