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Matters of note from around Johns Hopkins

University: Hopkins names new provost

Policy: Knowledge for a greener world

Books: Your brain on evolution

Medicine: A different moral view

Computers: Speaking our language

Science: And the winners are...

Humanities: Hopkins Review redux

Graduate Studies: In response to great tragedy

Students: CTY helps map research plans

Education: Lessons from the Holocaust

Medicine: I'll take Docs for $500, Alex

Hopkins names new provost

By the time this magazine arrives in your mailbox, Kristina M. Johnson should already be settling in as Johns Hopkins University's 12th provost and senior vice president for academic affairs. At press time, Johnson, an electrical engineer who was most recently dean of Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering, planned to start her new role on September 1.

Kristina M. Johnson: "This is an opportunity to do something I love, which is work in higher education."
Photo by Will Kirk
It was a remarkably quick appointment — the magazine didn't even have time to announce that Bloomberg School professor Donald M. Steinwachs was serving as interim provost. Johnson "has a keen appreciation for the extraordinarily important role of the research university in our society," university president William R. Brody said in the July announcement. "She has a deeply felt commitment to our role as university administrators: providing an environment where students can flourish and faculty can go about the business of making this a better world."

For her part, Johnson describes higher education as her passion and says she's excited to have the opportunity "to serve an aspiring and ambitious university."

Top of mind for Johnson seems to be figuring out how best to take advantage of Hopkins' many areas of expertise. "From the beginning of my academic career," she says, "I've always looked toward other disciplines. Be an expert in your own discipline, but work to put together a team that can truly make an impact." Her first major grant as a faculty member at University of Colorado at Boulder brought engineers together with mathematicians, chemists, physicists, and psychologists to improve computer technology.

It's critical, she says, to involve a variety of disciplines in problem-solving. "What do engineers do? We solve problems that are important to society. [But] we're seeing that some of the solutions we selected in the past were not always optimized for their environmental sustainability, for example. We're constantly redefining what 'effective' and 'best' mean, and that requires knowledge from the humanities, and the social sciences, and environmentalists, and from health care."

Another area of interest for Johnson is diversity. "What was once a moral obligation is now a national imperative to attract women and minorities to pursue careers in the sciences, engineering, and academia," she says. Johnson went into engineering — which has been historically less than welcoming to women — because her father and grandfather were engineers. Her grandfather, who was head of engineering for George Westinghouse in the 1920s, saw that there weren't very many women and minorities in engineering, so he opened a technical school in Pittsburgh specifically to educate those underrepresented groups.

Johnson will be the first woman to hold the university's second-highest position, and though she's committed to diversity, she says she hasn't had to give much thought to her own career in those terms, even 25 years ago as an undergraduate at Stanford. "If there was any stereotyping, it was probably due to the fact I would go to [professors'] office hours in muddy cleats with my lacrosse stick than that I was a woman in their classes." (Yes, she said lacrosse. In fact, she co-founded Stanford's women's lacrosse program. And though she rooted for the Duke Blue Devils in last spring's championship game, she says she is now a Blue Jay.)

Johnson, 50, earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering from Stanford in 1981 and her PhD from Stanford in 1984. She was on the faculty at Colorado from 1985 to 1999, and earned a National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award during that time and was promoted to professor. She became dean at Duke in 1999. At Hopkins, she is succeeding Steven Knapp, who is now president of the George Washington University.

"This is an opportunity to do something I love, which is working in higher education," Johnson says of her new position. "It's a calling, so to be able to serve a great institution like Hopkins at this level is just an incredible dream come true." — Catherine Pierre

Knowledge for a greener world

Photo courtesy
Getty Images
A year ago, Johns Hopkins addressed accelerating concerns about global climate change and its own institutional environmental impact by creating the Johns Hopkins University Sustainability Committee. Now university president William R. Brody has pledged Hopkins to a stronger effort. "As of today, I am committing the Johns Hopkins University to become a driving force for developing solutions to the climate change problem," Brody wrote in a statement issued July 23. "It is clear that curbing [greenhouse] emissions poses a significant challenge for future generations. It is also clear that universities must play a central role in meeting this challenge."

