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Matters of note from around Johns Hopkins


Humanities: Hopkins team unearths a 3,400-year-old Egyptian queen

University: Gift of "breathtaking" scope to have decades-long impact

Public Health: Bad air days cause increase in hospital admissions

Public Policy: Expert says communication is key to mine safety

History: Book sheds light on America's "hidden" Philippine war

Professional Studies: Finally, a home for Education

Music: Improv old and new

Libraries: Architecture database goes live

Medicine: Cancer patients find alternative forms of relief

Medicine: International takes Hopkins' mission to the Middle East

Humanities: Hopkins team unearths a 3,400-year-old Egyptian queen

Bryan and Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.
Photo by
Jay Van Rensselaer
After 10 years, Betsy Bryan's annual expeditions to Luxor, Egypt, may be routine, but what she found on the 11th trip was anything but: In January, Bryan, chair of the Johns Hopkins Department of Near Eastern Studies, and a 17-student team unearthed a 3,400-year- old life-size statue of a beautiful Egyptian queen.

When the crew first found the figure, it was lying facedown in the temple of the goddess Mut. From an inscription that ran along its back pillar, they initially thought it dated to 1000 BC. After cleaning the object more thoroughly, they realized they had found something much grander — and older. Before them was a full-size, finely carved statue. Two cobras, representing the goddesses of Upper and Lower Egypt, were carved on her headdress, next to a vulture whose feathers surrounded her face. She also bore the telltale signs of Egyptian female royalty: Her left hand, resting on her chest, held remnants of a fly whisk; more importantly, she donned a large cylindrical crown inscribed with the name of one of the period's most powerful pharaohs, Amenhotep III. (For more about the discovery, visit the January 22 entry on the Web site diary at

Bryan believes the statue is of Tiy, chief queen of Amenhotep III.
Photo by
Jay Van Rensselaer

Amenhotep III ruled Egypt for almost 40 years in the 14th century BC, a time of unprecedented prosperity and splendor. Because the statue has multiple inscriptions of his name, Bryan theorizes the beauty is none other than Tiy, the chief queen of Amenhotep III and the grandmother of Tutankhamen. "Tiy was so powerful that, as a widow, she was the recipient of foreign diplomatic letters sent to her from the king of Babylonia," Bryan told the Johns Hopkins Gazette. "Some indications, such as her own portraits in art, suggest that Tiy may have ruled briefly after her husband's death, but this is uncertain."

When news of the find spread to the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, a large crowd arrived to see it, and even lifted it up from the rubble in enthusiastic cheers, Bryan reports. After a thorough cleaning, it was wrapped in plastic and carried in a processional ritual through the temple gates to a truck headed for the Luxor Museum. On the Web site diary Bryan wrote: "We later rode to the museum, and I reluctantly signed the release papers turning over the statue to the museum. We hope that she will stand on display very soon."
— Virginia Hughes, A&S '06 (MA)

University: Gift of "breathtaking" scope to have decades-long impact

What would you do with $100 million?

That's the question Johns Hopkins administrators are working to answer, thanks to a $100 million anonymous gift to the Knowledge for the World campaign. It's a lot of money, and it's going to have a big impact.

"The gift is breathtaking not only in size, but also in scope, addressing a number of our most important priorities," says university President William R. Brody. "Our benefactor knows what our teachers do for students, what our doctors do for patients, and what our researchers do for humanity and has chosen to support our work in all three arenas. This incredible generosity will have a very, very significant impact for very many decades to come."

The gift will be divided among a number of construction, renovation, research, and other projects, including:

Helping to fund the construction of a 12-story, 560,000-square-foot children's tower at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. The tower will include a pediatric trauma center, 205 inpatient beds, 10 operating rooms, outpatient care for oncology and psychiatry, and the Pediatric Clinical Research Unit.

