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Johns Hopkins Winter
v o l. 63 n o. 4
Forgetting of Things Past By Michael Anft Researchers have unlocked a storehouse of secrets, beginning to unravel why our memory fails usâ€”and how to make us forget when we need to.
Unboxing History By Bret McCabe Nine decades of history rest in boxes at the AfroAmerican, where student archivists have begun to shed light on thousands of underexplored lives.
Paying Attention to Distraction By Dale Keiger The swift saturation of technology has prompted new concerns regarding the importance of concentration. Why is something as vital as attentiveness so hard?
Stop That By Kristen Intlekofer People do a lot of things in the name of health. Not all of them are healthful. Here are 10 practices that could do more harm than good.
Cover Illustration by Serge Bloch Johns Hopkins Magazine â€˘ Winter 2011 5
Contributors: Good Humor
The Big Question: Why Are Zombies the Hot Metaphor?
Editor’s Note: A Word from the iEditor
Letters: Of Monuments and Men
Essay: Crash Course
Golomb’s Gambits: Merging Words
Wholly Hopkins: Matters of note from around Johns Hopkins 18 Psychiatry: Why can’t some people throw anything away? 19 Education: New school colors just the beginning
20 Center for a Livable Future: Farming for urban tilapia 22 Museums: Zelda the painter
24 Nursing: Let nurses fill the gap
25 Applied Physics Laboratory: Low-tech sleuthing
27 Books: A knock on the head, and jazz in wartime Paris
28 Students: Interns learn from rougher lives
Alumni News & Notes
How To: Win a Nobel Prize
72 59 6 Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
Contributors Vol. 63 No. 4 Winter 2011
Editor: Catherine Pierre Associate Editor: Dale Keiger, A&S ’11 (MLA) Senior Writers: Michael Anft and Bret McCabe, A&S ’94 Assistant Editor: Kristen Intlekofer Art Director: Shaul Tsemach Designer: Pamela Li Alumni News & Notes Editors: Lisa Belman and Mike Field, A&S ’97 (MA) Business Manager: Dianne MacLeod
Johns Hopkins Magazine (publication number 276-260; ISSN 0021-7255) is published four times a year (Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer) by The Johns Hopkins University, 901 S. Bond Street, Suite 540, Baltimore, MD 21231. Produced in cooperation with the University Magazine Group. Periodicals postage paid at Baltimore, Maryland, and additional entry offices. Address correspondence to Johns Hopkins Magazine, Johns Hopkins University, 901 S. Bond Street, Suite 540, Baltimore, MD 21231. Via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: magazine.jhu.edu Telephone: 443-287-9900 Subscriptions: $20 yearly, $25 foreign Diverse views are presented and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or official policies of the university.
Good Humor What’s in a name? Little-known fact: Ron Walters, professor and chair of the Department of History, has written more than 100 columns for Johns Hopkins Magazine. You might recognize him more readily as Guido Veloce, the wry voice that has graced the magazine for the past 21 years. It was after some arm-twisting by then editor Elise Hancock that Walters agreed to write the column in 1990. “Guido was Elise’s idea, pitched over a lunch in Levering. I had no idea what the agenda was and the idea for a column came as a complete surprise,” he recalls. “My initial response was dismay.” The decision to use a pseudonym was his own, Walters says, to give him the freedom to experiment with different voices and explore topics beyond academia. As for the name Guido Veloce, “That particular name is Italian slang for ‘fast driver,’ but it was also the nickname for my all-time favorite car, a 1977 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce.” The mind of an artist Illustrator Pol Turgeon’s creativity began in utero. According to his official bio, “It was while performing a pas de deux in the amniotic fluid that Pol Turgeon managed to wrap the umbilical cord around his neck several times. This traumatic episode has been identified as the psychological wellspring from which all these bizarre and unsettling images flow. It appears that there is no cure!” The Montreal-based artist draws inspiration from many different sources and likes to experiment, which is evident in his striking illustrations of anthropomorphic half-men (or half-dog, or half-elephant), half-machines with visible joints and moving parts. It’s fitting that he uses a variety of media—ink, gouache, color crayons, transfer, multiple varnishes—to accomplish each distinctive illustration, including the one that accompanies “Forgetting of Things Past” in this issue. Turgeon’s art lends some whimsy to a sobering subject—losing memory. “Creating art has become a way of life,” Turgeon says. “I just could not imagine living without it.” —KI
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The Big Question
Why are zombies the hot metaphor?
“The standard line is that with Dawn of the Dead—where we get director George Romero at his best as a social critic, and he’s so clearly playing with consumerist and capitalist consumption—this is the moment, as scholar Kyle William Bishop calls it, of the triumph of the zombie social metaphor. “My particular research interests lie in the domain of Atlantic slavery and antislavery. So my angle at the zombie came from thinking about the cultures of Atlantic slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries and thinking about slave rebellion. Indisputably, that’s where the zombie figure comes from. The word zombie comes from West Africa via various Creoles in the Caribbean. “All those tense power dynamics are present in the figure of the zombie. I do think that, historically speaking, the zombie narrative can perform a sort of critique in an especially hard-hitting way. It represents this loss of autonomy that we as human beings understandably fear. “I think it is interesting in the post-Romero zombie invasion narrative that the threat is not so pressing that certain conditions of social life can’t be re-created. There’s the possibility of boarding up the house and, at least for a while, holding it off. You don’t need special knowledge or silver bullets. You just need to be able to whack them on the head. So particular to the genre is this possibility that human beings may return to social life after the attack—and all the fascinating questions that go with that. Can we go back to what we had before? Should we go back to what we had before?”
Jared Hickman, assistant professor of English, debuted his undergraduate seminar Zombies this fall. He is currently at work on his first book, Black Prometheus: Political Theologies of Atlantic Antislavery (forthcoming), which examines the theological justifications for and against slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries. —Interview by Bret McCabe, A&S ’94 10 Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
Johns Hopkins Magazine â€˘ Winter 2011 11
A Word from the iEditor
atherine Pierre normally speaks to you from this page. But she recently gave birth to a second adorable daughter, so I have shepherded this issue of the magazine into print as interim editor. As an admirer of the late Steve Jobs, I amused myself by thinking of my temporary title as iEditor. A substantial portion of this edition of Johns Hopkins Magazine has to do with memory, a subject that has been on my mind lately as I observed the effects of dementia on my recently deceased 90-year-old father. In conversation, he could forget what he asked five minutes before. But he could recite poetry that he had memorized 83 years ago in the second grade. Last March, when I drove him around his hometown of Cambridge, Ohio, he pointed out the houses of all his grade-school teachers. His brother told me he was right every time. For the magazine, senior writer Michael Anft dug deep into the memory research of Johns Hopkins scientists for his story “Forgetting of Things Past” (page 30). The importance of this work is conveyed by a single sentence from the story: “If we lose our network of memories—of whom we relate to, where we’ve been, our predilections, our past—we lose something else: our selves.”
Memory plays a role in “Paying Attention to Distraction” (page 44), because when working memory, “the mind’s scratch pad,” becomes overloaded by the myriad distractions of contemporary life, our ability not just to focus but to think may be impaired. In “Unboxing History” (page 38), senior writer Bret McCabe, A&S ’94, reports on a Johns Hopkins initiative to study and catalog the archive of the Afro-American, one of the oldest family-owned, continuously published newspapers in the country. As Bret notes, the material stored in carton after carton at the newspaper forms a deep memory of the African-American community in Baltimore. We did not devote our entire feature section to the various ways we remember. Assistant editor Kristen Intlekofer provided our cover story, the succinctly titled “Stop That” (page 50), a collection of 10 things many of us do in the name of health without realizing we might be doing our bodies no favor. This is Kristen’s first feature story for Johns Hopkins Magazine, and we were pleased to put it on our cover. Good job, Kristen.
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Letters Of Monuments and Men Monument muddle I applaud Hadley Nagel for her efforts to memorialize James Madison through a “national monument,” but writer Michael Anft might have done some factchecking in reference to what constitutes a national monument [“With Due Respect to James Madison,” Wholly Hopkins, Fall]. There are many national memorials, national monuments, national historic landmarks, etc. The alleged memorial to John F. Kennedy in Dallas is not a national monument but rather a museum paid for and supported by the city of Dallas, although Dealey Plaza is a national historic landmark district. Further, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts—an extremely imposing edifice sited on the Potomac River that holds the iconic sculpted head of JFK by Robert Berks—is a true “palace,” to use the author’s own word. Congress funded the Kennedy Center and made
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it, by law, the only memorial to JFK permitted in the nation’s capital. Private gifts and congressional allocations support the center. In addition, one would hardly call the 88-acre Theodore Roosevelt Island National Memorial or the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial on the National Mall “less decorous” than other monuments. Is Baltimore that far from Washington, D.C.? Jan Pottker Coral Gables, Florida
about our fourth president are impressive, especially those built around Constitution Day. Acknowledged as the author of both that hallowed document as well as, later, the Bill of Rights, he is an important Founding Father. The article notes that Nagel has suggested that Congress pass legislation to establish a Washington, D.C., memorial to James Madison because she learned on a field trip that there was no such monument to him. But neither Nagel nor your author, Michael Anft, have done their homework. There is a large memorial to President Madison right across from the U.S. Capitol itself. The third and newest building of the Library of Congress (opened in 1980) is named the Madison Building and within it is a large marble memorial, with a larger-than-life statue of President Madison. Just like the Lincoln, Jefferson, and FDR memorials, the
Mission accomplished It’s always a pleasure to receive Johns Hopkins Magazine and read its timely articles. I was especially interested in your Fall issue and the article about the student who felt not enough recognition has been accorded James Madison [“With Due Respect to James Madison”]. Her many activities to raise awareness
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Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011 13
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Madison Memorial includes many of his inspiring quotes carved in marble. This building was built with the dual purpose of providing space for the growing needs of the Library of Congress and being the nation’s memorial to the fourth president. None of this means that we shouldn’t do more to raise the awareness of President Madison, as Nagel suggests. The more young Americans know about the young founders of our nation, the better off we are as a nation. But on the topic of a memorial, we can check that as accomplished, with one of the larger, more centrally located memorials for any president. William Canis, A&S ’72, SAIS ’73 (MA) Great Falls, Virginia
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Michael Anft responds: As our astute letter writers (and at least one phone caller) have divined, trying to determine which presidential monuments qualify as “national” or “federal” and which do not is a fool’s errand. I should know—I’m the fool who tried it. Jan Pottker is right about omissions and false qualifications: Sifting through artistically various monuments in search of an organizing principle is crazy. Various lists of national presidential memorials and monuments label some edifices and statues as such, but leave many off—including the Madison Building at the Library of Congress, which Hadley Nagel, the James Madison–focused Hopkins student in question, had seen, but I hadn’t. (And to the phone caller: There are monuments to William McKinley in both Canton and Niles, Ohio.) All my methodological miscues aside, Nagel still believes that Madison is getting the short end of the historical stick. In response to William Canis’ letter arguing that the Madison Building’s existence ensures that a monument to him has been “accomplished,” Nagel says: “The Madison Building has been carved into different spaces. It houses the LOC Federal Credit Union office, serves sometimes as a dispensary of flu shots, and other times as a shopping mall theater. What is left as a tribute
to our fourth president is one hallway with a statue of Madison in darkness at the far end. I strongly disagree that this is a fitting memorial to James Madison.” We ain’t seen nothin’ yet “The Great Unknowns” [Fall] states that, “. . . atoms and other particles we know and understand only make up about 5 percent of the whole shebang.” This statement needs to be preceded with the phrase, “based on our current level of ignorance,” because some readers may not sufficiently appreciate the transitory nature of material science’s cosmological theories. Consider that only about 20 years ago, cosmologists accepted as fact the statement, “Atoms and other particles we know and understand make up 100 percent of the whole shebang.” If past revolutions in scientific cosmology are any indication (e.g., from a steady-state universe to the Big Bang, from a Milky
