Johns Hopkins Gazette: March 4, 1996

In Brief

Virtual reality can treat orthopedic problems

     Hopkins scientists are using virtual reality technology to
guide treatment from the operating room to rehabilitation
exercises for a range of muscle and skeletal disorders.

     Using computer-based animation to create realistic images of
what will happen to the body's musculoskeletal system under
various conditions, virtual reality is a safe and powerful tool
for patient care, research and education, investigators say.

     Edmund Chao, professor of orthopedic surgery, and his
colleagues in the Hopkins orthopedic biomechanics laboratory,
presented a scientific exhibit on their latest findings Feb. 22
to 25 at the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons' annual
meeting in Atlanta.

     "Virtual reality models can help to plan surgeries,
rehabilitation exercises and even  correct baseball pitchers'
throwing injuries," said Chao, the study's lead author.

     To create the virtual images, scientists took magnetic
resonance images and computerized tomography scans of a cadaver
with no orthopedic problems to create computer-based models. Then
researchers added data on stress, force, motion, contact in the
joints, pressure on the joints and other factors to generate
three-dimensional computer images. The images simulate how the
muscles, bones and connective tissue that make up the body's
joints would respond under different conditions. 

     The images, in video or still pictures, are brightly colored
and easily interpreted by orthopedic surgeons. By seeing what
will happen before it happens through computer-aided predictions,
doctors can decide on the most effective surgery or other
therapy, the researchers said.

Hopkins physicians cited among nation's best

     In the March "Best Doctors in America" issue of American
Health magazine, Hopkins medical specialists are the most
frequently cited physicians from any single institution. The
magazine is currently on newsstands.

     Forty-one specialists were selected--14 in pediatrics and 27
in adult specialties--out of a total 1,019 nominated nationwide
by 3,200 physicians in 350 medical centers. Behind Hopkins, in
rank order, were Columbia-Presbyterian, New York University, Mt.
Sinai, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, the Mayo Clinic and the
University of California at San Francisco (tie), Stanford
University, Mass. General and UCLA.

Balmy Bologna feels effect of Blizzard of '96

     In the Jan. 22 issue of The Gazette, a photo spread featured
Hopkins embraced by the Blizzard of '96. In our cut line, we
wondered, somewhat whimsically, if classes were canceled in
balmy, sun-drenched Bologna, site of the Nitze School of Advanced
International Studies' Bologna Center. Center director Robert H.
Evans provided the answer:

     "Yes, Bologna was affected by the record January snowfall in
Baltimore and Washington. While classes weren't canceled, exams
were. Because the Washington and Baltimore academic programs are
closely coordinated, comprehensive and core exams are given on
the same dates in both places. When the exams were postponed  in
Washington ... they were also deferred in Italy. Well prepared
and eager as they were, our students did not complain about the

Sociology, Chemistry raise cash, spirits for 2-year-old

     It's a parent's worst nightmare. A seemingly perfect child
is suddenly struck with a life-threatening disease. And a
maelstrom of fear and hope is set into dizzying motion. It
happened to Michele Trieb, a senior program analyst in the
Department of Sociology.

     In July, her 2-year-old daughter Missy, a twin to brother
Zachary and little sister to 5-year-old Hannah, was diagnosed
with neuroblastoma, a rare childhood cancer. Trieb and her
husband, a contractor with AT&T, took leave from their respective
jobs to be with Missy as she underwent months of chemotherapy and
surgery, which eliminated 95 percent of the tumor. Missy is now
at Hopkins Children's Center taking another, more aggressive
course of chemotherapy. But the time off cost her husband his
job. And although Trieb has a job to return to, she has not drawn
a regular paycheck in months. 

     Trieb's office mates were sympathetic and supportive. And
they felt helpless, said Anna Stoll, a staff member in the
department. They decided to do something to contribute to the
crushing costs resulting from Missy's illness. "We're basically
running on empty," Trieb admitted. So, on Valentine's Day, her
department held a bake sale.

     "We wanted to let them know we were behind them," Stoll

     Trieb's colleagues set up a table in front of the bookstore
in Gilman Hall, set out with homemade cookies and candies and
cakes. "We have some excellent bakers among our students and
staff," Stoll says, "so we had some very good items to sell." 

     Most of the department contributed  several pieces to the
sale. Trieb's friends in the Chemistry Department, organized by
Rosalie Elder, also contributed baked goods and posted notices of
the sale. They also raffled off a bottle of champagne, a teddy
bear, a box of homemade chocolates and a basket of junk food.
"People started to buy things before we even finished setting
up," Stoll says. "We sold out." They even sold the only uncut
item offered, a chocolate cheesecake, which was bought by an
undergraduate for $20.

     When it was all over three hours later, Stoll was elated by
the results, raising more than $550 from the sale and an
additional $1,000 in cash donations. Stoll said people who found
out about the sale after it ended are still sending checks.

     Trieb was moved by her friends' efforts. "I could melt," she
says of the contributions. "I just love the people in the
department who organized this, and the generosity of the people
who don't even know Missy is just unbelievable."

     Now the members of her department, her friends, can only
pray, Stoll says. And that's a lot of what Trieb and her family
are doing. "We have prayers going in every synagogue and church
we can think of," she said.

     Although hopeful, Trieb admits that Missy's prognosis is
fair to poor. "We have found out through the Internet and other
cancer resources that there are kids who have grown into
adulthood with the same prognosis Missy has. There are children
who slip through the cracks, and we are hoping our child is one
of them."

     To complicate matters, Missy was rushed to Hopkins
Hospital's intensive care unit a week ago with pneumonia. "We
thought we were going to lose her last week," Trieb said. But
Missy is battling back, her mother said, and she is hopeful that
once her daughter recovers from this setback, she will be back on
schedule to return home in a few weeks to begin radiation
therapy--30 seconds a day--as an outpatient. 

     Trieb hopes the family can enjoy some sense of normalcy
before the final step of her treatment: a bone marrow transplant
scheduled for April. Trieb says the painful procedure has a high
rate of success because surgeons will be able to use Missy's own

     "Right now, Missy's spirits are pretty good," Trieb said,
"although she is cognitively aware that she has been a very sick
little girl." 

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