Brody listed four goals of the university's new initiative: To reduce greenhouse gas emissions in all Johns Hopkins operations, to share knowledge with and offer leadership to the Baltimore-Washington community in doing the same, to marshal Hopkins scientists in confronting the global problem, and to incorporate student involvement in the process.

Managing the new policy will be a new President's Task Force on Climate Change. Within a year, Brody said, the group will develop a comprehensive strategic plan, create an interdisciplinary working group from across the institution to create incentives for positive change, and begin building stronger collaborative relationships with state and local officials.

In the conclusion of his statement, Brody said, "The challenge of climate change is huge, but it is not insurmountable. Our university, with its wealth of intellectual resources, can make a difference. Working across divisional lines and in collaboration with partners in academia and in the community, we can put our knowledge and expertise to work attacking and, ultimately, helping to solve this problem." — Bobby White

Your brain on evolution

Let's get one thing straight: David J. Linden admires and loves the brain. So when the professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine calls the three-pound oblong organ an "unreliable collection of leaky and bad parts," "a cobbled-together mess," and a "kludge," he does so affectionately.

In his new book, The Accidental Mind: How Brain Evolution Has Given Us Love, Memory, Dreams, and God (Belknap Press, 2007), Linden disparages the brain's design but still marvels at its abilities. He explores such topics as why we dream about waltzing with a beautiful woman in a ballroom — or was it a music shop? — and then cut to frantically chasing her on a bicycle over hundreds of snakes. C'mon, we've all been there.

Linden set out to write a guided tour of the brain for a lay audience. He wanted to answer such cocktail party questions as: "Is it true that we only use 10 percent of our brain?" (It isn't.) When he began writing, however, he realized he had a beef with the brain's basic engineering.

"I felt very strongly that what makes us fundamentally human is the way our brain has evolved to become not a generic problem-solving machine but rather an ad hoc, piecemeal agglomeration of solutions," he says. "[The brain is] very impressive in terms of what we can do, but it's very, very oddly engineered."

In turn, the book became a hybrid of sorts, part walking-tour, part argument-driven work.

He compares the brain's design to a Model T Ford outfitted with cruise control, a GPS navigation system, anti-lock brakes, and a rear-seat DVD player. He argues that humans are more or less stuck with the organ's ancient design, because instead of wiping the slate clean, evolution just stacked on features as it went along. For example, he points to the brain's mishmash of wiring. Instead of using a sleek single processor that would make Steve Jobs grin, full brain function requires some 100 billion "horribly slow" and "dumb" neurons with 500 trillion interconnected synapses.

"Having that be the solution is very constraining," he says. "All that circuitry requires a large brain that needs an inordinate amount of time to mature."

The brain's basic wiring is encoded in our DNA, but its fine-tuning — such as creating the detailed circuitry that allows us to make sense of images — starts in the womb and continues until the later teen years. Linden says this long period of development is why humans are predisposed to love and long-term bonding. "Human children have the longest childhood of any animal by a long shot," he says. "The brain grows rapidly until age 5 and does not fully mature until about age 20. Human children require much more parental care than other animals, and for so much longer. Therefore, it's adaptive to have a mating system where Dad stays around." And, he adds, where couples desire monogamous sex even after childrearing years.

Linden, whose field is cellular and molecular neurobiology, begins the book, his first, by detailing the brain's basic design, and its chemical and electrical makeup. The rest of the chapters deal with such particulars as memory, dreams, love, sex, and God — phenomena central to our humanity.

What might give rise to religion and faith, Linden writes, is the human brain's ability and programmed requirement for narrative to make sense of the world. This "narrative creation module," as he calls it, predisposes us not only to religious thought but scientific hypothesis as well. We are hardwired, he says, to believe things we cannot readily prove.