Supporting the renovation of Gilman Hall, the 90-year-old home to the university's humanities departments. Renovations to this shabby, beloved structure will cost $35 million and include state-of-the-art classrooms and lecture halls, new seminar rooms and study areas, and upgraded mechanical systems.

Furthering initiatives in the School of Medicine and its Institute for Cell Engineering. Scientists here are doing fundamental research that may lead to the use of reprogrammed stem cells as treatments for conditions ranging from Parkinson's disease to stroke and spinal cord injury.

Advancing a number of initiatives in the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Think $100 million is a once-in-a-lifetime gift for a place like Hopkins? Think again. This is the fourth nine-figure commitment in the history of the Johns Hopkins Institutions and the third in the current campaign.
— Maria Blackburn

Public Health: Bad air days cause increase in hospital admissions

Illustration courtesy
Getty Images
No one would be surprised to hear that air pollution is bad for us. But researchers were surprised at how rapidly increases in hospital admissions followed increases in air pollution levels.

A new study from the Bloomberg School compared hospitalizations for 11.5 million Medicare patients to data from pollution-monitoring systems in 204 urban counties nationwide. The researchers wanted to see whether on days when there was a higher level of fine particulate matter — defined at 2.5 micrometers or smaller (PM2.5) — there would also be more hospital admissions for certain cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses.

Using heart failure as an example, study author Francesca Dominici, associate professor in the Department of Biostatistics, says that every time the level of PM2.5 increased by 10 micrograms per cubic meter, there was a 1.28 percent increase in these hospitalizations. Applying these risk estimates for several cardiovascular and respiratory diseases to hospitalizations in the entire country, the researchers calculated that in 2002, there were 11,000 additional hospitalizations associated with 10 micrograms per cubic meter increase in PM2.5.

The study was published in the March 8 Journal of the American Medical Association, as hearings were under way regarding the Environmental Protection Agency's new standard for fine particulate matter. Though the study did not focus on whether that standard was adequate, Dominici says, "we estimated that exposure to PM2.5 levels below the proposed standard elevates risks for hospital admissions, so based on our data...the proposed standard is not protecting public health with an adequate margin of safety."

The next step for researchers will be to try to figure out which chemical component of PM2.5 is at fault, Dominici says. The researchers found that though the risk for heart failure was high across the country, the other cardiovascular diseases they were tracking were only prevalent in the East. Pollutant sources include things like coal-burning power plants, factories, automobiles, and tilled fields. "The mixture of the particulate matter is pretty different on the East Coast than in the West," Dominici says. "Building a national database and looking at the variability of risk across the country is the first step to trying to understand what are the chemical components of particulate matter that affect human health and [what are] their sources." — CP

Public Policy: Expert says communication is key to mine safety

A dozen coal miners died last January when an explosion blasted through the Sago Mine in Tallmansville, West Virginia. In the aftermath, the state's Democratic governor, Joe Manchin III, appointed a special commission to investigate how problems in decision making and communications might have contributed to the disaster.

Enter Beverly Sauer. A professor of business communication in Johns Hopkins' School of Professional Studies in Business and Education, Sauer has made a scholarly specialty of how communications and the decision-making process affect mine safety. Manchin put her on the commission, which is expected to issue a report on July 1.

Photo courtesy
Getty Images

The author of The Rhetoric of Risk: Technical Documentation in Hazardous Environments (Erlbaum Associates, 2003), Sauer has studied miners in the United States, Great Britain, and South Africa. In regard to mine safety, she emphasizes bringing everyone into decisions: managers, engineers, and miners. In coal mines, safe practices arise from a safety culture, and that culture, Sauer says, involves regulation, appropriate training, and respect for everyone with a stake in preventing accidents.

Coal mining companies have increased their use of robotic technology and electronic control systems because they are efficient. But data from those systems don't include the specialized knowledge of the men and women below ground. Says Sauer, "Miners have a sense of what's wrong, and you have to combine that sense with the mechanical and electronic systems. You have to train engineers to listen when a miner says there's a 'bump' down there." To an experienced miner, a "bump" is the sound made by a pocket of methane when there's a change in pressure within the strata, and it can signal an explosion. In a safe mine, the sound might be enough to prompt an evacuation, regardless of what the control systems had picked up.