Way galaxy universe to billons of galaxies, and from particles we know making up 100 percent to making up barely 5 percent), we ain’t seen nothin’ yet! John D. White, Engr ’87 (MS) Chevy Chase, Maryland To “wield,” perchance to receive? Novelist Jean McGarry emphasizes how psychoanalytic training allows us to see self, the world, and students’ stories in a new light [“Wielding a Pen and an Analyst’s Arsenal,” Wholly Hopkins, Fall]. I am married to a Johns Hopkins alum and Germanist who values the way cultural identity is defined through story, and I am advanced in my clinical psychoanalytic training program. I think it important to differentiate between the use of psychoanalytic theory in understanding literature and the analyst’s presence in the healing process itself. I ask: Do analysts in practice “wield” with an “arsenal” of knowledge? If so, I’d prefer my rabbit hole, thank you! Rather, a psychoanalyst in the process has a rare, private, and highly protected privilege and responsibility. In her 2003 article “From behind the Couch: Uncertainty and Indeterminacy in Psychoanalytic Theory and Practice” psychoanalyst Nancy J. Chodorow asks: Does the analyst listen for (theory) or listen to (the patient)? In the therapeutic alliance, the patient admits us to share the heart of his or her unsung song so together the story can be born and come into words. Susan E. Barbour Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Getting the facts straight “The Wrong Man” [Fall] reminded me of the recent Intercollegiate Studies Institute study that found that on average, students at elite universities, including Johns Hopkins, graduated with less knowledge of American history, government, and economics than they had as incoming freshmen. That remarkable result is probably due to tendentious indoctrination, such as that displayed by this article. For example, the article offers a casual reference to “Valerie Plame Wilson, the former CIA operative whose cover was blown by the Bush White House,” in blatant disregard of well-known facts. Of course, it was career State Department bureaucrat Richard Armitage who broke Plame Wilson’s cover, not the “Bush White House.” This point illustrates both the overall nonveracity of this article and, more generally, how when it comes to bashing George W. Bush and Republicans, facts take a backseat to another agenda in too much of academia. As if another example of misinformation being promulgated at Johns Hopkins University and in the magazine were needed, in the previous issue, Hopkins professor of archaeology Glenn Schwartz told us, “In reality, it’s extremely safe and wonderful to travel as an American in Syria” [“Oh, the Places They Go,” Summer]. I suppose that might be true if you like seeing thousands of civilians killed by the regime. Probably not incidentally, he also Continued on page 71
www.andyo.org Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011 15
Crash Course B y “ G u i d o Ve l o c e ”
16 Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
instance, a local taboo against turn signals. When it is violated, the signals are not used in the predictive manner common elsewhere (“I will move into your lane”). They are used after the fact and in an explanatory manner (“I just cut you off”). Occasionally, you will see a turn signal on—and on, and on. It means: “I bumped that thing next to the steering wheel and some damn clicking sound won’t stop.” The true genius of Baltimore’s bad drivers is that they can be obnoxious when their cars are standing still. Double-parking parallel to huge empty parking places is a specialty, and so is carrying on a conversation with someone standing in the street while doing so. In the rare event the doubleparker uses emergency flashers, you have a Baltimore wannabe, not the real deal. Bad drivers here don’t even need to be near their cars to cause problems. Take parking. When snow falls, it is rapid, random, and results in vehicle abandonment in places where other drivers might wish to go. In all seasons, parking is a contact sport in which the goal is to get as close as possible to the car in front of or behind you. Touch parking like this was common in my former neighborhood, where I once came across a young woman on her cell phone, screaming hysterically. That wasn’t especially unusual for the place, nor was the cause. The cars in front of and behind hers each nuzzled her car’s bumpers. Like other urban areas, Baltimore needs many things—more jobs, better housing, lower taxes, more tax revenue, better law enforcement and schools, leaner budgets, and the list goes on. Given the human and economic damage bad drivers cause, and the rudeness and incivility they embody, good driving might belong on that list. Gilbert Ford
altimore is No. 1. Or we would be if the bloated bureaucrats south of us weren’t stealing what is rightfully ours. This isn’t about taxes. A recent Allstate study of U.S. drivers ranked Baltimore’s second-worst, with Washington, D.C., at the bottom of the heap. We were robbed. So was Boston, whose daredevil drivers weren’t even rated. Any survey of bad driving omitting Boston is suspect. But I’d take our vehicular team over Boston’s any day. Drivers there know what they are doing, even if it is dangerous, illegal, and at high speed. Reason and purpose don’t restrain Baltimore’s drivers. The most serious flaw in the survey, however, is that it measures where bad driving occurs, not who is doing it. A fair fraction of D.C.’s mayhem comes from Baltimore drivers not paying attention to where they were going and unwilling to interrupt the cell phone conversation to find out. We get no credit for that. This past September, Baltimore had its first Grand Prix. Who needed it? The winning driver only averaged 91.5 mph on a special racecourse with no potholes or pedestrians. Lawn chairs along major thoroughfares would have been cheaper, done nothing to disrupt the downtown area for a week, and yielded as much highspeed excitement. Speed, nonetheless, is not what distinguishes Baltimore drivers. They are capable of going very slowly, although only in the left lane and sometimes when running red lights. That brings me to Baltimore drivers’ signature event: red-light running. It happens elsewhere, but here it is epidemic and executed in a rich variety of styles, from casual to maniacal. In one instance, my green light turned yellow before cars coming toward me finished running a red left-turn arrow. A recent guest who had been away from Baltimore for a while responded to an especially spectacular red-light run with a nostalgic “I’m back.” Baltimoreans’ bad driving repertoire includes sins of omission as well as ones of commission. There is, for
Guido Veloce is a Johns Hopkins University professor.
Golomb’s Gambits TM
By Solomon Golomb ’51 1. The following 20 three-letter words can be joined in pairs to form 10 six-letter words. Look for pairings that use each of the 20 words once. (As a simple example, the four words arc, ion, not, and tic can be combined to form arctic and notion.)
ace act age air
ant asp ate car
den for imp ire
men par red rot
son ten ton war
2. The following 20 four-letter words can be joined in pairs to form 10 eight-letter words. Look for pairings that use each of the 20 words once. (As a simple example, the four words deli, rain, rest, and very can be combined to form delivery and restrain.)
able ache acre ages
cast cove disc host
just mass mist must
rate read ring rust
oral over past port
Caution: Some pairings won’t let you use all the words. (Solutions on page 71)
Johns Hopkins M ag a z i n e
Paper or pixels? The digital replica edition of Johns Hopkins Magazine is now available. Saves paper, saves fossil fuel, saves postage, and all the cool kids will have one. For details, please go to magazine.jhu.edu. Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011 17
Matters of note from around Johns Hopkins
P s y ch i a t r y
Why can’t some people throw anything away?
ack Samuels’ mostly anonymous days as a research psychiatrist ended sometime in the last couple of years, as the subjects of his studies—people who accumulate mounds of things, often to the detriment of their health and relationships—stepped out of their overstuffed closets and into the spotlight. Once dismissed as junk-loving eccentrics and flakes, people who hoard indiscriminately have recently served as subjects not only for sober scientific study but for three so-called reality TV shows and a celebrated novel, E.L. Doctorow’s Homer and Langley, based on the real-life story of two wealthy brothers who were found dead in their New York home in 1947 amid more than 100 tons of useless items they had piled up over decades. Nowadays, Samuels, an associate professor of psychiatry at the School of Medi-
18 Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
cine, spends less quiet time in his tiny, semicluttered office with a view of a sliver of the Baltimore harbor and a lot more of it talking with the media. With 23 years of research on the subject—all of it performed at Johns Hopkins—he has also become the authority for scientists looking to unravel the mysteries of hoarding. Samuels and several Johns Hopkins colleagues’ groundbreaking research into a sometimes-related ailment, obsessive-compulsive disorder, recently found a genetic basis for hoarding behavior. The discovery comes at a time not only when people who hoard are in the public eye but as longstanding misconceptions about the disorder are being dismissed by the psychiatric world. “Even just a couple of decades ago, we thought that hoarding was merely a subtype of obsessivecompulsive disorder,” says Samuels, a compact man with a mustache and a clear, media-friendly speaking style. “Now, we know that only onethird of people with OCD exhibit hoarding behavior, that many people without OCD hoard, and we suspect that genes can play a key role in it.” Hoarding, which afflicts an estimated 15 million people in the United States, can endanger families and even neighbors, he adds. Every year, stories abound of people dying in fires stoked by hillocks of things piled within their homes. Those sad tales can border on the incomprehensible: Would-be rescuers often cannot find people in a burning home stacked floor to ceiling with newspapers and other items. Some people who hoard make animals their obsession, sometimes collecting dozens of them. The animals, often malnourished and kept in appalling conditions, can spread disease throughout neighborhoods. “It’s not uncommon for us to see people who fill one house up with stuff, then move to a second house—sometimes even a third—to get away from this mass of clutter,” says Samuels. Even though we live in a society where the number of self-storage facilities (51,000) dwarfs
Samuels believes that the sagas of those who amass piles of often useless bric-a-brac have entered the cultural zeitgeist because we all grapple with the hold material things can have on us: “It’s a disorder we can all relate to in some way. We either know of people who hoard things, or we can identify with their difficulty in getting rid of them. Throwing out our kid’s second-grade artwork is hard for us, but most of us can do it.” —Michael Anft
New school colors just the beginning
nnette Anderson didn’t like what she saw when she looked around the school grounds. When the Johns Hopkins School of Education assistant dean for community schools first arrived at the East Baltimore Community School in January 2011, she found a building oversaturated with neutral brown. The walls were brown. The floors were brownish. The doors were brown, the doorframes were brown, and all the lightbulbs cast a slightly orange tint, which made everything feel brown. Only beige puts the brain to sleep more quickly. “I was very explicit to the staff about us un-browning the building and bringing primary colors, pastel colors, colors into the building that would accentuate the instruction that we were planning to deliver,” Anderson says. Adding color was one of many changes Anderson and her staff introduced to improve conditions at the school. Those orangish lightbulbs? Gone. The cracked asphalt leading up “If we can do it in East to the school? Repaved. Baltimore, we can do this Started in 2009 by the anywhere.” nonprofit East Baltimore Development Inc. (EBDI), the East Baltimore Community School is a contract school operating within the city’s public school system. In August, the Johns Hopkins School of Education assumed operation of the school in partnership with the Morgan State University School of Education and Urban Studies. With a staff of about 30, educating approximately 250 students across grades K–3, 6, and 7, with
that of coffee shops (around 25,000), and where one in 10 households stows excess stuff in places outside their homes, Samuels and colleagues think that the disorder has a lot more to do with activity in the genes—specifically, in chromosome 14—than with Americans’ passion for material things. (Researchers around the world have identified hoarding in all cultures.) Since 2008, his Johns Hopkins research team has interviewed 70 people found through hoarding support organizations—groups with such names as Clutterers Anonymous, Children of Hoarders, and Messies Anonymous—as well as 100 of the participants’ relatives. “We’re finding that a lot of people who hoard have relatives who show the same behavior,” Samuels says. Older people are more prone to exhibiting symptoms of the disorder. “[Hoarding] tends to show up later in life than OCD does,” he says. “The tendency is there when people who hoard are young, but they may live with someone who can help them manage things.” But as people get older, they may lose a spouse and become isolated. “The situation can get out of hand.” Raising children or maintaining relationships is more difficult for hoarders. Getting them help isn’t easy, either. Although many hoarders are too embarrassed by their surroundings to invite people over (and, hence, become even more isolated), others deny they have a problem, even as their relationships crumble. “There’s often a lack of insight,” Samuels says. Traditional treatments for OCD aren’t much use against hoarding. Prescribing anti-anxiety drugs and behavioral therapy that exposes people to objects they fear—methods used to battle OCD—are less effective in treating hoarding. One emerging cognitive behavioral approach involves sending a therapist to a patient’s home to challenge his thinking about hoarding objects, as the patient works to reduce clutter. The technique, tested in trials, has reduced the severity of the disorder by 30 percent. But such treatments often aren’t covered by patients’ health insurance plans, even though therapy, which can cost up to $7,000 for 40 hours, must be maintained for years. “It’s not like these people are cured,” says Samuels. As science continues to examine people who hoard and their genetics for clues as to how to help them, Samuels hopes that more mental health professionals will educate themselves about the disorder and take on more of them as patients. In Baltimore, there are only three or four therapists who treat the tens of thousands of people estimated to have the disorder there— numbers that reflect a nationwide trend, he says.
Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
Homewood Photography / Will Kirk
The East Baltimore Community School is undergoing numerous improvements. grades 4, 5, and 8 to be added as students progress, Anderson is overseeing the transition to university partnership, taking part in everything from curriculum development to hiring staff to, yes, making decor decisions. Anderson came to East Baltimore following a five-year stint at another university-assisted school in Chester, Pennsylvania, where Widener University partnered with the Chester Upland School District. Her goal for the 2011–2012 Baltimore school year is to instill a sense of rigor in the staff and students. The school has adopted the Success for All (SFA) curriculum developed by Johns Hopkins professors Robert Slavin and Nancy Madden. Anderson sees every aspect of what students experience at the school as playing a role in the school’s whole-child, holistic approach to education. The tweaks around the building, such as the brighter colors and sofas replacing the folding chairs previously found in the front office, are part of a big-picture plan. Anderson says, “Some of these are very simple things that we did, but they have a much broader context if you think about where we’re going.” The school is one part of the 88-acre EBDI biotech and residential development initiative, in which Johns Hopkins plays a major role. Part of the plan includes a new home for the East Baltimore Community School—a $30 million, 90,000-square-foot facility that will include an early childhood center and community center on a seven-acre campus located within 20 Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
the redevelopment zone, set to open in August 2013. At the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School “Leaders and Legends” lecture series in September, Johns Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels succinctly outlined the university’s hope in the school effort when he said, “We believe that the school has the power to change a child’s trajectory, a family’s trajectory, and, indeed, the trajectory of an entire neighborhood.” Says Anderson, “If we can do it in East Baltimore, we can do this anywhere.” She is herself a product of Baltimore’s public education system, a graduate of Western High School. She had parents who demanded that schools do right by their students, and the schools expected the same from parents—the sort of community crucible she wants to foster in East Baltimore. “The thing that I think we undersell about Baltimore City public schools is that [they] really make you scrappy,” she says. “I never felt, because I was a Baltimore public school student, that I was less than this, or I didn’t have that, or I should just accept failure—if anything, it made me fight harder, it made me rely on myself a lot more. Baltimore City will teach you that you can do anything, not just if you have posh conditions. And I tell the children here every day that, yes—you can come out of Baltimore City and do amazing things. It’s up to you to develop that internal fortitude to make that happen.” —Bret McCabe, A&S ’94
C e n te r fo r a L i va b l e F u t u re
Farming for urban tilapia
mid shadowy light made grayish by a greenhouse roof, a convoluted tangle of pipes, plastic water tanks, 18-foot-long vats, and dull silver insulation awaits activation. It could pass for something conceived by Rube Goldberg or Fritz Lang, or a skein of technology that might merit the attention of rural law enforcement authorities. But if all goes well, this vast contraption could serve as a new model for do-it-yourself food raising. Under the auspices of the Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future, the greenhouse’s transformation could result in a sustainable synergy of bacteria, fish, and plants—and ultimately hundreds of pounds of tilapia plus a large backyard garden’s worth of collards, herbs, kale, lettuce, tomatoes, and other vegetables. It will also dem-
ocean fish, including bluefin tuna, have been overharvested. Some nations have turned to fish farming, and not just in the local sense. Many large companies have attempted to generate profit by developing sprawling fish farms. Unfortunately, as research by Love and other Johns Hopkins scientists has shown, many fish and crustaceans raised on farms overseas are laden with antibacterial chemicals designed to keep them from developing infections. Those chemicals end up being ingested by humans. What’s more, studies have found high levels of fertilizer and pesticide residues in farm-raised fish, along with other toxins. “We import about 90 percent of the fish we eat here,” says Love. “But we only test about 1 percent that comes in. One way to know how healthy the fish you’re eating is is to raise it yourself.” Love’s backstory as an aquaculturalist dates to his high school years in the late 1990s. Growing up along the Lynnhaven River in southeastern Virginia, he designed and ran experiments off the dock of the family house to determine the best depth for growing plump, healthy oysters. Eventually, he and his father, Cliff, became so involved in oyster cultivation that they worked Homewood Photography / Will Kirk
onstrate to would-be urban farmers how they can grow more than one type of food, all on one site. “Urban agriculture is becoming a big deal in Baltimore,” says David Love, an assistant scientist at the center and the project’s director. By law, city residents can “raise bees and keep four chickens,” he adds. “We want to develop a way for people to raise fish in the city as well.” If his new “farm” project, situated in a Baltimore park called Cylburn Arboretum, can become both cost-effective and ecologically sound, it will pave the way toward growing healthy food in the strangest of places. Love hopes to be able to show off a working example of aquaponics, a controlled method for growing fish (aquaculture) and plants (hydroponics) that relies upon regularly cleansed and recirculating water, with no antibiotics or chemicals, by early 2012. Residents in hollowed-out city neighborhoods, where supermarkets and green grocers have disappeared, are more likely these days to search for ways to grow their own fresh food. Interest in fish farming has exploded internationally as some of the world’s largest stocks of
David Love surveys his work in progress: an inner-city tilapia farm. Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
22 Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
Zelda the painter
hen Laura Somenzi came to Johns Hopkins University in fall 2009, she had no idea she was going to continue the university’s impromptu relationship with one of the 20th century’s most infamous celebrity couples. The history of art major from Colorado had never seen the visual art created by the wife in that couple. All she knew was that as the recipient of a Woodrow Wilson Undergraduate Research Fellowship, she would have the opportunity to conduct humanities research that would lead to an exhibition of some sort. The results of her two years of work can be seen in Zelda Fitzgerald: Choreography in Color at Evergreen Museum & Library. “I really wanted to present Zelda as an independent, artistic entity,” Somenzi says of the exhibition. “I wanted to show how she approached artwork on a theoretical level and also how she was able to use art to create an independent identity for herself, distinct from her husband. She was a dancer, she was a painter, she was a writer, [and] how she used art was a distinct way to redefine herself continuously.” Her husband, novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, became a defining Jazz Age figure thanks to 1920’s This Side of Paradise and 1925’s The Great Gatsby. But Zelda’s life and identity were intimately wrapped up in his fame. “One of the paradoxes about her glamorous role as a flapper is that it gave her a freedom and a lot of liberty just to be herself,” Somenzi says. “The flapper was sexually liberated, but at the same time it was only a means to get married. So once she’s married, it’s over, and she becomes Scott’s wife. But she’s also a writer, so there’s an artistic competition, and she had to find her own identity and reappropriate herself.” Youth, beauty, talent, fame, scandal, alcoholism, falls from grace, madness, early deaths at 44 (him) and 47 (her)—if there is a celebrity couple more definitive of 20th-century America than F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, tabloid journalists and culture critics have yet to find them. Zelda’s fame, however, has only recently been examined on the merits of her own output. Nancy Milford’s best-seller Zelda: A Biography kick-started a reexamination of Fitzgerald’s creative output following its 1970 publication. And it was around that time that Evergreen House acquired seven of Fitzgerald’s drawings, six of which hang in Somenzi’s exhibition.
Homewood Photography / Will Kirk
in tandem with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to raise seed oysters in floating contraptions then help 200 other families raise them on beds in Virginia’s rivers. But his urban experiment is another animal entirely. Inside the greenhouse, he must monitor water conditions, such as acidity, bacteria, and nitrate levels, so that the 300 fish he will soon raise in four 250-gallon tanks remain healthy. Water laden with bacteria and waste from the fish tanks will be filtered out in a separate tank and used for compost. What’s left of the wastewater will be mixed with new bacteria. That brew then will be used to nurture herbs and vegetables in two 18-foot-long “grow beds” that will float in a small pond. Even though that all may sound appealingly symbiotic, with the waste of one food system used to feed another, Love still has to “One way to know how figure out how to make the workhealthy the fish you’re ings of the greenhouse, which on loan from the city of Baltieating is is to raise it ismore, sustainable. He’ll likely have yourself.” to contend with urban issues like insects, mice, roaming foxes, and vandals. The size of the project is hardly imposing. Love wanted to make sure it didn’t scare people off so many would follow his lead. “I wanted this to be large enough to be impressive, but small enough that one person could run it,” Love says. There will be more than enough work for him to do, not to mention a litany of questions he’ll have to deal with on a daily basis: Will energy costs to heat and cool the operation make it too pricey to grow the food? Will the food be raised cheaply enough to make it attractive to growers at home and in neighborhood groups? (The food produced in the Cylburn greenhouse will be donated to local charities.) What kinds of food for the fish can be garnered in a sustainable way? The Center for a Livable Future is planning tours at the greenhouse for college students, teachers, and researchers. Faculty members and student volunteers will be encouraged to use it as a lab. But even before it was up and running, the greenhouse/farm had already gotten a steady stream of attention. Urban farmers and those who want to be have trekked to Love’s operation. Many express a wish to do what he’s doing. Some offer to volunteer. Some come for an even simpler reason, he says, even though it doesn’t exactly apply to his project: “They want to reconnect with the soil.” —MA
Those pieces were found in the Bolton Hill home of C. Sewell Weech, A&S ’15, in the late 1930s. Weech and his wife moved into 1307 Park Avenue and found items left by its previous residents: the Fitzgeralds and their daughter, Scottie. “They found 10 drawings rolled up in a cupboard,” says Heather Stalfort, Evergreen’s communications and marketing manager, who has researched the artwork’s provenance. “They also found some piano music with Zelda’s name on it. And they found some clothing that must’ve been from their daughter, Scottie. They gave the clothing away and I think the wife played some of the piano music for a while, but they hung onto these drawings, didn’t know what to do with them.”