Regarding memory, people vividlyrecall such moments as where they were on September 11, 2001, because strongly emotional occurrences stimulate a region of the brain that makes the memory of those moments particularly durable. As for bizarre narrative dreams, scientists still don't know why we have them. Dreams could function as regulators of mood and memory consolidation, or even as safe environments where we simulate life-threatening scenarios, such as pedaling a bike over angry snakes.

Ultimately, Linden wanted a readable and fun book that did not eschew hard science. "Most people are intrinsically interested in brain function because they care about love, memory, dreams, and God, things that impact our lives every day," he says. "My goal was to draw people in who never bought a science book before."

Good idea, then, to put God and love in the subtitle.

"Chapter Two ['Building a Brain with Yesterday's Parts'] can be rough sledding with all its science," Linden admits. "People have been known to skip ahead to the sex chapter." That would be Chapter Six. Not that we skipped ahead. — Greg Rienzi

A different moral view

Those who've been heatedly debating the pros and cons of embryonic stem cell research include right-to-lifers, politicians, and disease advocates. But infertility patients, the parties responsible for creating the embryos — and who have legal control over them — haven't been heard from, until now.

A report co-authored by Ruth Faden, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, reveals that 60 percent of 1,020 patients surveyed in nine infertility clinics said they would be likely to donate their frozen embryos for stem cell research (compared to only 22 percent who would donate their embryos to other couples). That translates into at least 2,000 viable stem cell lines nationwide, or, as the report puts it, "100 times the number of lines currently available for federal funding."

In August 2001, President George W. Bush announced that only embryos stored up until that point would be eligible for federally funded research — making, in effect, only 20 stem cell lines available. Many scientists say that's insufficient, and that the lines, derived from a technique that exposed the cells to non-human substances, would be unsafe for the treatment of diseases like Parkinson's, diabetes, and muscular dystrophy.

Sixty-six percent of the American public supports embryonic stem cell research, according to Faden and her co-author, Anne Lyerly, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke University. Faden says that the report, published in the July 6 issue of Science, is not about federal policy, but the dilemma that infertility patients face. Embryos, Faden says, "are not just theoretical entities to these patients. These are real entities that they are deeply invested in" — physically, psychologically, and financially. The result is what the report calls "a different moral view," with patients preferring not to allow the stored embryos to become children "without the knowledge, participation, or love of those who created them." — Rich Shea

Speaking our language

Every day, U.S. intelligence agencies intercept and monitor hundreds of thousands of e-mails, chat room conversations, message board postings, and Web sites. Yet for every 10 million pieces of information collected, according to Gary W. Strong, only one is read by a human analyst. The widening gap between what is out there and what is actually being read and analyzed concerns intelligence experts.

Illustration by
Scott Roberts
As executive director of the newly established Johns Hopkins Human Language Technology Center of Excellence, Strong will oversee application of a $48 million research grant from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). The center will employ a team of linguists, computer scientists, engineers, mathematicians, cognitive scientists, sociologists, and anthropologists from Hopkins and its partner institutions, University of Maryland, College Park and the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company BBN Technologies. The group will work together to produce research with potentially revolutionary implications for both commercial and military language technology.

"There are more than 6,000 languages in the world, and in addition there is mixed-language speech and accented speech. That's the nature of the problem we're dealing with," says Strong. "Right now, our intelligence agencies are just dipping their toes in the water, and they need to dive in."

Last year, a team of Hopkins scientists, including Fred Jelinek, Jason Eisner, and David Yarowsky of the Whiting School of Engineering's Center for Language and Speech Processing (CLSP), responded to two "challenge questions" posed by the DOD. The questions dealt with training computers to glean intent from written text, and developing software to accurately transcribe speech regardless of ambient noise, microphone quality, a speaker's accent, and other unfavorable factors. The Language Tech Center's research over the next nine years will largely be along those lines.

