The Johns Hopkins Gazette: March 5, 2001
March 5, 2001
VOL. 30, NO. 24


Embarking On Science's Path

Top Hopkins docs share their own stories of 'Voyage and Discovery'

By Glenn Small

Johns Hopkins Gazette Online Edition

The moment came early on, in the first year of what is now an annual lecture series. Benjamin Carson, the world-renowned neurosurgeon, had just finished telling a packed auditorium the story behind his medical achievements. As David Fitter, then a sophomore, left the auditorium, he overheard someone say, "Wow. Now I remember why I wanted to be a doctor."

Inspiration. That has been the main goal and result of the first two years of the Voyage and Discovery lecture series, which this month kicks off its third season at Homewood with five more noted Hopkins researchers and physicians agreeing to share the story behind the story.

Student co-chairs David Fitter and Michelle Zavage, both pre-meds, said that the speeches they heard during the lecture series' first two years helped inspire them in their rigorous studies.

First up is D.A. Henderson, who led the successful campaign to eradicate smallpox and who now directs the Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies in the School of Public Health. He will describe "The Death of a Virus" in a talk that begins at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 6, in Mudd Hall Auditorium.

Admission to all the talks is free and open to the public, but if you want a good seat, you'd better show up early. Many lectures have drawn standing-room-only crowds over the first two years.

Fitter, now a senior public health major headed for a stint in the Peace Corps, is co-chairing this year's Voyage series with Michelle Zavage, a senior biophysics major who plans to go to medical school next year.

Both grew up in Howard County but didn't meet until they were at Hopkins. "We met suffering through orgo lab together," Fitter said, referring to organic chemistry, a rite of passage for premeds like themselves.

The two have worked hard since last spring to develop a series with compelling speakers from different fields. "We wanted as diverse a group of speakers as possible," Zavage said.

It looks like they succeeded.

Following Henderson will be Edward Cornwell, the head of trauma surgery at The Johns Hopkins Hospital and one of the physicians featured prominently in the ABC News documentary Hopkins 24/7. He will address "Youth Violence: A Trauma Surgeon's Perspective" on March 13.

Ethylin Wang Jabs, a pediatric surgeon and genetics researcher, will speak on March 27, and George Ricaurte, an associate professor of neurology and an expert on the drug Ecstasy, will talk on April 3. The series concludes on April 10 with Les Roberts, an epidemiologist and lecturer at Hopkins, who will give a talk called "From Physics to Epidemiology: A Story of Redemption."

Fitter and Zavage said they were looking for people who were passionate about their work. Some they had only heard of, but others they knew through taking courses.

Roberts, for instance, greatly impressed Fitter in a public health course in which Roberts described his research trips around the world trying to solve water and other sanitation problems in places like Kosovo and the Congo.

"He's a fascinating lecturer," Fitter said. "He's extremely enthusiastic about his work. And he has a way of captivating an audience."

Roberts has been prominently featured in news stories on the efforts to count the number of people killed in war-torn Congo, where he is right now, according to Fitter.

Both Fitter and Zavage also said they wanted to continue the tradition of having the speakers delve into the personal stories behind their work, rather than just focusing on breakthroughs or discoveries.

"They're very passionate about their work," Zavage said of the speakers. And, she noted, they are also very willing to give back.

The speeches they heard during the first two years helped inspire them in their rigorous studies, both Fitter and Zavage said, because they gave them a glimpse of where they could end up--and showed them that there is a payoff for all the hard work.

"I think these lectures offer a lot to undergraduates of any major," Zavage said. "But since Hopkins has such a large premed population, there's added value."

'Voyage and Discovery'

All lectures are free and open to the public and take place at 7 p.m. in Mudd Hall Auditorium, Homewood campus. For additional information, call 410-516-3893.

March 6
D.A. Henderson, director of the Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies at the School of Public Health
"The Death of a Virus"

March 13
Edward Cornwell, trauma surgeon and associate professor of surgery at the School of Medicine, who was featured on the ABC News program Hopkins 24/7
"Youth Violence: A Trauma Surgeon's Perspective"

March 27
Ethylin Wang Jabs, a professor of pediatrics and genetics at the School of Medicine
Topic TBA

April 3
George Ricaurte, associate professor of neurology at the School of Medicine and an expert on the drug Ecstasy
"The Recreational Drug Known as Ecstasy: Its Toxic Effects on the Nervous System"

April 10
Les Roberts, an epidemiologist who focuses on international health
"From Physics to Epidemiology: A Story of Redemption"