Sauer calls what miners know "embodied knowledge." She says, "They can actually suck on a piece of coal and tell its quality. They can take a ball peen hammer and knock on the wall and tell whether the roof is sound. That kind of experience is very hard to capture in robotic systems. It's the workers' knowledge underground that tells people something is wrong."

She believes it's important to take into account such non- scientific knowledge when making decisions about mining operations. "We live in a scientific world in which numbers mean a lot," she says. But mining managers need to attend to all kinds of indicators of what's happening below ground.

Safety "builds on the experience of people who have worked in the mines. That gets lost if we just treat workers as human resources to do the work for us, instead of partners in risk management. We're so scientific we sometimes lose common sense." — DK

History: Book sheds light on America's "hidden" Philippine war

Paul A. Kramer
Photo by Matthew D'Agostino
Historian Paul A. Kramer's new book describes a war waged by American soldiers in a distant country. Promoting its troops as liberators, not occupiers, the U.S. assumed control of the capital city, then fought to assert its authority over the countryside. American troops quickly decimated the opposing army, then found themselves confronted by an insurrection that used guerrilla tactics to fight on for years. U.S. soldiers committed atrocities and tortured prisoners. American authorities tried to tightly control news reports, but soldiers' letters describing torture and other abuses found their way into U.S. newspapers, fanning significant American domestic opposition to the conflict. The war caused widespread civilian casualties, and more than once was declared over, despite the continuation of fighting.

Sound familiar?

Actually, the war Kramer describes is not the one in Iraq. It was fought in the Philippines from 1899 to 1902 (with sporadic fighting as late as 1913). It is the subject of his new book, The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States, and the Philippines (University of North Carolina Press, 2006). "It's a forgotten war. It's actually a hidden war. There was an active process of suppressing this war from American memory, especially by labeling it as an 'insurrection' or an 'insurgency' against legitimate U.S. authority," says Kramer, a Johns Hopkins associate professor of history.

In December 1898, the United States formally ended the Spanish-Cuban-American War by signing the Treaty of Paris, which included the purchase of the Philippines from Spain. Under the leadership of Emilio Aguinaldo, the Philippines already had declared itself an independent nation, but the United States disregarded that, intending to govern the country as a colony. Fighting broke out in February 1899, and in three years cost the lives of approximately 4,200 Americans, 16,000 Filipino combatants, and by conservative estimates at least 250,000 Filipino civilians.

Kramer says that the United States was motivated in part by commerce. The country had just emerged from its worst economic depression to date, and American businessmen were convinced that the only way to avoid another such experience was to force the opening of overseas markets, especially in China. The way to do that, they believed, was by the intimidating projection of military force, which would require naval bases and coaling stations in places like the Philippines. There was another consideration, as well, says Kramer: "By the turn of the century, colonies had become part of what defined a modern nation-state. They were enormous sources of national prestige. And they were what defined you as European, and as white — you can conquer non-white subjects."

In soldiers' letters and journals, Kramer traces the racializing of the war. For a brief period, Filipino elites tried to cultivate favorable relationships with American troops and administrators. During this time of fraternization, Americans spoke favorably of Filipino culture and manners. But once warfare began, U.S. soldiers began referring to Filipinos as "black devils," "niggers," and "gugus," forerunner of the epithet "gooks." In 1900, Republican senator Albert Beveridge of Indiana couched the war in terms of the wider cause of "English-speaking and Teutonic peoples" to become "the master organizers of the world."