One goal, says Eisner, is to use machine learning to enhance a computer's capability to interpret text. "The field is largely focused on a few major languages and genres," he says. "For example, we're pretty good at automatically diagramming sentences from the Wall Street Journal, the first step in figuring out what they mean. But that's only because in the 1990s, a team at the University of Pennsylvania spent several years (and millions of dollars) diagramming 40,000 WSJ sentences by hand, giving us examples to train our statistical models. Unfortunately, they didn't also diagram 40,000 sentences from Farsi blogs or Cebuano e-mails. It's not practical."

"There are more than 6,000 languages in the world," Strong says. "Right now, our intelligence agencies are just dipping their toes in the water, and they need to dive in." Most existing technologies deal only with formal language like that found in the WSJ. Better language models need to cover a wide variety of informal language, to better differentiate fact and opinion, or recognize references to implicit assumptions or other discussions related to the topic at hand. How do you train a computer to deal with such a huge number of parameters? "You build a statistical model to make predictions," says Eisner. "You try to design the model's structure so that it is capable of paying attention to the same features of text that a human reader would. This is an art."

James K. Baker, designer of the Dragon Systems speech recognition platform and newly appointed research director of the center, emphasizes the need for higher performance in currently available applications. Most speech recognition programs around today are based on the decades-old Hidden Markov Models, named for Russian mathematician Andrei Markov, that predict new parameters based on previously stated, recognizable patterns.

The goal for speech recognition is to program more language knowledge into computer systems. Baker points out that when a human looks at the output of a dictation system, he or she can almost immediately correct all the errors. But a computer has already exhausted its capabilities in recognizing the speech to begin with. "We don't yet know how to represent in a computer the knowledge that people are using," he says. "The knowledge about language actually embedded in our systems is very crude," says Baker. "Even Noam Chomsky noted that natural language, or human language, can't be described by such a system. The Markov System is very finite. If you want to go beyond that, it's a lot harder, and I expect long term we can get better performance if we put a lot [more] knowledge into it."

According to Strong, if successful, the new Hopkins center will change the way American intelligence agencies collect and analyze data. "A revolutionary approach would involve finding and noticing intent in speech," Strong says. "One of the interesting things, especially since 9/11 and the London and [Madrid] train bombings, is that we're seeing fewer and fewer centralized [terrorist] organizations; [instead] people decide to align themselves on their own, in ad hoc groups, then make decisions and execute them. Using traditional social networks, and the kind of information you can glean using existing technologies, you would never know these people are a threat." — Robbie Whelan, A&S '06

And the Winners Are...

Summer brought a flood of prestigious honors to Johns Hopkins researchers. Here's a look at recent award-winners. — BW

James E. West
Title Research professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Whiting School of Engineering
Research Helped pioneer technology used in almost 90 percent of modern microphones
Prize National Medal of Technology
Perks Honored by President Bush at a White House Ceremony

Adam Riess
Title Professor of physics and astronomy at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences
Research Led a team that found the first evidence that dark energy is driving the increasing expansion of the universe
Prize Gruber Prize for Excellence in Cosmology
Perks $500,000, to be split among two teams

John Tovar
Title Krieger School assistant professor of chemistry
Research Has been studying electronically conductive plastics derived from organic polymers, for possible use in prosthetics and light-emitting devices
Prize National Science Foundation's Faculty Early Career Development Award
Perks A five-year $500,000 research grant

Andrej Grubisic
Title Krieger School grad student in chemistry
Research Part of a team that discovered new alumnium-hydrogen compounds that could be used as high-energy rocket fuel
Prize American Institute for Aeronautics and Astronautics Martin Summerfield Graduate Student Award for Research in Combustion and Propellants
Perks A $5,000 prize, which he will use to upgrade lab instruments

Hopkins Review Redux

In 1947, when Johns Hopkins University established the Department of Writing, Speech, and Drama in the School of Arts and Sciences, the department established something of its own: a quarterly literary journal titled The Hopkins Review. Six years later, a budgetary crisis reduced the department to one faculty member, Elliott Coleman, and killed the journal. The department changed its name to the Writing Seminars, and over a period of several years reconstituted itself, growing to its present size of six senior faculty members. Now it is set to resume publication of a quarterly journal.

