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Only in America?

This issue's cover story, "Delayed & Denied", was at the front of my mind one Sunday morning when I got to talking with a fellow parishioner at church — a friendly woman with a lilting German accent whose face I recognized but whose name I didn't know. I discovered that her late husband was Martin W. Donner (1920-1992), chair of Hopkins' Department of Radiology from 1972 to 1987. The native of Leipzig, Germany, who came to Hopkins for a fellowship, was a key figure in establishing Hopkins' Swallowing Disorders Clinic. He is credited for leading the radiology department through a dizzying period of technological change and advances — ultrasound, MRI, computerized tomography. "Martin was the first German-born department chair at Hopkins Hospital," Heidi Donner told me proudly. "In fact, he may have been the first internationally born chair."

Our conversation turned to Dr. Donner's successors as radiology chair — William R. Brody, now university president, and Elias Zerhouni, now director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). "Only in America," said Mrs. Donner about Zerhouni, smiling at the thought of Zerhouni and wife Nadia Azza coming to the U.S. from their native Algeria with just $300 to their name. Zerhouni started his radiology residency at Hopkins in 1975 and went on to make a meteoric rise through the administrative ranks as well as several pioneering advances in radiologic imaging. As head of the NIH, Zerhouni now oversees some 27 institutes and centers and sets the direction for where medical research will head. "He is the classic American success story," concluded Mrs. Donner.

Indeed. Stories of those like Donner and Zerhouni abound at Johns Hopkins — foreign-born men and women who have come to Hopkins, found unparalleled opportunity, then gone on to make contributions that have improved the lives of people across the nation and around the world. Which make the ramifications of "Delayed and Denied" all the more disturbing. As you'll read, the nation's increased emphasis on homeland security, post 9/11, has resulted in visa troubles (ranging from mere headaches to ongoing nightmares) for international students and scholars from a variety of disciplines.

Some at Hopkins worry that recent events could permanently disrupt the pipeline of international talent that has long been a bedrock of this university. If that happens, we may pay the price for decades to come.

-Sue De Pasquale

Return to November 2003 Table of Contents

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