The Johns Hopkins Gazette: February 28, 2000
February 28, 2000
VOL. 29, NO. 24


Second 'Voyage' To Begin

Five top docs to share with students the stories behind their own work

By Glenn Small

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

A year ago, Bisrat Abraham was a busy junior public health/premed major who decided to take time away from one of her classes to attend an interesting-sounding lecture series. It was called Voyage and Discovery, and its organizer, Adam Libow, a then senior premed major, promised to have top Hopkins researchers, doctors and scientists sharing the stories behind their work.

The motto was: "Somewhere between a petri dish and a publication, there is an inspiring story."

So Abraham went to the first lecture and was amazed and inspired. The speaker was Benjamin Carson, the world-renowned Hopkins brain surgeon.

"It was packed," she remembered. "It was in Mudd, and people were sitting on the steps."

That experience prompted Abraham to get involved in helping to carry on the lecture series. She and her co-director, Chandu Vemuri, who is a senior neuroscience/premed major, have been working since summer to put together the second Voyage and Discovery.

Chandu Vemuri and Bisrat Abraham, both senior premed majors, were so taken with last year's inaugural 'Voyage and Discovery' series that they signed on to co-chair its second run.

Their efforts debut at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 29, in the Mudd Hall Auditorium, when Levi Watkins Jr., associate dean of the School of Medicine and a professor of cardiac surgery, gives a talk titled "From Integrating Vanderbilt Medical School to Implanting a Defibrillator: One Physician's Journey to Fulfill His Dreams."

Watkins is the first of five scheduled speakers, who include William R. Brody, president of the university and also a radiologist and a professor of electrical and computer engineering. Others are Alfred Sommer, dean of the School of Public Health and a professor of epidemiology, international health and ophthalmology; Argye Hillis, an assistant professor of neurology at the School of Medicine; and Richard A. Cone, a professor of biophysics at the School of Medicine.

Vemuri worked very closely with Adam Libow, who is now doing neurovascular research in New York. Once Libow got the series going, Vemuri was there every step of the way, designing the poster and website for the event, scheduling events and helping to raise funds.

He knew he wanted to keep the series alive after Libow left.

Abraham, impressed with the series, approached Libow, wanting to know what it was like to organize the series.

"He told me he had a great time, just meeting all these people, and it was a good experience for him," she said. "I kind of shared his vision. The whole point of Voyage and Discovery is to try to make the large premed population here see that there's more than just the books. There's a lot behind the health field, medicine and public health. People have gone through a lot of different experiences, and just to bring that to undergraduates here, I thought it was a great idea."

Vemuri and Abraham went to work last summer and diligently pursued a list of speakers. Their work paid off. By December, they had five speakers lined up. They were ready to have posters printed.

But then in January, two speakers dropped out. One fell during a snowstorm and was injured; another dropped out over a scheduling conflict. So they had to scramble to fill the two spots.

"But that's how it works," Abraham said. "You're going to have stuff coming up in the end. Nothing's going to go perfectly smoothly. It's been a good experience. It's been fun."

Along the way, Abraham and Vemuri were helped by David Fitter, a junior public health/premed major and vice chair of the series. Abraham said she hopes he will carry on the tradition next year.

More about the speakers can be found on the series' website,

'Voyage and Discovery' Series

All lectures will be in the Mudd Hall Auditorium and will be from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. They are free and open to the public.

February 29
Dr. Levi Watkins Jr., associate dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine "From Integrating Vanderbilt Medical School to Implanting a Defibrillator: One Physician's Journey to Fulfill His Dreams."

March 7
Dr. Alfred Sommer, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health "From Medical Miracles to Shaping Health Policy: A Growing Interface between Medicine and Public Health"

March 14
Dr. Argye Hillis, assistant professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine "From Speech Pathologist to Neurologist: Converging Paths Toward Discovering how Language Breaks Down and Recovers after Stroke"

March 28
Dr. Richard A. Cone, a professor of biophysics at the Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences "From Teaching Physiology to Overcoming Sexual Taboos: A Voyage into the Prevention of STDs"

April 4
Dr. William R. Brody, president of The Johns Hopkins University "From Why to Why Not: An Engineer, a Doctor, a Businessman, a President"

Further information can be found at