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Policy Wonking

As we go to press in mid-October, there are two significant offices in search of new occupants. We are a few weeks away from electing a new president of the United States, and a replacement for William R. Brody, who is retiring at the end of the year as president of Johns Hopkins University, has yet to be selected. (Lest you think he's off to tinker in the shed or check items off a honey-do list, Brody recently announced that, beginning March 1, he will become president of the Salk Institute, a biomedical research center in California.)

Maybe we're just policy geeks, but as we were planning the November issue, it seemed like a good time to take advantage of the Johns Hopkins brain trust to examine some tough questions. First up, health care, a topic already on many Americans' minds before the current economic crisis made affording care that much more daunting. Senior writer Michael Anft started with the premise that a lot of media coverage doesn't get beneath the surface of the health care crisis, or it tells the story only from the patients' point of view. Here at Hopkins, he thought, where we have both academics studying the problem and health care providers living it, we are in a position to get into the deep bureaucratic details. He spent weeks conducting dozens of interviews and compiling facts and statistics, then boiled it all down to six essential policy questions. Our cover story, "Search for an Rx" (page 48), doesn't give any definitive answers, but it is a good place to begin to understand just how complicated the problem is and why, as a nation, we haven't solved it yet.

Next up, with Brody's departure imminent, we wanted to know what, after 12 years at Hopkins' helm, he thought of the state of higher education. Associate editor Dale Keiger's interview, "Measuring the Unmeasurable" (page 28), like Mike's story, probably raises more questions than it answers. Brody is honest about the challenges he faced as president — from the philosophical to the financial to the merely practical — and even on his way out the door, he is fully engaged not just with the problems of the university, but with those of the world that a university can try to answer. Policy with a purpose.
— Catherine Pierre

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