and Italy aiding the Allies with an ambulance corps before the U.S. had entered [World War I],” Irwin says of Weech. “We got to be friends, and he found out that I was interested in Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.” Through the English department and Irwin’s efforts, seven of the drawings were donated to Evergreen in 1974; one figurative work hangs in Irwin’s Gilman Hall office. Fitzgerald’s initial brush with Johns Hopkins came when she was treated at the Phipps Psychiatric Clinic of Johns Hopkins Hospital. She would stay at the clinic for only a few months in 1932, but it’s there that she finished her only novel, Save Me the Waltz, which provided Somenzi with a thematic window into Fitzgerald’s creative world. The novel is “very much concentrated on the world of women— women and their bodies, and dancers,” Somenzi says. “This plays out again in her artwork, which is concentrated on the body and corporeality and being a dancer. She approaches artwork like a choreography of color because it is very much attached to the idea of dancing. When she painted a ballerina, she has this fairly known quote, which is, ‘I painted her large because that’s how she feels, not the way she looks.’ So it is very much about that connection [to the body].” Fitzgerald’s artwork was exhibited in Baltimore and eventually in New York, at the Cary Ross Gallery in 1934. But interest fell off after her 1948 death. Laura Somenzi wanted to present Zelda Fitzgerald as an artist in The artwork didn’t garner her own right. much acclaim until Eleanor Lanahan, Fitzgerald’s grandThe Weeches kept the drawings for nearly daughter, organized an exhibition of artwork in four decades until they happened to meet John 1995 that became a traveling show, which visited Irwin, a professor at the Krieger School of Arts Evergreen Museum in 1996. Somenzi’s Choreogand Sciences. Irwin, who says he has taught F. raphy in Color isn’t a revisit of that show, as the Scott Fitzgerald roughly once a year for the past undergraduate’s exhibition focuses on an aes40 years and is currently working on a book thetic theme running through Fitzgerald’s art and about the Fitzgeralds, met Weech through the writing. Besides, Somenzi was able to add someChurch Warden’s Chess Club, which met one thing to the growing body of Fitzgeraldiana: a Saturday a month at the Johns Hopkins Club for Baltimore-made documentary about the Fitzgerdinner and matches. “He had served in the Nor- alds. One of Somenzi’s roommates is a family ton-Harjes Ambulance Corps that went to France friend of Laura Templeton, who works in Johns Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
Let nurses fill the gap
ulie Stanik-Hutt sounds calm enough as she sits down in her North Wolfe Street office in Baltimore to talk health care. But you hear an urgency as she starts to punctuate her points with statistics. One percent of today’s medical school graduates go into family practice. Patients wait an average of three weeks for a doctor’s appointment. As many as 34 million newly insured patients will soon need primary care, as do a ballooning number of aging baby boomers. Obesity, smoking, and sedentary lifestyles continue to increase the incidence of chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. The solution, some have argued, is to encourage more young doctors to choose family practice by relieving more of their medical school debt and offering other incentives. But Stanik-Hutt, director of the master’s program at Johns Hopkins’ School of Nursing, has another idea, one that requires no costly incentives: Let nurse practitioners and other advanced practice nurses handle primary care needs while physicians specialize in more complex care. An acute care nurse practitioner and a critical care clinical nurse specialist herself, StanikHutt recently co-authored research that bolsters her case. Published in Nursing Economics, the study compares the quality of care provided by advanced practice nurses with that of physicians, looking at patient outcomes in studies published from 1990 to 2008. Stanik-Hutt and co-author Kathleen White, an associate professor 24 Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
and former director of Johns Hopkins’ Doctor of Nursing Practice program, began with nearly 30,000 research articles that they winnowed to an aggregate of 75 studies, to compare such measures as length of hospital stays, rate of readmissions, and number of complications following treatment. They found that care by advanced practice nurses (nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and clinical nurse specialists, each with at least master’s degrees and board certification) to be of at least comparable quality, safety, and effectiveness to that of physicians. The study was funded in part by the Tri-Council for Nursing, an educational alliance of four nursing organizations including the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. “Patient outcomes are where the pedal hits the metal,” Stanik-Hutt says. “It truly proves the quality of care if the patient gets better quicker, doesn’t get admitted to the hospital, has fewer complications, those kinds of things.” The two professions approach illness from fundamentally different perspectives, she says. “Physicians are trained and educated to deal with complexities. They know the minutiae of disease pathology, they do surgery, they deal with SIS / Dave Cutler
Hopkins’ student financial services. Templeton’s grandfather, Gwinn Owens, had known Scottie Fitzgerald, and in the 1950s he made a documentary, titled Marked for Glory, about the Fitzgeralds for Baltimore’s CBS affiliate WJZ-TV, which aired once in 1963 and hasn’t been seen much since. The family passed Somenzi a copy, now part of her exhibition. —BM
unusual diagnoses. Theirs is a scientific approach. Nurses’ strong area of expertise is a focus on patients in their environment. So we are comfortable working with the patients and their families, offering health prevention and other education. We do a lot to help patients manage their conditions themselves. We take a behavioral approach.” Stanik-Hutt argues that this holistic focus is well suited to today’s pressing health concerns. “When you think about the care we need in greatest numbers, it’s primary care, someone you’ll see over the years for common chronic illnesses. With a nurse practitioner’s bent toward education and prevention, we can make a real dent in heart disease, for example, which is the nation’s leading cause of death.” The supply is ample—50 percent of graduating nurse practitioners go into family practice— and advanced practice nurses receive lower salaries than doctors. Physicians have drifted from family practice in part because they seek better pay, which seems fair, Stanik-Hutt says. “It takes a longer time to train physicians—four years of medical school and then residencies—so let them go into cardiology or such specialties farther downstream.” In today’s typical general practice, a group of physicians sees patients, assisted by one or two nurse practitioners or physician assistants. Flip the model, say nursing advocates. Create practices staffed by a group of advanced practice nurses with one or two doctors available for consultation. “We are trained to pass along those patients that we know we’re not qualified to treat. Most physicians who work with nurse practitioners know that,” Stanik-Hutt says. Twenty states, including Maryland, allow such models. Nurse practitioners can see patients and prescribe medications without a physician’s oversight. But varying state regulations complicate things. For example, Stanik-Hutt can write a prescription in her Maryland cardiology practice, but her patient may not be able to fill it if he sends it to a mail-order pharmacy in a state such as Florida, where pharmacists can only fill prescriptions written by physicians. Stanik-Hutt says the simmering issue is about to boil over. “Look at the impending numbers, all the baby boomers who are aging, the technological advances that are keeping people alive longer, the increase in chronic illnesses like diabetes, the epidemic of childhood obesity. We’ve got to empower people; teach them how to improve their health; help them stop smoking, become more active, lose weight. We’ve got to get ahead of this.” —Lisa Watts
A p p l i e d P hy s i c s L a b o ra to r y
he gumshoe work of disease tracking, known as epidemiology, has gotten easier in the United States as comprehensive databases have come online and local health agencies have linked via an extensive computer network. Chances are, if a new strain of flu breaks out in California’s San Bernardino Valley, cities around the country will know about it almost at the same time as California state health officials. How can health professionals Poorer countries aren’t so in developing nations get lucky. They usually have ahead of outbreaks of dengue little cash to monitor outbreaks electronically, and fever, tuberculosis, and other with only a few health diseases without undergoing outposts scattered about an expensive Western-world the hinterlands, they wiring job? lack the ability to convey information quickly. This dearth of rapidly accessible data has led global health officials and even the U.S. military to ask: How can health professionals in developing nations get ahead of outbreaks of dengue fever, tuberculosis, and other diseases without undergoing an expensive Western-world wiring job? After nearly five years of rolling out and testing a new software program, scientists at Johns Hopkins’ Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) say they have developed an effective way to perform such low-cost disease sleuthing. Called the Suite for Automated Global Electronic bioSurveillance, or SAGES, the program enables governments in developing countries to tap existing basic communications systems to get the word out about diseases before they become full-fledged epidemics. What’s more, the program is free. The cost to outfit a health agency with the technology is paid for by the U.S. Department of Defense, which has an interest in maintaining the health of its farflung soldiers. (The U.S. military encouraged APL to develop the program and paid much of the $5 million to do so.) The emergence of SAGES comes at a time when global worries about contagion are on the rise. Because transportation networks crisscross virtually every part of the globe, connecting more and more people at faster and faster clips, diseases travel across borders much more rapidly than they once did. International security groups and militaries worry that epidemics could destabilize countries, which would have a negaJohns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
tive impact on global security. The World Health Organization (WHO), reacting to the 1,100 epidemic events that have occurred globally during the last five years, recently instituted new guidelines that highlight the need for countries, even relatively poor ones, to communicate clearly and quickly about the course of outbreaks. “The solutions we’re trying to implement are very low-tech,” says Sheri Lewis, the project director at APL who supervised SAGES’ development. Trained as a public health scientist, Lewis has worked alongside biostatisticians, computer engineers, and information technologists at APL to hone the program. “We’re trying to do this on a shoestring and demonstrate the advantages to people on the ground,” Lewis adds. “We know we’ve succeeded when we have a champion in that country who will take the program and run with it. In effect, we set it up and then hope we’ll soon be out of a job.” The program works like this: A laboratory run by the U.S. military invites the APL crew in. APL then sends a public health scientist to assess which diseases and illnesses a country might want to monitor. An information technology spe26 Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
cialist will also make the trip to see what kinds of communications connections can be made, given the tech capacity of the area or country. While developing the SAGES pilot program in the Philippines’ Cebu City in 2007, APL staff noted that the health agency there used patient logbooks to track health trends. It helped the agency digitize those records so they could be compiled and accessed electronically. The team also discovered that Filipinos are avid users of text messaging. So it tailored an information relay system using social media. “We found that we could use texts effectively and very inexpensively,” says Lewis. “That came in handy each June or July, when dengue becomes a big problem there.” By constructing a network of texting and data-gathering health professionals, the APL team gave Cebu City and surrounding areas a chance to get ahead of disease outbreaks, Lewis adds. “It’s helped them understand where they need to respond,” she says in regard to dengue, which is spread by mosquitoes. “Once they have the [outbreak] info, they can tell people to make sure there is no standing water in discarded tires [where mosquitoes can breed] or to be on the lookout for symptoms. Local governments might consider spraying the area with pesticides. There’s a lot that can be done with good information.” Since the pilot project was finished in 2008, SAGES has been adopted by local or regional governments in Cambodia and Peru. Programs will be introduced in Cameroon, Djibouti, and Nicaragua in 2012. Many other countries are asking about the program, Lewis reports. In addition to the information-gathering methods practiced in Cebu City, APL has set up systems whereby health professionals can enter epidemiological data, such as symptoms exhibited by certain patients, on a phone touch pad and then relay that information to other regional health centers or a central ministry of health, where the information is collated and analyzed. In other cases, APL has worked to give agencies the ability to monitor over-the-counter sales of drugs and thermometers—often the first sign of an influenza outbreak. Countries can use SAGES to meet the WHO guidelines, though there is no requirement to use the program for that purpose. “The biggest concern is getting an early lead on emerging infectious diseases,” says Lewis. “The goal is to move the timeline to the left—to recognize the spread of disease as early as possible, so those countries can do something to stop it.” —MA
A knock on the head, and jazz in wartime Paris
Precocious normally isn’t a word associated with a septuagenarian. But if life’s twilight years are a second childhood, perhaps the sprightly reveries of an aging novelist recovering from a bump on the head might veer into a kind of childish precocity. George Irving Newett, the 77-year-old novelist narrating John Barth’s Every Third Thought: A Novel in Five Seasons (Counterpoint, 2011), suffers the aforementioned trauma on his 77th birthday, one year after a tropical storm destroyed the community where George and his wife, Amanda Todd, lived on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. That storm hit on the 77th anniversary of the 1929 stock market crash, and Newett, a self-professed “old fart fictionist” of the postmodern variety, views the numerical parallel of the events as no mere coincidence. That’s not all that Newett sees, nor the last of Barth’s parallels and layers. Barth, A&S ’51, ’52 (MA), a retired Writing Seminars faculty member, has long been literature’s imp, mastering storytelling styles and structures only to pull at their seams to expose the author lurking in the background. And in Every Third Thought Barth infuses the novel with Shakespeare—the title is cribbed from The Tempest—much as he steeped his 1973 National Book Award winner, Chimera, in folktales and myths. After his tumble, Newett has a series of seasonal visions—fall, winter, spring, summer—that inspire him to leaf through his life and memories, each a set of stories that often search for a reliable narrator. One dependable source may be Newett’s childhood best friend Ned Prosper, who also became a writer, and who may have started a novel called Every Third Thought. Perhaps there’s something in that manuscript that could inspire Newett to craft his own “great American goddamned novel.” Perhaps he could even appropriate that text a bit. As Newett notes, “By the October of one’s life as a reader, writer, and professor of literature, what hasn’t been said already?” For all of its belletristic gambits—the Shakespearean allusions, the near constant wordplay, the almost annoying alliteration addiction—what stands out brightest in Every Third Thought is an intimate and enviable portrait of life partners.
