Johns Hopkins Magazine - April 1996 Issue

In Short - On Campuses

By Sue De Pasquale, Dale Keiger and Alia Malek '96
CEO of Medicine position created

Trustees of the university and the Hopkins health system recently agreed to create a central source of authority responsible for overseeing all of Hopkins medicine, including both the health system and medical school. Whoever fills the new position--CEO of Medicine--will report directly to the university president, above the Hopkins hospital president and the School of Medicine dean.

The new administrative structure should help address the inherent tension that exists today at Hopkins and elsewhere between profit-driven hospitals and research-driven medical schools.

According to George L. Bunting Jr., chairman of the board of Hopkins Medicine, and Morris W. Offit, chairman of the board of the university, the new arrangement "will allow us to speak and act as one in our responses to the current revolution in healthcare delivery, while remaining true to our missions of research, teaching, and patient care." The trustees also hope the new arrangement will help Hopkins to respond quickly and decisively as new opportunities arise in the healthcare market.

The university and health system are separate but closely linked corporations. During the past year, the two institutions have worked to better integrate their medical operations. Last summer, the two boards created a joint administrative structure called the Office of Johns Hopkins Medicine, composed of senior medical professors and hospital officials.

A committee chaired by health system trustee Edward K. Dunn Jr. will conduct the search to fill the new CEO position.

Sculling for Atlanta

Ruth Davidon has a high threshold of pain. A wiseguy might say that any medical student has to have one, but Davidon is a special case. In her spare time, she puts herself through the punishing rigors of competing as an Olympic-class rower.

Davidon, 31, is currently the nation's fastest female single-sculler. If all goes according to her plan, the Hopkins medical school student and sometime PhD candidate will compete in the U.S. Olympic rowing trials later this month. She's favored to make the team. She was the 1994 United States Rowing Association's female athlete of the year. She won gold and silver medals at the 1994 Goodwill Games, and a pair of silvers at the 1995 Pan Am Games. Last August, she finished sixth at the world championships in Finland. That sounds like a disappointment until you realize that Davidon had been injured in a traffic accident a few months before the competition, missed six weeks of training, and had to row with a broken rib.

"There's so much pain in your lungs and legs and forearms while you're rowing, you don't notice your ribs," she says, matter-of-factly. She's had lots of practice at this sort of thing--she pulls so hard on the oars in training that she has broken her own ribs 10 times. After so many stress fractures, when she registers now for a race she lists her orthopedist as her primary physician.

Davidon's main event is the 2,000-meter single sculls. Just her, a 27-foot boat built for speed, and over a mile of water to traverse at near a full-out sprint. "Because I have a long upper body and short legs, I'm told I look sort of like a windshield wiper when I row," she says. In the last year she has put on 20 pounds of upper-body muscle, but her competitive advantage, she says, is in her immensely strong legs. She tries to go out fast at the beginning of a race, hang with the leaders, then overpower them at the end.

At the start of a race it takes her about 20 strokes to get up to speed. "The middle 1,000 meters are the worst," she says. "You think there's no way I can finish this--I'm gonna die." She sprints the last 500 meters, pulling the last 25 strokes with her heart rate over 190. "Then I collapse."

Davidon has been training full-time for the past several months at the Olympic rowing center near San Diego. When she's at Hopkins, her daily regimen is to rise at 5 a.m., work out for about 90 minutes, then go to class, where she's unable to use a chair. She explains, "I can't sit in the lecture hall seats after a workout because my muscles cramp up. I have a little square of carpet that everybody knows is Ruth's parking space." Her instructors have become accustomed to hearing questions come from somewhere in the back of the room, where she's on the floor, stretching.

After class, she trains for another two hours, has dinner with her husband if he's not traveling for his consulting job, then studies for four hours. She's in her fourth year of medical school, and has done work toward a PhD in immunology, though she admits that project has been on hold for a while. By 9 p.m., she's in bed. At 5 the next morning, she gets up and does it all over again.

Why? "I love training, I love racing, I love med school, I love seeing patients," she says. "I know what I have the potential to do, and that's win. I tell my husband, 'I want to be the fastest woman in the world.'"