Kramer's cause, in large part, was to limn these racial aspects of the war and the 45-year occupation that followed, plus counter earlier historians' sanitizing of American imperial aspirations. "There was an attempt to minimize this war, because it was so ugly and brutal and seemed to many to run against the United States' stated ideals of supporting self-government," he says. In previous historical accounts, the war was not American conquest, it was "expansion," a sort of natural process. Says Kramer, "In 'expansion,' there are no power relations, no victims, no violence. 'Expansion' is a neutral descriptive term."

The historian is measured when drawing parallels to the current war in Iraq, but doesn't ignore them. "One of the main rationales for the Philippine-American war was that it was being waged by the United States not for its own sake, but on behalf of civilization, using that language as a kind of dispensation that exempted the U.S. from international law and human rights norms. I think the similarities are there." — DK

Professional Studies: Finally, a home for Education

For the first time in its nearly-hundred-year history, the Johns Hopkins School of Professional Studies in Business and Education's Graduate Division of Education has a home to call its own. As of March, most all of Education's Baltimore-based faculty and administrative offices, as well as its classrooms, are together under one roof, in what was formerly the Seton High School at Charles and 28th streets.

Photo by Will Kirk

Though its roots in Baltimore go as far back as 1909, the division has never had a designated building. In recent years, it has seriously outgrown what spaces it did have — expanding from Whitehead Hall into Shaffer Hall and even into a townhouse down the street.

Education's new home has 15 classrooms, ranging from 12- person seminar rooms to 75-person lecture halls; a "Technovations" lab, with computers, Wi-Fi Internet access, and "digital lessons"; a counseling suite, for use by the Counseling and Human Services Program; and a "Gallery" with individual computer stations.

Of course, one of the biggest highlights is the building itself, which dates to 1907 and has been beautifully restored as part of the renovation. The grand "golden stairs," the shining black-and-white marble floors, the historic fireplaces, the wooden trim and window frames, even the original hardware for opening the transom windows above the doorways — all have been painstakingly brought back to their original glory.

The building's prominent location along the busy Charles Street corridor should give the school much needed visibility. The building, says SPSBE Dean Ralph Fessler, "provides a visible testament to our commitment to Baltimore." He adds, "Every morning I walk these hallways, it is energizing to see the teachers, principals, and counselors who are bringing such vitality to our region's public schools." — CP

Music: Improv old and new

Illustration by
Michael Austin
Mark Janello plays baroque music on the harpsichord. And sometimes he makes it up as he goes along.

Contemporary listeners unfamiliar with early music may well equate improvisation with jazz only (or, if they have tie- dyed T-shirts stashed in their closet, the Grateful Dead). But more periods of music have incorporated improv than have not. Renaissance musicians, baroque musicians, church musicians, all needed to know how to wing it. So did Beethoven, Chopin, and Liszt, who were renowned for their skills as improvisers on the piano. Great soloists showed off their technical skill by inventing cadenzas on the spot. Opera stars freely embellished arias.

Janello, a Peabody Institute faculty member, will participate in "The Art of Improvisation," this year's theme of "Peabody Explores...," a month-long series of lectures and performances running through early May. "Improvisation was a completely normal and expected thing for keyboard players to do in the baroque period," he says. For example, a lot of the professional opportunities for musicians were provided by churches. If an organist wanted to be hired by a church, Janello says, he might be asked to make up a fugue, or be presented with a chant melody, then asked to improvise counterpoint. A tradition of improvisatory church music has endured, says Janello, in part because various parts of a church service demand it. For example, if communion extends beyond the length of pieces prepared by a modern-day church organist, extemporaneous music may be required to fill out the time.

Another member of the Peabody faculty, Mark Cudek, is on the "Peabody Explores..." program to discuss and perform Renaissance improvisation with the Peabody Renaissance Ensemble. "Medieval dances were almost exclusively improvised," he says. "Early Renaissance dances in the 15th century were based on a medieval style of taking the notes of a melody and making them serve as sort of a bass line. The instrumentalists above that line would know what note was coming next and what to do harmonically in their improvisation. Later, 16th-century improvisation tended to be based more on chord progressions or pre-existing music."