Barth’s Newett and Todd aren’t merely husband and wife—they’re each other’s best editor, the ideal audience for jokes, the perfect travel companion, the with-whom-thepizza-is-shared, the without-whomnone-of-this-matters. And over its forked path, Every Third Thought eventually becomes a streamlined, devastating story of moving from those robust years when you take stock of first times to wondering if this moment could be a last, and it does so with a tireless conviction that language has the capacity to animate every step of life’s cruel slouch toward its end. Nazi-occupied Paris is no place for Hieronymus Falk, the center of Canadian writer Esi Edugyan’s second novel, Half-Blood Blues. The French distrust him because he’s German, and the Nazis won’t accept him because he’s the biracial son of an African man and a German woman. The preternaturally gifted jazz trumpeter had fled decadent 1930s Berlin for Paris with two African-American friends once it became clear the Nazis weren’t exactly into black jazzmen and the affluent Jews they palled around with. Now, as Paris empties and the Germans draw near, Falk’s biggest threat may be somebody he considers his best friend. Edugyan, A&S ’01 (MA), explores the lifelong scars of being black in Nazi-occupied Europe through Sidney Griffiths, the bass-playing Baltimorean who narrates Blues’ harsh tale. In 1992, widower Sid is convinced by his old friend and bandmate Chip to take part in, and eventually return to Berlin to see, a Falk documentary, which catalyzes Blues’ leaps through time to reveal the wartime stress and petty jealousies that shaped their lives. Picador releases Half-Blood Blues in the United States in early 2012. The novel has been shortlisted for no less than the Man Booker Prize and recently won the Scotiabank Giller Prize, awarded annually for the best Canadian novel or short-story collection written in English. —BM Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
Wholly Hopkins Students
Interns learn from rougher lives
he corner of Baltimore and Gay streets in downtown Baltimore offers a curious slice of urban life. The 10-story Baltimore Police Department headquarters intimidates the intersection from the northeast corner. On the street’s south side a small pawnshop offers to buy “anything of value.” To the west slinks what remains of Baltimore’s red-light district—a once thriving bustle of burlesque houses, now a single stretch of strip clubs and adult bookstores. Locally infamous simply as “The Block” and popularly considered a haven for prostitution, drugs, and unseemly behavior of all stripes, it’s where Johns Hopkins University undergraduate Anita Ram spent some of her summer vacation. “That was my favorite part,” Ram says. The senior pub-
lic health major spent time on The Block through the Baltimore City Health Department’s Needle Exchange Program, which was Ram’s placement organization in the inaugural eight-week paid summer internship coordinated by the Johns Hopkins Center for Social Concern. The Johns Hopkins Community Impact Internships program (CIIP) pairs undergraduates with local, social service nonprofit, and government agencies. The students’ time is paid for by an anonymous gift that funded 25 interns in 2011 and will fund 50 per year thereafter. Abby Neyenhouse, the Center for Social Concern’s summer internship coordinator, recruited the local organizations, seeking those that could work with students on directed projects. The goal is to give students practical experience in the social services industry. Ram relished that embedded situation. “Thursday nights, we went to The Block—I don’t know if you’ve heard of The Block,” she says conspiratorially. “A lot of the dancers, they
A concise field guide to J. Hopkins
hen using an online newsfeed to stay abreast of every possible story about Johns Hopkins University, it helps to account for spelling vagaries. Sometimes you learn something in the process. Case in point: This fall, three different J. Hopkinses were making news in three very different fields. So just to avoid any future confusion, here’s a quick-reference guide to help you distinguish the “Johns Hopkins” from the “John Hopkins” from the “Jon Hopkins.”
British music producer
American motorcyclist who competes in the British Superbike Championship and the international MotoGP race series.
Maryland entrepreneur and philanthropist whose bequests started Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Age: 78 when he died December 24, 1873
Age: 32 Recent tweet: “Walking around Rome. Amazing to think it was built in just a day.” Awards: Diamond Mind, his collaboration with singer King Creosote, was nominated for the 2011 Mercury Music Prize, awarded to the best album coming out of Ireland or the United Kingdom. Movie appearances: Collaborated with Brian Eno and musician Leo Abrahams for the score to Peter Jackson’s 2009 film The Lovely Bones. 28 Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
Recent tweet: “Really looking forward to getting home to S.D. & having my finger fixed! Feeling of screws protruding through the skin is not the greatest!” Awards: Missed out on becoming the first American ever to win the British Superbike Championship in October by 0.006 of a second. Movie appearances: Appeared in the 2003 MotoGP documentary Faster.
Recent tweet: “This is NOT a typo: Johns Hopkins 83, Gettysburg 21.” Awards: 36 Nobel laureates Movie appearances: Parts of the Homewood campus subbed for Harvard University in David Fincher’s 2010 film The Social Network.
came, and we would give them condoms and exchange needles. We partner with a community organization called STAR—that stands for Sisters Together And Reaching—and they do most of the reproductive health services. So we also test for STDs. We give out birth control and test for HPV and certain other reproductive health issues and things like that.” Raised mostly in Baltimore’s suburbs, Ram admits she didn’t know much about the city and its attendant issues growing up. During her freshman year she participated in research studying the cognitive function of heroin addicts at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. That was her first encounter with drug addiction. This summer, she gathered and tracked data about HIV and syphilis rates among the needle exchange clients and interviewed them about drug use and interactions with local law enforcement. The goal of the program is to reduce harm, especially transmission of HIV and hepatitis C. To that end, Ram prepped and passed out harm reduction kits. “You’ve got these cookers and cotton, which you use to soak up the drug,” she rattles off, opening up the kit—a common plastic bag—to rifle through its contents. “And you’ve got alcohol preps. And we require that they bring their dirty syringes bundled up in fives so we can count them easily, so we give them rubber bands. And we give them bleach to clean the needles if by any chance they do need to reuse them for themselves. And distilled water, too.” Ram was attracted to CIIP for the field experience, but it proved to be more than a summer job. “When I first started, it was like, I’m not used to this,” Ram says. “I’m clearly out of my element. [But] I was learning how to interact with people of different backgrounds. And just being in a different environment than what I’m normally used to and what I’m comfortable with is a very eye-opening experience. I loved it.” Other CIIP interns were partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union to work on education reform, the Greater Homewood Community Corporation to create internal databases, and the Baltimore City Health Department’s Carrera “Mi Espacio” Program, working with immigrant youth. Danielle Lohan, a junior public health studies major, worked with The Samaritan Women, a faith-based nonprofit that helps women, and learned far more than she ever expected about human trafficking. Lohan compiled a large database of shelters for sexually exploited women and also participated in Sunday outreach excursions, where the organization consulted with at-risk women in southwest Baltimore. Dur-
Now we k n ow …Analysis of 60 years’ worth of data from the Chesapeake Bay indicates that the nation’s largest estuary has become healthier. The study found that annual dead zones—vast areas of water so oxygen starved they cannot support life—have been diminishing since the 1980s due to efforts to reduce the flow of pollutants into the bay. The study appeared in the November issue of Estuaries and Coasts; lead author was Rebecca Murphy, a doctoral candidate in the Whiting School of Engineering. …Standard surgery for removing a tumor at the base of the skull involves slicing through the face and removing bone, which can cause disfigurement. A new technique developed by Kofi Boahene, an assistant professor in the School of Medicine, exploits a natural opening between jawbone and cheekbone to access tumors from inside the cheek, without need of a facial incision. The operation results in faster recovery, fewer complications, and no scarring. Boahene published details in the October issue of The Laryngoscope. … A study of a racially integrated low-income neighborhood in Baltimore found that health disparities usually linked to race may be more strongly related to the socioeconomic conditions where people reside. Co-author Darrell Gaskin, associate professor in the Bloomberg School of Public Health, said in a press release, “When whites are exposed to the health risks of an urban environment their health status is compromised similarly to that of blacks, who more commonly live in such communities.”The research was led by Thomas LaVeist, director of the Hopkins Center for Health Disparities Solutions, and appeared in the October issue of Health Affairs. …The process by which free radicals damage cellular components in the human body is called oxidative stress. Research by School of Nursing assistant professor Sarah Szanton has found that African Americans who report more frequent racial discrimination also have higher levels of oxidative stress. Springer’s International Journal of Behavioral Medicine published the study online in September. —Dale Keiger, A&S ’11 (MLA) ing these outreach missions, Lohan confronted the socioeconomic divide that separates young women in the same city. She recalls thinking, “I’m in my safe little Johns Hopkins bubble and you’re over there with your hypodermic needles in the streets.” Lohan confessed that she didn’t know anything about human trafficking before she went to Samaritan Women. Jeanne Allert, its director, passed her reams of information that Lohan devoured during the internship’s first week. “I can definitely see myself continuing along the lines of [working with] human trafficking,” she says. “I got credit to do an independent study with them for next semester. So I’m going to be there next semester and if I can wrangle it I’ll be there for the spring as well. This is probably going to be my only volunteer activity from now on.” —BM Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
Forgetting of Things Past Researchers begin to unravel why our memory fails us—and how to make us forget when we need to.
By Michael Anft Illustration
30 Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
ou park your car. You lock it up, grab your bag from the trunk, and head into work. As you do, your brain quietly gets in high gear, racing like it’s in the Indy 500. Even though it seems you’re hardly thinking about where you activated your parking brake, nerve cells in your gray matter, in a region called the entorhinal cortex, are chattering about it. Those cells, called neurons, send chemical compounds across synapses, the empty spaces between cells. Once across the gap, the compounds, known as neurotransmitters, bind to receptors on the surface of the receiving cell, sending news that your Lime Squeeze Ford Fiesta is on the pothole-scarred second floor of the garage, on the side that leads back out toward the exit, the one with the view of the water. The “message” sets off a chain reaction that chemically changes neurons into ones that remember. One nerve cell can make connections with 10,000 others, so news of your humdrum, workaday parking experience excites your memory centers in an instant, shuttling signals from
Johns Hopkins Magazine â€˘ Fall 2011 31
the entorhinal cortex to a small channeling area called the perforant pathway. The trail of neurochemical bread crumbs ends, temporarily at least, in a central brain outpost called the hippocampus. A memory of your morning parking spot parks itself there. If you were to stay at work for a couple of weeks, the memory might travel even further, to the brain’s neocortex, where it would be stored for long-term use. But after just a long day that leaves you hungry, stressed, and tired—all states that can be the enemies of memory—your healthy hippocampus nonetheless remembers. In the dentate gyrus and CA3, wee parts of the hippocampus, neurons fire, calling up associations (the water view, the pockmarked second floor) that will lead you back to your car. With nearly no conscious effort from you, your brain’s circuitry has told you where to go. We rely on this system of instant recall hundreds of times every day. It reminds us of things large and small—anniversaries, appointments, how to do our jobs. And even in an age when we outsource much of our memory to our digital appendages—our computers, electronic calendars, and mobile phones—we call upon our analog, though hardly low-tech, memory centers more than ever, as the world presents us with more and more things to remember (including those blasted passwords). Chasing our memories often takes time, and even if our brains are fine-tuned, we’re not always as successful as we’d like to be at it. If you add up the hours we spend each year tracking down things we’ve mislaid or otherwise forgotten about, we’re talking days, perhaps even weeks, sucked away into the gaps in our memory. Forgetfulness can mean more than inconvenience and frustration, however. If we lose our network of memories—of whom we relate to, where we’ve been, our predilections, our past—we lose something else: our selves. Imagine who you’d be if the pathways to your hippocampus had begun to break down. What if the synapses didn’t connect, short-circuiting the system that keeps you sensible and sentient? Who would you be without the reminiscences that unfold the narratives of your life? Memory can present us with other shocks. Imagine just the opposite of the previous scenario: recollections, in the form of neurotransmitters and receptor chemicals, that have burned their way into neurons not just in the hippocampus but the amygdala, the brain’s house of horrors, during a traumatic event. The quality of your life would be dashed by constantly recalling those memories—ones you can’t shake—forcing you to relive a crystalline moment of utter terror. Memory, like forgetting, can incapacitate. Although research scientists who track down memory have hardly unmasked all facets of its nature, they 32 Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
have unlocked a storehouse of secrets during the last 25 years, firing off discoveries at an unprecedented rate. Those breakthroughs have given us more clues as to how and why we remember, the indispensable role memory plays in learning, and how disease nixes or amplifies how we recall things. Faced with the urgency of a growing number of Alzheimer’s disease sufferers and aided by the federal grant money that has swelled along with it, scientists who study the brain at the cellular and molecular level say that studying how disease short-circuits memory has led them to new insights into how our brains call things up. Many researchers, including several at Johns Hopkins, have begun to move beyond the ABCs of recollection, offering potential treatments or the prospect of new drugs that could help us hold on to remembrances of things past and erase memories that are so painful they can harm our mental health. With the help of emerging high-tech machines and computer software that allow them to watch how the wheels of the brain turn, researchers say they are much closer to answering a question that has so far stumped an aging nation, as the number of people with Alzheimer’s disease has climbed above 5 million: How can we maintain mindfulness?