Former Eastern High is site for expansion

The Eastern High School property on East 33rd Street, vacant for nearly a decade, will soon see new life under a Hopkins plan to recycle the building for administrative and academic purposes.

Last summer, the Hopkins proposal for the site won out over another that called for tearing the school down and building a strip shopping center. Hopkins hoped to keep the shell of the former school intact, and indeed, recently completed architectural studies have determined that the building, built in 1939, is sound enough for further use.

The university's plan calls for the property to be renovated at a cost of $11.5 million. The building will house a high school for children with brain disorders, run by Hopkins's Kennedy-Krieger Institute; a 50,000-square-foot "business incubator center" overseen by Dome Real Estate, a Hopkins affiliate; and 50,000 square feet of office space for administrative, academic, and other university needs.

Eventually, Hopkins proposes to ring the former school building with up to five smaller buildings to create a 26-acre complex containing 500,000 square feet of university-related space.

Resting in peace

An unusual assemblage of people--including Hopkins officials, archaeologists, clergy of different denominations, and a bagpiper--turned out in December for a reburial service at Oak Lawn Cemetery. The group gathered to mark the re-interment of 186 bodies--150 adults and 36 children--discovered under the construction site of the new Comprehensive Cancer Care Center in East Baltimore.

Last summer, when officials at the Maryland Historical Trust examined maps of the site from state archives, they realized that there were two graveyards--one a church cemetery, the other a potter's field--under the proposed location. Hopkins dug test trenches and found human remains.

Both burial grounds were established around 1800. The cemetery belonged to the now-defunct Christ Church, an Episcopal congregation that existed into the 1970s. The potter's field, a public burial site for paupers, unknown decedents, and criminals, was the first of its kind in Baltimore.

Existing records proved insufficient to identify the remains. There is evidence, however, that some of the bodies are those of soldiers from the War of 1812, as well as epidemic victims from the early 1800s. One body was found with a corroded coin over each eye, an ancient custom rooted in Greek mythology; the man also wore an earring, suggesting he may have been a sailor.

The cost of exhuming and reinterring the bodies will add up to $300,000 to the $97.7 million project, which Hopkins hopes to have completed by June 1998.

Piloting a computerized SAT

In February, Hopkins announced an agreement with the Maryland-based Sylvan Learning Systems to find, test, and teach gifted middle school and high school students around the globe.

Under the agreement, Sylvan and Hopkins's Institute for the Academic Advancement of Youth (IAAY) will develop a new curriculum in mathematics and language arts, which Sylvan will offer through its worldwide network of learning centers. Sylvan also will develop a computerized version of the tests that IAAY uses in its talent search program, one of which is the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT).

In the past, Hopkins has used the College Board test to assess seventh- and eighth-graders. Those who score very well (in the top 3 percent) are tapped to participate in courses offered through Hopkins's Center for Talented Youth (CTY), an arm of IAAY. These youngsters are a good test audience for a computerized version of the SAT, because, unlike their older counterparts, their college admission is not at stake. This pilot version of the SAT could eventually be used to test college-bound high school students nationwide.

William Durden, executive director of IAAY, says that Hopkins chose to work with Sylvan because the company has 500 centers internationally, providing Hopkins with expanded opportunities to reach students. He notes that the courses offered through Sylvan will be less expensive than similar CTY courses, because Sylvan students will not have to travel to and stay on campuses hosting CTY programs.

Durden expects that working with Sylvan will broaden IAAY's reach in another respect. IAAY will preserve the CTY programs aimed at the top 3 percent of the students, while offering new coursework aimed at the top 15 percent.

The agreement with Sylvan is still in the "letter of intent" stage, which Durden says is "a formal agreement to agree to agree." He hopes that the pilot courses will be ready in the spring of 1997; Sylvan will offer the first computerized SAT this spring.

Avian with an attitude

Pity the poor cartoon bird--a vanishing species, at least so far as sports logo's are concerned. A few years ago the Baltimore Orioles's cartoon logo disappeaed from the team's caps, retired in favor of an ornithologically correct bird. Now Hopkins has come up with a new logo for its sport teams--a blue jay that, like the oriole, is a model of avian accuracy, right down to its scrappy facial expression. If a bird can be said to have a facial expression.