This month, the first issue of a revived Hopkins Review (subtitled "New Series" to distinguish it from its precursor) arrives on newsstands — 190 pages of fiction, poetry, art, essays, and reviews. The new journal will be jointly produced by the Writing Seminars and the Johns Hopkins University Press. The Writing Sems' senior faculty make up the magazine's editorial board; contributing and advisory editors include Harold Bloom, Grace Paley, J.M. Coetzee, John Barth, A&S '51, '52 (MA), and Russell Baker, A&S '47.

John Irwin, former chairman of the department and current Decker Professor in the Humanities, has led the effort to revive the journal. He says, "When I came to Hopkins in 1977 after editing The Georgia Review, I thought there were two things that a first-rate writing program ought to have: a book publishing series and a quarterly review." Within two years, Irwin had launched Hopkins Press' short fiction and poetry series, which is entering its 27th year and is about to publish its 80th volume. But the journal took a bit longer, in part because Irwin was not eager to tackle such a project.

"I'd just come from editing a quarterly review, and I knew how much work it was," he says. Nevertheless, about five years ago, he began discussions with Writing Sems faculty and alumni about bringing back The Hopkins Review. "The more people we talked to, the more people thought it was an excellent idea. Everyone thought it would be a wonderful thing for the Writing Seminars to have a literary quarterly. Moreover, people thought it would be an excellent advertisement for Arts and Sciences' commitment to the humanities."

The first issue contains a repre-sentative mix of what the quarterly plans to publish. There are poems by Edward Hirsch, John Hollander, Mary Jo Salter, and Richard Wilbur. Short fiction includes a new story by Stephen Dixon, "Mother"; two previously unpublished stories by Donald Barthelme; and "The Jew of Home Depot," the title story from Max Apple's forthcoming volume of stories, to be published in October by Hopkins Press. Millard Kaufman, A&S '39, contributed a memoir of the making of the film Bad Day at Black Rock, for which he wrote the screenplay. There are photographs of new work by sculptor Sharon Kopriva, a selection of book reviews, and a memoir of Barthelme by Barth, which completes a circle: Barth's first published short story appeared in the original Review.

"I hope to give the Writing Seminars and Johns Hopkins University a first-rate literary cultural quarterly," Irwin says. "Hopefully, it will run for a hundred years." — Dale Keiger

In response to great tragedy

After Seung-Hui Cho opened fire at Virginia Tech in April, killing 32 people and injuring 25, Matthew Lear wanted to help. A senior mechanical engineer in the Global Engagement Department at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, Lear earned his PhD from Virginia Tech in 2003. A member of his thesis committee, engineering professor Liviu Librescu, was among the dead. Lear had spent most of his time at the university working in Norris Hall, where all but two of the shootings took place. "I wanted to do something more tangible than just sending money," he says.

VT grad students Kaushik Das, Wen Jiang, Apoorva Shende, and Arun Nair accepted the offer to work at APL.
Photo by Will Kirk

His APL supervisor, Jack Keane, told Lear he could take a sabbatical to teach at Virginia Tech. But the semester was about to end. Lear knew that Norris Hall had been closed and could stay closed for weeks. (He was right. Norris didn't open until June 18.) This would be no welcome break for the engineering doctoral students. How could they do their research without labs, computers, and access to their advisers? Would their grant funding be in jeopardy because they couldn't do their research? "Six to eight weeks of delay could be huge," Lear says.

Within four days of the shootings, Lear contacted Roger Burnett, a former APL staffer who works for Virginia Tech's vice president for research, and invited students from the Engineering Science and Mechanics Department to come to APL for the summer. The faculty asked that the invitation include students from the entire College of Engineering. Seven PhD candidates applied and were accepted; six came to APL. They arrived in Baltimore at the end of May.