Even when music was written down in some form, he says, the notation served more as just a reminder rather than something that would be recognizable today as sheet music. Musicians of the day, says Cudek, all knew and improvised off of a standard repertoire that was taught to them in guilds or by their fathers. "They didn't want to write things down because they didn't want people to steal their tricks. There weren't copyright laws."

Roger Brunyate, director of Peabody Opera Theatre, will host an evening of opera études as part of the improv festival. There will be little or no improvisation during the performances, he explains. The improv, in this case, is part of the process of creating each 15-minute étude. Brunyate explains that as Peabody composition students write the pieces, each composer early on presents an idea to the singers, such as a situation and a bit of story. The singers then improvise dialogue, exploring the idea, probing for the true emotion. Says Brunyate, "Only when you actually get people working with the idea do you learn if there are real feelings [in the idea] and if they can be played."

There's another benefit to this sort of improv during the early stages of creating a piece, says Brunyate: "One of the most difficult things in composing any opera is to decide what is recitative and what is aria. Where does the music take primacy and where does the drama have primacy? Quite often, by using improv of some sort, one can test these things. It's a way for composers, with the help of the singers, to explore the musical structure of the piece."

Other performances in "The Art of Improvisation" will feature the Peabody Camerata, the Peabody Jazz Orchestra, and dancers from Peabody Prep. (Visit www.peabody.jhu/explores for information.) — DK

Libraries: Architecture database goes live

Baltimore has no shortage of beautiful historical buildings to turn a researcher's head. The problem comes in trying to dig up the background when source materials could be anywhere.

A new database aims to help. The Baltimore Architecture Project is a free, searchable Internet database of historical and biographical information about Baltimore buildings and their architects. The project, still in its pilot phase, is a collaboration between Johns Hopkins' Sheridan Libraries, Towson University, the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, and the Baltimore Architecture Foundation.

Baltimore's Bromo-Seltzer Tower
Photo by Alain Jaramillo
"We're really providing one-stop shopping for the researcher," explains Sandra Tatman, an architectural historian at Towson University who developed a similar resource to document Philadelphia's architecture for the Athenaeum. Before the Baltimore Architecture Project, "people would come to Philadelphia or Baltimore to pursue a research project, and they wouldn't know where to go. With this kind of resource, they can go online, map out their strategy, and make appointments with repositories to do their research."

Right now, the database — — holds biographical information on 500 architects. When it's complete, users will be able to enter the name of a building or an architect and find citations for building permits, newspaper stories, even photographs and architectural drawings.

The database should appeal to everyone from grade school students to architectural historians to preservationists, says Margaret Burri, curator of manuscripts in Special Collections at the Sheridan Libraries. "Architecture is all around us," she says. "And people are curious about it."

The project was funded by a $40,000 grant from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation and a $10,000 award from the Middendorf Foundation. It is part of a nationwide database called American Architects and Buildings.

Adam Blumenthal, executive director of the Baltimore Architecture Foundation, is hopeful that the Baltimore Architecture Project will help people better appreciate the wealth of historic buildings in the city. "Movie people like Baltimore because we can do everything from 18th century fishing village to 19th century Victorian to 20th century city," Blumenthal says. "Baltimore has a lot of phenomenal architecture. We see this as a way to highlight that." — MB

Medicine: Cancer patients find alternative forms of relief

While Fiona Bell, 41, was waiting to see her doctor at Johns Hopkins' Kimmel Cancer Center, she noticed a flyer advertising a new Hopkins service for cancer patients: acupuncture. After one session, Bell, who is undergoing outpatient chemotherapy for breast cancer, was a believer. She signed up for five more.

Photo courtesy
Getty Images
"It helps alleviate some of the side effects," she says. "It gives you a really good sense of well-being, and it's really good at making you feel relaxed."