ou park your car. You lock it up, grab your bag from the passenger seat, and head into the grocery store. As you do, your brain tries to record where your car will be when you get back. But its old failsafe mechanisms have become worn down over time. In your brain, the connections between the entorhinal cortex and the hippocampus have grown tenuous. Later, when you roll your grocery cart outside, you freeze, terrified that you’ve drawn a blank as to where you left your car. Your brain tries to ramp itself up—activity levels in the hippocampus increase. Yet for all of that extra brain work, all you’re recalling are older memories of where your car is—or was. Information that would otherwise be transmitted across synapses never made the leap. Your brain never fully registered the spot you pulled into, leaving you embarrassed and fretful. You could be suffering from mild cognitive impairment, a disorder that can precede full-blown Alzheimer’s. Or you may have Alzheimer’s itself, in which case you will eventually have trouble not only locating your parked car but, as time passes, remembering its make, what it looks like—even what a car is. To understand how this happens, scientists at Johns Hopkins run three-dimensional functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, brain scans on older people. On a memorably hot summer morning at the Johns Hopkins– affiliated Kennedy Krieger Institute, Arnold Bakker, A&S ’11 (PhD), conducts an fMRI on a 65-year-old woman
with symptoms of mild cognitive impairment—forgetfulness, a decreased ability to take in and retain new information. After he eases her into the center of a stateof-the-art 3 Tesla MRI machine—which he calls “a $3 million doughnut”—he shows her a series of pictures that test her ability to separate one pattern from another, a key to creating new memories. Bakker, an assistant professor of psychiatry, peers in at a computer image of the woman’s brain. “This slightly curved structure in the center”—he points to a semi-rectangular region two inches long—“is the hippocampus.” The machine scans the blood and glucose activity in certain parts of the brain as study participants try to separate new, old, and similar images from one another. Those scans will tell researchers a lot about how well their subjects’ memory systems are working. When memory circuits hum along, they quickly pile up enough information to allow us not only to recall things but to learn. They exemplify the neuroscientific concept of plasticity—our brains’ ability to grow and change. “Memory is a change in the strength of synaptic connections,” says Michael Yassa, A&S ’02, ’05 (MA), an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. “It allows us to build knowledge.” But as synapses in aging brains weaken, absentmindedness follows. Information is less likely to travel across adjacent neurons. In particular, the perforant pathway, which connects the hippocampus to the rest of the brain, breaks down, leading to memory loss. Although the answers subjects give during fMRI tests could be used to confirm a diagnosis of cognitive impairment or Alzheimer’s disease, researchers aren’t primarily interested in individual cases. The study aims to compare the efficiency of the memory centers of those who are having problems with others who aren’t. “For us, it’s not so much the answers that they give as how their brains respond to stimuli,” says Bakker. Yassa—who has conducted a similar ongoing study for the past two years—says that younger people can readily sort out the different categories of images. But in people age 60 to 80 with healthy brains, the hippocampus showed activity consistent with the “already seen” images when participants were shown new pictures that were slightly different from ones they had already seen. Their brains didn’t create new memories of the new, if only slightly novel, images. “They fell for our trick,” says Yassa. “That’s partly because, with age, hippocampal plasticity breaks down.”
Until a decade or so ago, neuroscientists thought that people lost their capacity to remember as they aged because of the death of neurons. But researchers at Johns Hopkins and elsewhere found that cell death is not the culprit, at least not initially; loss of synaptic function is. “Cells don’t die, but they lose their ability to communicate with each other,” Yassa says. “As you lose the connections between the hippocampus and the rest of the brain, the hippocampus becomes isolated and memory starts to fail.” What’s more, in memory-challenged brains, a particular region in the hippocampus called CA3 creates its own interference, emitting more electrical and chemical activity when we try to recall something. This makes it harder for new information to stick. “It’s like a synaptic
Who would you be without the reminiscences that unfold the narratives of your life? feedback loop,” says Yassa. “There’s this clutter. The more activity there is in CA3, the more interference there is.” The problem for memory is that clutter in the hippocampus leaves it stuck in retrieval mode—it tries repeatedly to get at an old memory instead of doing what it is supposed to do: create new ones. Its ability to separate similar patterns wanes. “The clutter won’t let the hippocampus listen to the new information,” Yassa explains. When synaptic function breaks down in people who suffer from disease, such as Alzheimer’s, the death of neurons in the hippocampus follows. Eventually, neurons in the brain’s other memory centers—the amygdala, cerebellum, and cortex, among others—die as well. The result is a steep downhill fall with no cure or treatment. That phenomenon was first noted during observations of rats made by Michela Gallagher, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at the Krieger School. Gallagher has studied the nature of memory in rats, mice, and humans for the past 25 years, creating a rat study model that is used by memory and learning researchers around the world. In the 1990s, she became one of the first scientists to note that neuronal death wasn’t likely to be the initial cause of memory problems. Bakker and Yassa, onetime students of Gallagher’s, are now her colleagues. Besides trying to get at the basics of memory, the duo is investigating whether a Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011 33
potential remedy for forgetfulness discovered by Gallagher might calm an excessively busy hippocampus and possibly stave off brain disease in the aged. By repurposing an epilepsy drug called levetiracetam for use in people with the earliest signs of impaired memory, Gallagher and her research mates hope to forestall the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s. A small study conducted early this year found that people with mild cognitive impairment remembered significantly better when given low doses of levetiracetam. Each year, 15 percent of people diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment go on to develop Alzheimer’s. The early results, which Bakker and others are now trying to replicate in studies involving larger groups of people, could prove to be groundbreaking. In the case of Alzheimer’s, postponing its arrival is enough to spare many the ravages of it, as people die of other unrelated causes. “There’s very strong evidence that if you could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s by even one or two years, you could save people a lot of pain and society a lot of money,” says Richard O’Brien, an associate professor of neurology at the School of Medicine. “We don’t need a home run, an outright cure. We just need a solid double, something that delays the onset.” As a clinician at the Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, O’Brien regularly sees people each year suffering from memory loss. It pains him that medical science has yet to come up with an answer, or at least some glimmer of hope. “What we’re giving people now is junk,” says O’Brien. “We’re really educating families, not treating patients.” Pharmaceutical companies have spent billions of dollars in recent years on drugs that boost a key neurotransmitter for memory, called acetylcholine, and others that attack the beta-amyloid plaques and tau proteins that tie memory up in neural knots. But they have yet to hit on a drug that could do more than mildly improve memory for a few months. Making things even more complicated is an emerging theory that views beta-amyloid and tau as signs of an aging brain and not necessarily of Alzheimer’s. Seven in 10 people whose autopsied brains contained plaques and tangles had never shown outward signs of dementia. In the last two years, drug makers have run into a wall, with five major potential treatments flopping in clinical trials. Finding a remedy for brain diseases has always been difficult. Any drug that would involve the brain costs more to develop and takes years longer to test than drugs that treat other parts of the body because the effects of drugs on the human central nervous system take much longer to measure than, say, the effec34 Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
tiveness of antibiotics. Would-be brain drugs are also more closely scrutinized by federal regulators than most other types of drugs because of the harm they can do. The thorniness involved in developing drugs to treat the brain has left many companies tackling Alzheimer’s with serious financial problems. Some have dropped out altogether. “It might take 20 years to do a study to see how an anti-Alzheimer’s drug might work,” says O’Brien. Other studies only hint at nonmedical methods for lowering the odds of coming down with Alzheimer’s. Some have shown that exercise can make a difference in reversing the brain plaques that attend Alzheimer’s—but only in mice. While long-term exercise may help humans avoid the disease, it may not help people once they have already begun developing it—perhaps 10 or more years before symptoms show up. “I joke with my patients that if they were mice I could cure them,” says O’Brien. “The mood in this field is very dark these days.” Johns Hopkins scientists combat Alzheimer’s from a number of angles. Pathologists dissect the brains of people who have participated in the Baltimore Longitudinal Aging Study for clues as to why, for many, the capacity to remember disintegrates. Long-term studies involving the children of people who suffered from Alzheimer’s look at the disease from a genetic angle. Other researchers investigate ways to help the families of Alzheimer’s patients, or test existing drug treatments and the effects of exercise, or look into whether the disease can be pinpointed early on using a collection of biomarkers. But no approach has created the buzz that Gallagher’s work has. Because she is testing a drug that has already been approved for use in treating epilepsy, even skeptics are guardedly hopeful. Because levetiracetam has already been federally OK’d for one use, it should take a considerably shorter time to test the drug’s effect against memory loss in humans—and, if proven safe, get it to market. People with epilepsy have experienced few problems with the drug at much higher dosages than Gallagher’s subjects were given. A concurrent study using the same antiseizure drug—conducted recently by a University of California, San Francisco, researcher— found that it works to reverse memory loss in mice bred to develop a genetic form of Alzheimer’s. Gallagher has already seen the drug work in rats. “Now’s the time to do a bigger trial on humans and see if all these accumulated results add up to anything,” she says. To shepherd the drug through trials, Gallagher founded her own company. If all goes as planned, a larger drug firm will help her bankroll the costs of doing advanced human trials in the next few years, which will
likely cost millions of dollars. Gallagher also has stepped down as vice provost for academic affairs to oversee levetiracetam’s development. “There’s so much going on right now,” she says. “I was telling another researcher as we were getting some of our early results that I don’t need to skydive. Life is exciting enough these days.”