Lear worked with APL colleagues and found $180,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and other sources. The money paid for advisers at APL and provided the students with a housing allowance and stipends. Lear also worked to match the students to advisers who were conducting similar research. He says, "What we didn't want was for this experience to be a burden. If they were to come up here for three or four months and do something that had no connection to their dissertations, that would have been a negative for them."

There was not time to arrange security clearances for non-U.S. citizens, so only one of the six students, Amanda Young, was eligible to work on APL's main campus. The others worked at Homewood or the Advanced Technology Laboratory near Homewood.

Romesh Batra, Engr '72, Lear's adviser at Virginia Tech, says he is grateful to Lear for the research opportunities he provided the students. "The experience has been very precious to everyone," he says. "I hope the relationship between Hopkins and Tech continues." — Maria Blackburn

CTY helps map research plans

When Megan Blewett was a sixth-grader in Madison, New Jersey, she asked for a neuroscience textbook for Christmas. She got it, and became fascinated by multiple sclerosis. Two years later, she began mapping the incidence of MS in her home state. By high school, she had expanded her study to the entire United States, plus broadened the scope to include diseases she thought might be related to MS, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Lyme disease.

Megan Blewett: "MS has a lot of mystery to it."
Photo by Charles Votaw
After five years of work, the 17-year-old now has concluded that the incidence of MS and Lyme disease, and of MS and ALS, overlap geographically. She has also compiled the most comprehensive database of Lyme disease incidence in the United States.

"My basic research approach has been to couple epidemiology and biochemistry," says Blewett, who got her first taste of neuroscience research in a 2004 Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth class. "I look at the geographical distribution of diseases and then try to find biochemical explanations of those diseases. It's really interesting stuff." After she first read about MS, Blewett spent a year reading the literature on the disease in her spare time. When she realized that a growing body of evidence links MS to the environment, she found data from the Centers for Disease Control online and used mapping software to plot the incidence of the disease. At a science fair during her sophomore year, she noticed that a neighboring town had a high prevalence not only of MS but also of Lyme disease. That's when she decided to expand her geo-spatial statistical analysis to include other ailments.

For her work on MS, Blewett won first place and a $50,000 scholarship in the College Board's Young Epidemiology Scholars Competition, plus a $20,000 scholarship for finishing seventh out of 1,700 students competing in this year's Intel Science Talent Search. In June she presented her research to the Congressional Biomedical Research Caucus on Capitol Hill, at the invitation of Nobel laureate chemist Dudley R. Herschbach.

Herschbach says that Blewett's analysis of CDC data showed a remarkable maturity of outlook. "She has keen insight and an alert instinct to recognize significant clues and devise means to test her ideas," he says.

Blewett's research has led her to suspect that MS and ALS may be caused by an infectious agent that can be transmitted by animals. She spent the last two summers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard exploring the idea. "MS has a lot of mystery to it," she says. "Even though it was first diagnosed 600 years ago, people still don't know what causes the disease, let alone ways to cure it."

Blewett starts her freshman year at Harvard this month. She plans to major in chemical biology and continue her studies in Mandarin, which she began at age 7. — MB

Lessons from the Holocaust

Stan Malm was touring Poland and Israel with 20 other teachers this past July when he came across a particularly disturbing image in a museum. "I saw a picture of six SS officers cutting the beard off of a Hasidic Jew," he recalls. The elated officers humiliating the elderly man, says Malm, resembled fraternity brothers who'd "just won the big softball game. That's the kind of thing, as a human being and a former police officer . . . it just angered me."

A gas chamger at Auschwitz The 50-year-old retired cop, who is a faculty member in the Johns Hopkins School of Education's Division of Public Safety Leadership, was participating in the Summer Seminar on Holocaust and Jewish Resistance, sponsored in part by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and coordinated by the Jewish Labor Committee. The three-week trip for high school and college educators included visits to the Warsaw ghetto; the Auschwitz and Treblinka concentration camps; and Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial to the Holocaust.