The new design made its first appearance last month on lacrosse media guides. Sports information director Jennifer Hoover says that in coming months it will begin to appear on sports programs and other printed material. There are no immediate plans to put it on Hopkins uniforms, but that will be an option, Hoover says, as teams replace their attire.

Jane Whyte, a friend of Hopkins soccer coach Matt Smith, created the logo. She originally designed a blue jay with a soccer ball in its mouth for a new set of team shirts. Hoover says that other coaches liked the shirts so much that the department commissioned a new logo from Whyte. In its conference, Hopkins must compete with Bears, Mules, Bullets, even Green Terrors, whatever they are. A tough, feisty bird would seem in order.

Followers of collegiate sports hope the trend toward Audubon-like accuracy continues, if for no other reason than to anticipate the appearance of ornithologically correct chickens on the uniforms of the Coastal Carolina University Chanticleers.

Written by Sue De Pasquale, Dale Keiger, and student intern Alia Malek '96.

Creative admissions

"Take a piece of wire, a Hopkins car window sticker, an egg carton, and any inexpensive hardware store item, and write an essay about how you would solve a problem of your invention. But fiction writers, don't worry, we won't require proof that it works."

Welcome to the college admissions essay, Hopkins-style.

The "wire and egg carton" question is the first of three new essay topics included in the 1996-97 application for admission.

While most college applications require personal essays along the lines of "Why would you be a good match with this institution?" the Hopkins admissions staff came up with the trio of new topics so that prospective students could display some creativity and personality.

"These essays are designed to make you think, and to take the JHU application seriously during a process in which students are applying to many schools and have to write many essays," says Paul White, director of admissions.

As White had hoped, some of the responses have been striking. One high school student from Southern California actually built and mailed in a functioning swimming pool alarm constructed from the materials, while others sent blueprints.

A second essay option challenged students to design a new humanities course. One Hopkins hopeful laid out plans for a course she called, "Suspense and the Human Mind," including readings from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Charlotte Bront‰, as well as music from Mozart. Another applicant, who accepted Essay #3's invitation to invent a new metaphor for the human body, proferred the idea of a wine glass: the beauty or shape of the glass, she explained, had nothing to do with the taste of the wine.

For those of the 8,466 applicants for the fall of 1996 baffled by the three new options, the application included a more routine option: "Choose a person who has been important in your life, and describe in detail what makes her/him significant to you."

Yeah, sure

Hopkins's current freshmen appear to be decidedly more jaded than their counterparts at other highly selective universities.

In an annual survey of student character conducted by the Office of Enrollment Services in which freshmen were asked, "Do you rate yourself above average in cynicism?" 46 percent responded in the affirmative. That compares to 36 percent at other schools.

Hopkins men were far more cynical than the women: 48 percent vs. 32 percent. Similar gender differences arose when it came to issues of money and social action. A higher percentage of Hopkins men plan to "be very well off financially" (71 percent vs. 61 percent), while more women plan to "influence social values (39 vs. 29) and "to promote racial understanding," (50 vs. 34).

On location at WJHU-FM

In February, Homicide actors Yaphet Kotto (above) and Melissa Leo and a film crew of 90 packed into the studios of Hopkins's WJHU-FM for a long day of filming. In the episode, a conservative talk show host is murdered, and the two detectives visit the radio station to interview his co-workers.

"It was a little distracting,'" says Janet Funk, the station's public information assistant, who was tapped as an extra. (She plays an on-air announcer who can be seen--but not heard--in the background.) The episode is due to air later this month.

This was not the first time that Hopkins provided a setting for the critically acclaimed television series. Last winter the cast and crew filmed at Evergreen House for an episode about the murder of a wealthy elderly couple. And last summer at Hopkins Hospital, pediatrics staff lent their expertise for a story line in which a 10-year-old boy gets shot. More recently, Peabody's classic spiral staircase and other environs appeared in a story about a jealous wife (an opera buff and voice instructor) who killed her husband and his mistress.

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