nly in modern times have we seen an explosion in Alzheimer’s cases. Medical students in the 1950s and ’60s were told they might never see one, as the disease was considered rare. Among younger patients, it still is; people 60 and younger make up only 5 percent of all Alzheimer’s cases. But as Western populations have aged, the number of Alzheimer’s sufferers has skyrocketed. Even before the days when people lived long enough to lose a lifetime of memories, humanity had reason to treasure its power of recall. We’ve long been wired by evolution to seek out rewards—food, drink— and in a specific way. It was extremely important for hunter-gatherers, for example, to know which plants were poisonous, which animals gathered where, and which creatures were capable of lethal attack. People honed these survival skills with the aid of memory. And they remembered to pass them down. Communal lore and rules of living were passed from generation to generation. As humankind marched toward civilization, brain memory continued as the lone repository of knowledge. In the days before widely produced paper and the printing press, people worked to remember huge blocks of information. In ancient Rome and during the Middle Ages people constructed “memory palaces” in their minds—imaginary buildings where they could stow away words and objects, which they could retrieve later as they mentally walked through those places to recall lines from epic poems, prayers, and speeches. So valued was memory that scholars of yore believed that only by absorbing things thoroughly through memorization could one truly learn them. The idea that memory served as a perfect audiovisual recorder persisted through the better part of three millennia. It wasn’t until the 20th century that scientists began to home in on something we now accept as fact: Memory is
Researcher Michela Gallagher may have found a way to forestall losses from Alzheimer's. imperfect. Each time we recall something, the chemicals involved in summoning it up change it a bit, funneling the memory more deeply inside the fabric of our ongoing narrative, our autobiography. Most memories also travel through what scientists call “the curve of forgetting.” Even as we remember something, our grasp of it begins to lapse until eventually it is no longer a memory. Retrieving it is an inexact science—more like an art, actually. It is a creative act, one that can tend toward the fictive. As much as we’ve evolved to trust our memory, then, we can’t rely on it entirely. This is why much of the memory we tap today exists in external appendages of the brain, such as the BlackBerry, GPS, Google, or Wikipedia. Unlike people 600 years ago and beyond, we know we can’t always trust our memories to serve us, especially when there’s so much more written down and encoded elsewhere than our brains could possibly remember. Scientists are just beginning to examine how outsourcing memory affects the way our brains develop. Within the past generation, many of us have gone from memorizing the phone numbers of family and friends to merely plugging them into our cell phones and “forgetting” them, while remembering only where we encoded them. (Machines have become extra hippocampuses.) Too often, however, memories not only remain true, they beg our psyches for attention. Especially embarrassing moments or instances when we’ve felt threatened come flooding back again and again, no matter how hard we might want to offload them onto a disk drive, or shove them off a cliff. Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011 35
ou park your car. After spending the day at work, you remember precisely that you left it on the second floor, facing toward the exit. As you use your remote key to pop the trunk so you can put your bag away, the car blows up, launching you into the concrete wall behind you. Battered and bleeding, you wonder whether you’ll live, and who is out to get you. The sensations of the scene—the obliterated car, the searing pain—trigger the amygdala, the brain’s seat of emotions, where the shock of the event will continue to resound. The hippocampus will record all those precise details. For the next 48 hours, your brain will be flooded with protein molecules called AMPA receptors (AMPARs) that will make the event unforgettable. The persistence of memory will become your enemy. Surrealistic shards of the event will live on in your fitful sleep and during unrelenting anti-reveries. What is going on? The amygdala, an almond-shaped region of the brain that sits just in front of the hippocampus, reacts to trauma with a fear response that charges the neural circuitry, while other parts of the brain work to inhibit the fear. The problem in people suffering from post-traumatic stress—about 8 million in the United States—is that the
amygdala and the lingering memory stored in the hippocampus continue to reign. “Often, therapists can modify people’s responses to traumatic events through behavioral therapy, but relapse is very common,” says Richard Huganir, professor of neuroscience at the School of Medicine, adding that the memory of the event is not completely “erased” during such therapy. “The problem is that the fear response can be summoned up long after the fear conditions have been removed.” Last year, Huganir and postdoctoral fellow Roger Clem published results of research on experimental mice, in which the duo investigated the role AMPARs play in keeping our waking nightmares alive. They found that the receptors increase during the so-called fear-conditioning period, which peaks at about 24 hours after trauma and dissipates at around the 48-hour mark. AMPARs, unlike most substances in the brain, are unstable and can conceivably be removed from cells. It’s possible that a drug could be developed to block and sweep away receptors that make fear indelible in the mind. Huganir hopes that his and other Johns Hopkins scientists’ findings on the functions of brain chemicals will lead to treatments, likely many years down the road, that
Exploring the Link between Art and Memory
36 36 JJohns ohns H Hopkins opkins M Magazine agazine • •W Winter inter 2011 2011
Courtesy of Prof. Barbara Landau
our years ago, Lonni Sue Johnson’s life story was as rich and vivid as her work. An artist of precisely detailed, often witty drawings—several had graced the cover of the New Yorker and the business page of the New York Times—Johnson also regularly bowed her viola and piloted planes. Suddenly, that story all but disappeared. One snowy day, a neighbor stopped by Johnson’s upstate New York organic dairy farm and found the usually effusive and alert Lonni Sue doing little more than staring at her computer mouse. Something was clearly wrong. After being driven to a hospital, an MRI showed that the center of her brain had been ravaged. The cause, viral encephalitis, came with a high fever that almost killed her. Although her life was ultimately spared, her hippocampus had been wiped out, along with the memories that are formed and stored there. With the help of her family, she began to rebuild her life, albeit tenuously—her grasp of events remained slippery. Johnson was totally disabled. She had to learn to walk and talk again. Much of the cultural and intellectual knowledge she once held had been erased from her
memory banks. Even Van Gogh’s Starry Night became a stranger to her. And yet, the personality of her art—the gracefully curving lines, the playful sense of humor—began to announce itself anew as she recovered. In all that lay a source of fascination for scientists. In 2009, Barbara Landau, a former high school classmate of Johnson’s in Princeton, New Jersey, heard about her case. Landau, a professor of cognitive science at the Krieger School, spoke with Johnson’s family about having Lonni Sue take part in research that would examine the effects of
viral encephalitis on brain function and creativity, and the family enthusiastically agreed. Landau and other Krieger School scientists have found that Johnson, now 61, suffers from amnesia of events both before and after her bout with encephalitis, and that she is unable to form new memories. And yet, much of her artistic skills remained intact, though she needed to be retrained in the use of a pencil and still requires encouragement to keep developing her innate skills. “One hypothesis you can make from her case is that you don’t need
will quell the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. They could include a drug given within 24 hours of an event, or possibly even later, that would fundamentally erase the fear associated with certain memories. “We’ve found that we can reactivate this window of therapeutic opportunity considerably [in mice], even seven days following a traumatic event,” Huganir says. Other diseases might benefit from the research as well. “We absolutely think the same principles we found for fear are relevant for drug addiction and possibly other neuropsychiatric disorders,” Huganir adds. Another aspect of Huganir’s work, examining the genes behind the molecular basis of memory, spotlights an emerging pathway between research into memory and forgetting. A gene called KIBRA—so named because it is expressed in the kidney and the memory centers of the brain—has been linked to fear conditioning in mammals and plays a role in regulating AMPARs. But KIBRA also works in some people to underpin the brain’s ability to change and learn—it is key to the plasticity of synapses. “KIBRA is a ‘smart gene,’ a genetic variant that about 25 percent of the population carries that allows their memory centers to perform better than aver-
a working hippocampus—a fully functioning memory—to be creative,” says Landau. Johnson’s saga is reminiscent of one of the most cited cases in the annals of neuroscience, that of “H.M.,” a young man who had suffered from epilepsy since being run over by a bike as a child. As a young adult in the 1950s, H.M. had seizures that became so debilitating that he could barely function. A neurosurgeon removed his temporal lobe, including the hippocampus, the par t of the brain where the seizures originated. After surgery, however, H.M. lost the ability to remember any new information. Like Johnson, he would forget events as soon as they happened. During the 40 years afterward that scientists studied him, H.M. never recovered his ability to make new memories. But as one researcher taught him over time how to trace the outline of a star in a mirror, he improved at it—even though he couldn’t remember ever tracing a star before. Likewise in Johnson’s case, she may be able to learn some new things, a possibility that Johns Hopkins scientists are testing. “She may be able to carry out what we call implicit learning,” says Landau.
age,” he says. “There’s some evidence that people with that variant will develop a protective measure against disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.” A recent study by Huganir and colleagues found that mice that had the KIBRA gene removed from their systems were forgetful and slow learners—an indication that the gene is vital to the maintenance of strong memory. Findings like that will help researchers navigate the developing trail that leads back and forth from the building blocks of memory to disease. For Huganir and others, this marks a new era of discovery in brain research. “For years, there has been a divide between those who studied Alzheimer’s and those who looked at memory,” says Huganir. “Now, a lot of us who work on normal memory—on the cellular and molecular workings of synapses, for example—realize that we’re talking about the same genes that Alzheimer’s researchers are. If you know how a molecular gene is affected by disease, then biologists can use that gene to experiment and see how it functions normally. It’s opened things up for us.” Michael Anft is Johns Hopkins Magazine’s senior writer for science and medicine.
Johnson’s performance on language-andsymbols tests is now being studied to see if repeated testing improves her abilities, even though she doesn’t remember taking the tests before. It’s also possible that Johnson has been able to tap into something called “nondeclarative memory” or “procedural memory”—a recall of motor skills and tasks that have been learned and retained almost automatically, such as riding a bike. Landau says she witnessed Johnson touch-typing successfully on a laptop, even though she hadn’t used a computer since falling ill. Unlike H.M., who could remember many events from his childhood, Johnson’s autobiography is missing entire chapters. She cannot remember her former marriage or the death of her father, both of which occurred before her illness. Because she instantly forgets things, Johnson continues to need help with daily activities. But what she can remember raises new questions for scientists. The virus severely damaged her left temporal lobe, where key language functions take place. Why, then, was her extensive vocabulary spared? And how can she so gracefully use word grids, like
those found in puzzle books, in her art? Is it another example of implicit learning, or something else? Cognitive scientists at Johns Hopkins will continue to monitor Johnson’s progress. In the meantime, the wall of Landau’s office in Krieger Hall provides a memory of its own: a highly stylized and meticulously drawn poster/map of downtown Princeton, created by Johnson during the early 1980s. Landau has taken it with her during stints as a student or faculty member at several schools over the past three decades. “Her art was part of the Princeton culture,” Landau recalls. “When I look at it now, I see this particular style. Lonni Sue has lost a lot of memory of herself. What’s amazing is that she still has enough of a sense of who she is to make her art.” An exhibition, put together in partnership with the Department of Cognitive Science, of Johnson’s “recover y art” hangs at Baltimore’s Walters Art Museum through midDecember. To view more images of her work, go to lonnisuejohnson.wordpress.com. —MA JJohns ohns H Hopkins opkins M Magazine agazine • • W Winter inter 2011 2011 37 37
History Nine decades of history rest in boxes at the Afro-American newspaper. By opening those boxes, student archivists have begun to shed light on thousands of underexplored lives.
oxes sit stacked in a compact room on the second story of the Afro-American newspaper’s Baltimore headquarters, just down the street from the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus. They’re standard document boxes, brown, rectangular, with removable lids. They rest on metal shelving units, nearly floor to ceiling, that line and divide the room. Every box looks the same, though each has its own unique number written on it. They consume the room. Boxes, boxes, everywhere. “This room down here contains 359 boxes,” says John Gartrell, the Afro-American archivist, as he conducts a tour of the archive. “The four rooms I showed you plus the hall cabinet plus the morgue—those are part of our general files. So, as you can see, it’s a lot.” As understatements go, that’s up there with “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” The Afro-American is one of the oldest, familyowned, continuously publishing newspapers in the country. It was founded in 1892 by John H. Murphy Sr., a former slave who earned his freedom by serving in the United States Colored Infantry’s 30th Regiment during the Civil War. It went on to publish as many as 13 editions nationwide, including one in Washington, D.C. Beginning in 1923, newspaper staff kept all the information used to create the paper’s content. These items were placed in
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envelopes that in turn were placed in boxes. The boxes sat in the Afro’s long-standing downtown Baltimore home. At some point, some of them were shipped to Bowie State University, where they sat on shelves. When the Afro relocated to its current location on North Charles Street in 1992, the archive’s entire box collection came with it. Today, the Afro’s archive occupies its own seven-room expanse in the rear of the building. That area includes what’s called “the morgue”—stacks of bound copies of the original broadsheets dating from 1909 to the 1970s. A row of file cabinets maintains an additional archive of photographs, arranged in alphabetical order by proper name or subject matter. And then there are the boxes, taking over four of the archive’s seven rooms, each box containing metal-clasp envelopes that bear terse, handwritten descriptions of their contents. Those envelopes hold a smorgasbord of 20th-century historical ephemera: newspaper clippings; personal, professional, and internal newspaper correspondence; photographs; metal engraving plates from the era of movable type presses; school surveys and reports; funeral programs; pamphlets; government reports; business documents; editorial cartoons; and more. The archive’s four rooms of boxes contain approximately 154,600 envelopes and about 1,125 linear feet of documentation—roughly four football fields in length.