Malm's interest stemmed from his teaching a course on the Holocaust in the Police Executive Leadership Program (PELP). PELP is a management program aimed at grooming future public-safety executives. When Malm — a graduate of the first PELP class, in 1996 — joined the faculty almost three years ago, he tailored the program's existing Special Topics in Leadership course to the Holocaust. The Holocaust, he explains, provides a means of exploring comprehensive failure of leadership.

What drew Malm to the summer seminar was its focus on Jewish resistance. While there were some armed uprisings in the ghettos and concentration camps, resistance to the Nazi program of extermination was usually more subtle: smuggling bread to fellow starving inmates, for example, or helping sick comrades. All were punishable by death. By using such examples in his course this year, Malm hopes to show public-safety professionals that small-scale acts of resistance can ripple positively through the ranks.

Schindler's factory "The lawmakers can come up with different laws, and the bosses can come up with different rules, but [police officers] also have to use common sense in our application of the law," says Malm.

One other seminar detail that Malm will share with his students is artwork. Many Holocaust victims kept secret diaries and created sculpture, paintings, and drawings. Self-portraits, Malm notes, were often "a picture of a blank face with a number on it." He wants to do the opposite: attach names, faces, and stories to the Holocaust, as a way of humanizing both perpetrators and victims. Malm remembers, as a rookie officer, learning a valuable lesson on how to behave from Serpico, the film based on a real-life cop's attempts to blow the whistle on police corruption.

The Holocaust, Malm says, "is like Serpico on steroids." — RS

I'll take Docs for $500, Alex

Illustration by
Elwood Smith
For two years now, a legend has been growing in the halls of the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. People speak in hushed tones of a quartet of residents so quick, so knowledgeable, so unassailable, that Bayview may never see their like again. Their names are Seun Falade, Adrien Janvier, Anne Tuskey, and Alisha Wade, and they are a dynasty in the making — the reigning two-time champions of Baview Residents' Jeopardy.

Each June for several years now, the three classes of Bayview medical residents have celebrated the end of another academic year by vying for top score in the game. Every aspect of the popular television quiz show is on hand: buzzers, categories and answers, and a live studio audience, in this case in Carroll Auditorium at Bayview. The interns, junior residents, and senior residents each field four-person teams. Answer categories can include Cardiology, Rheumatology, Oncology, and General Internal Medicine. This year, if you selected Cardiology for 500, the answer was, "Epigastric bulge due to massive pericardial effusion." The correct question? "What is Gallavardin dissociation?" But you already knew that.

The residents match wits, or at least hand-to-buzzer reflexes, in two or three informal matches throughout the year for fun. The big end-of-year game pits all-star teams selected from those who excelled at the more informal matches. This year, the junior residents kept together the team that triumphed as interns, signalling their intent to repeat as champions. Under the rules, each squad is allowed to select a faculty ringer, and Thomas Finucane, professor of geriatric medicine at Bayview, played for the reigning champs. He defined his job as "keep quiet and don't give wrong answers."

As interns in 2006, Falade, Janvier, Tuskey, and Wade pretty much scorched the junior and senior residents. In 2007, they were just as much a juggernaut. Asked for the secret to their dominance, Finucane says, "Some extremely smart doctors. Also, fake British accents appear to have influenced the judges."

Wade, who is feared for her knowledge of endocrinology (don't even think about going up against her on Sheehan's syndrome), replies, "As for the accents, as Dr. Finucane well knows, being Barbadian I came by mine honestly."

Laura Hanyok, who as a chief resident helped write the questions and moderated this year's game, believes the dominance of Falade et al. affected this year's competition. She says, "Among the senior residents, it was hard to get a group together because they didn't want to get beaten to a pulp again this year."

The champs plan to defend their title one last time next June. Has anyone ever won three years in a row? Says Hanyok, "I don't know. I don't think we've kept records." — DK

Return to September 2007 Table of Contents

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