The acupuncture service, launched last September with a $100,000 grant from the Sidney Kimmel Foundation, is the first clinical service offered through Hopkins' Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Center. The aim, according to program coordinator Kathleen Menten: to help patients combat the nausea, vomiting, pain, insomnia, and anxiety often associated with chemotherapy or radiation. For one male patient, acupuncture even relieved intractable hiccups. "The programs we offer really complement traditional treatments," says Menten, an advanced nurse practitioner board-certified in acupuncture.

Currently, Menten is the sole provider of the service at Hopkins Hospital. She treats outpatients two mornings a week at the Weinberg building and visits hospitalized patients in their rooms. During the 90-minute sessions, Menten asks patients about their pain and symptoms, then places 15 to 20 needles at strategic points — including in the ears, face, or lower back. The operating premise, she says, is that pain can be controlled by sending messages to the frontal cortex of the brain in the area of pain perception.

"The things [Kathleen] says are very positive, and it makes you feel a lot better holistically," says Bell, who has also found relief for heartburn and muscle aches.

By adding the service, Johns Hopkins has joined the ranks of other leading academic medical centers responding to popular demand for complementary and alternative medicine, Menten notes. A 2002 survey conducted by the National Institutes of Health revealed that 36 percent of Americans use some form of CAM, including acupuncture, massage, yoga, and meditation.

Among cancer patients, usage rates approach 70 percent, says Hopkins CAM Center Director Adrian Dobs. "There are a lot of simple things hospitals can do to relieve stress in what has typically been a cold and sterile environment," Dobs says, like having pictures of calming scenes or offering headphones so patients can listen to music. "There's a growing appreciation that mind-body medicine is important, and it works."

For now, only some insurance plans cover acupuncture, so several patients are paying the $100 session fees out-of- pocket. One inpatient requested acupuncture every day, and arranged to continue treatments at home after being discharged to hospice care.

Menten next plans to offer a six-week, self-empowerment course for cancer patients that explores relaxation, breathing techniques, guided imagery, and journal writing. — Karen Blum

Medicine: International takes Hopkins' mission to the Middle East

Tawam Hospital, the primary public hospital in Abu Dhabi, is getting new management: Johns Hopkins. On March 1, Johns Hopkins Medicine International signed an agreement with the largest emirate (and capital) of the United Arab Emirates to assess the hospital's needs and assume complete managerial responsibility. Hopkins will appoint the hospital's chief executive officer, chief operating officer, chief medical officer, and director of nursing, and work to establish Hopkins centers of excellence there.

Says Mohan Chellappa, Hopkins International's vice president for global strategy, "Most important for us, we will play a significant role in catalyzing the process of improving health care services for their citizens. That fits with Hopkins' mission, with what we do best."

Photo courtesy The University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin

Last year, Abu Dhabi's General Authority for Health Services approached Hopkins for advice on how to establish a center of excellence in oncology at Tawam, which has 469 beds and offers free treatment to UAE citizens. In September, Chellappa led a team that visited the hospital. Subsequent to that meeting, he says, both sides agreed that the best strategy would be for Hopkins to take over management of the facility and work to establish several centers there, not just one in oncology. First step will be a nine-month assessment, with work on the oncology center to begin immediately. At press time, the management team had not been named. Nor had it been determined if they would be drawn from Hopkins' ranks or hired from outside the institution.

The agreement will benefit Hopkins beyond fulfilling its mission, Chellappa says. He anticipates new networking and research opportunities deriving from the collaboration, and new avenues for follow-up treatment in Tawam for Middle Easterners who travel to Hopkins for specialized treatment. He says Hopkins also will generate revenue from managing the hospital.

Hopkins International has been busy lately. The Clemenceau Medical Center opened in February in Beirut, Lebanon, the first Hopkins-affiliated clinical facility in the Middle East. In March, Hopkins International opened a new clinic in Panama, and has other programs under way in India, Turkey, Portugal, and China. — DK

Return to April 2006 Table of Contents

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