all photos courtesy of the afro-american archive
By Bret McCabe
Johns Hopkins Magazine â€˘ Winter 2011 39
The full extent of just what the Afro’s archive contains has only recently been determined. In 2007, the Afro-American Newspapers Archives and Research Center partnered with Johns Hopkins University’s Sheridan Libraries Center for Educational Resources, plus the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences’ Center for Africana Studies, to create the At one time, the Afro-American published 13 editions nationwide, including papers Diaspora Pathways Archiin Baltimore and Washington, D.C. val Access Project (DPAAP), a program funded by the a box were cataloged, she’d return the box to the exact Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that hired undergraduspot from which she had gotten it. And then she’d grab ate and graduate students to write descriptions of the another box and start the process again. archive’s holdings, which were organized into a publicly “Working in the archives has these incredible highs accessible database. During the three years (2007–2010) and lows because sometimes you see stuff that is just of activity funded by the grant, 12 students from seven difso cool and you run around and you show everybody ferent institutions received an intense educational experielse—‘Look at what I found!’” she says. “But that can be ence—not just a behind-the-scenes peek into a century 15 minutes out of eight hours when you’re doing the most of a newspaper’s existence but a firsthand understanding boring data entry stuff.” of how history gets written. Hinderer, who wears the sturdy eyeglasses of somebody who spends a great deal of time sorting information, Mr. Joseph Gans, better known as “Joe” Gans, is a colis one of those multitasking academics who offer a mix of ored man and a pugilist. Mr. Gans gets more space in pragmatic expertise and academic specialty. She earned the white papers than all the respectable colored people her PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and in the state. Moral—if you wish to be noted in white her dissertation, “Making African American Childhood: folks’ paper become a fighter or a criminal. (Afro AmeriChicago, 1915–1945,” explored everyday cultural life in can Ledger [national edition], January 4, 1902) the black community. She came to Johns Hopkins in 2007 as a postdoctoral fellow to manage the DPAAP. She has istory’s raw materials, like fossils, are embeda joint appointment in the Department of History, where ded in layers of time. Consider a drawer in your she lectures on 20th-century African-American history in office desk or a hall bureau at home: Its jumbled the Center for Africana Studies. contents form a visual collage of your recent past. History Working on both the archival side and the educational/ gets written when somebody sifts through the remains interpretive side of academic history gives Hinderer parand ponders how all the pieces fit together. ticular insight to the Afro’s holdings. They tell a different Moira Hinderer knows how tedious that excavation version of African-American history than what is popularly can be. As DPAAP’s project manager, she has spent the understood and presented, she says. Wikipedia, that great last four years working with student interns doing the middlebrow reservoir of popular consensus, divides Afrigrunt work. Starting in January 2008, she would head can-American history into 14 phases: African origins, slavover to the Afro’s second-floor archive and grab a numery, revolutionary/early America, the antebellum period, the bered box off a shelf. She’d find a small desk in one Civil War, emancipation and Reconstruction, Jim Crow, civil of the archive’s overstuffed rooms, sit down, and open rights, the Great Migration and the Harlem Renaissance, the box. She’d take one of the envelopes and enter its World War I, World War II, the Second Great Migration, the handwritten description into a database. She’d open the [modern] civil rights movement, and the post–civil rights envelope to see what was inside, then make an invenera. It’s a version that chronicles African-American history tory of its contents and enter that into the database. She’d as an account of pure struggle and calamity. return the items to the envelope, close it, and put it aside. The idea that contemporary African-American history Then she’d reach for another one and repeat the prois still an evolving narrative, however, is one of the more cess—again, again, and again. When all the envelopes in
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compelling arguments made by the Afro’s archive. The archived material provides a window into underexplored lives. Hinderer says that as a teacher of 20th-century black history, she sees the value of that alternate storyline. “I have students who come into my class, and their reference point for black history starts with the world they see around them. That’s Baltimore, unemployment, economic divestment, struggle, poverty. So black history is a story of suffering, and urban. “For me, part of the problem is not to deny that but to complicate it,” she continues, and mentions the paper’s photography archive as an example. In the Afro, readers saw photos of strong African-American civic organizations and neighborhoods that weren’t being represented in other media outlets. “If you look at this visual record of this really intensive [African-American] community, then you can understand, yes, there’s this history of oppression. But even under the pressure of segregation, people are living these rich, full lives.” Such materials are a treasure trove to cultural historians who previously might not have had access to such a wide range of information from African-American life. “It’s almost like the holy grail of African-American history,” says Marilyn Benaderet, who became one of the Afro’s first full-time archivists in 2006; she left the paper in 2009 to become the preservation services director for Preservation Maryland, the organization dedicated to protecting the state’s historical buildings, neighborhoods, landscapes, and archaeological sites. “This collection gives you insight into what the everyday person was doing,” she continues, citing examples of Afro coverage that show African-Americans going to work and to church. That sounds mundane, but that’s exactly what makes such images potent: that’s not how African-Americans were being represented in dominant media at the time. “We were living under slavery and then you skip straight to Martin Luther King and we’re all marching and rioting,” Benaderet says of photos of African-Americans that appeared in mainstream publications. “But what else were we doing?” Benaderet was the Afro archivist when the DPAAP started and is familiar with its holdings. She curated historical exhibitions using materials culled from the holdings and assisted veteran Baltimore Sun columnist C. Fraser Smith in research for his book Here Lies Jim Crow: Civil Rights in Maryland, published by Johns Hopkins University Press in 2008. “I was so encouraged when Hopkins decided to become a participant in the [DPAAP] project because it opened [the collection] up to a larger community, specifically the academic community,” she says. “I think as African-American resources become more available, you’ll have more people who will be more willing to do research in the field. Years ago you may have
had a topic in mind that you wanted to research as an African-American researcher, and the volume of information you could find would not even be enough to complete a project. Resources like this are going to eliminate situations like that.” Black people make up more than 11 percent of the nation’s population, and there is no reason why colleges should not offer courses and degrees in black history, African history and culture, and the literature, sociology, and economics of the black man in America. Degrees are granted in Far Eastern studies, Russian studies, even hotel administration. Why not, then, a degree program dealing with this major aspect of American life? (Washington Afro-American, February 4, 1969)
PAAP intern Mark Mehlinger, A&S ’10, discovered firsthand how frustrating archival research can be. Now a freelance photographer and an Afro Web editor, in 2006 and 2007 he was a Johns Hopkins undergraduate international studies and East Asian studies major taking a pair of classes with Ben Vinson III, the Krieger School vice dean for centers and interdepartmental and graduate programs and DPAAP’s co-principal investigator. (Candice Dalrymple, associate dean of university libraries and director of the Center for Educational Resources, is the grant’s other co-PI.) In the fall, Mehlinger took a seminar called Discourses in the African Diaspora; the following spring he followed that with a research practicum that worked through issues raised in the seminar—specifically, how immigration could affect a city. He spent hours in the Milton S. Eisenhower Library and Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library, combing through back issues of the Afro on microfilm. “It wasn’t easy,” Mehlinger says, laughing as he recounts how he’d first do an online keyword search that pointed him toward a specific edition of the newspaper, then slowly page through the microfilm of that edition to determine if anything there addressed his research topic. “When you’re looking for such a specific thing, you’re not going to find those [key]words exactly when you’re searching through microfilm. I was able to find this and that, but there really wasn’t a lot.” So when he became a DPAAP intern in January 2008 and began cataloging the contents of Afro envelopes, he understood the value that specificity would hold for future researchers. He’d go through envelopes and come across an individual’s name in one box; in another box, he’d find an envelope labeled with a black fraternity’s letters and notice the same individual was the most socially prominent member of the organization. “So you realized these two things need to be associated,” he says. Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011 41
Recognizing, noting, and digitally archiving these horthat families used to be stronger and more cohesive, and izontal relationships is what lends the DPAAP database that those stronger family bonds curbed such urban ills its power. Historical data—an event, a person, a place— as gang membership and youth violence. “The story of has historical value and tells a story through its relationthe little girl going home to get a gun sounds like someship to people, places, and events taking place around thing you’d hear about from 21st-century Detroit or Philait. A historical fact becomes better understood through delphia, [instead of] early 20th-century New York,” Allen descriptive information surrounding that fact—an idea says. “When you see things that are similar [to what’s amplified when looking at journalism, history’s ostenhappening now] from the time when things were supsible first draft. A newspaper’s morgue becomes a kind posed to be different, [the interns] were able to see that of collective memory, but one that was determined by that’s not really what’s happening. So we were able to the point of view of the institution that published it. As a rethink some things about our own understandings of black press, the Afro-American told different stories than the quote-unquote ‘progress’ or ‘state of the black comthe mainstream media of the time. The Afro “ran hard munity’ now.” The interns’ impressions may read like news,” says Asantewa Boakyewa, a DPAAP intern and mere passing observations, but they can become seeds now an administrator in the Center for Africana Studies. that lead to rigorous scholarship. “History will be rewrit“But the editorial voice was very strong that this was supten because of what’s discovered in these archives,” says posed to be the voice of black Baltimore.” And through a Benaderet. “Historians who are coming down the line black press’s different historical record, the archive opens now will be writing different stories because of what they up different histories for exploration. In the Afro, “blacks find in this archive.” got married, blacks got PhDs, black people went to the Sometimes that history is personal. During the first theater, they were doctors,” Boakyewa says. “There was week of the DPAAP internship, the students completed a whole culture, a whole way of life that was ignored by a weeklong training in archival theory and practice and American society. It didn’t exist but in the black press.” African-American history, which included a trip to the Mary Banks, A&S ’10, another DPAAP intern who is National Archives and the Enoch Pratt Free Library. At now pursuing a graduate degree in creative writing and that time, the Pratt Library had an exhibition about the publishing arts from the University of Baltimore, was Afro installed in its lobby cases. “It was crazy,” Mehlinger interested to study news reports during segregation. “It’s remembers. “We’re in the exhibit, and one of the girls, one thing to read about it in the history books, and it’s who was also an intern, said, ‘Hey, Mark, check this out. another thing to actually see the This dude has your last name.’” articles of that time period and Mehlinger’s last name isn’t comhear testimonials,” she says. “The mon among African-Americans; people became real to me. When his great-great-grandfather was I read a textbook it can seem a Jew from Bavaria who marvery far away and detached— ried a former slave. Yet there in that was a very long time ago. a display case was a letter from But when you start seeing the African-American historian and articles, it gives you a chance to writer Carter G. Woodson to the have the people come to life as publisher of the Afro asking the real people and real stories, and editors to uphold the high qualthese were the adversities that ity of its content. It was co-signed they had to overcome.” by a few other people, including Marcus Allen, an undergradone Louis R. Mehlinger. “My pateruate DPAAP intern from Morgan nal grandfather grew up in WashState University (where he is now ington, D.C., and that would have a graduate student), remembers been his uncle, I believe,” Mehcoming across a news story about linger says. “I brought it up to my a young girl who was being bulparents and my parents were like, lied in pre–World War II New ‘Yeah, Louis Mehlinger rented out a York. She went home, got a gun, room to Carter G. Woodson in his and shot the girl who had been house.’ And I was just like, wow.” bullying her. For Allen, that story These boys were part of a voter registration At that moment, Mehlinger and others he came across con- drive in Richmond, Virginia. found a connection to something tradicted the popular assumption he had never felt before. “Balti42 Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
more is still a place where I don’t necessarily feel at home because I don’t have an extended family here,” he says. “So being in the library and seeing a piece of my own history with this newspaper that I’m working on—out of the whole internship, that was the thing that stuck with me the most. Because no one in my family knew about it, either. They knew about my great-uncle knowing Carter G. Woodson, but they didn’t say, ‘Oh, you’ll probably come across him in the Afro archive.’” That experience—that personal moment of interacting with the past—is a unique engagement with history that the archive offers. “There’s a great pedagogical potential here to develop courses that are not just going to discuss African-American history but are going to push the envelope and frontiers of what we know about that history,” Vinson Readers of the paper found an African-American urban culture says. “Because what’s in the archive is so new, so and way of life ignored by the white press. fresh, and really asks new questions of the past that we haven’t asked before. “History comes down—it has an opinion, it’s a explore its classroom potential, but all future plans are deliberate reading of the past,” Vinson continues. “I want dependent on funding. us to keep in mind as we’re starting to make these moves The ultimate goal is to make the archive accessible toward this post-racial America that I think a project like to the community at large. “The stories that the interns this really keeps us anchored in the past and how we get told of how they felt as they opened up files and saw letto where we are. I think this is an important project that ters from individuals to other individuals trying to force doesn’t let us forget the steps and missteps that have been certain kinds of civil rights activities, for example, they’re taken along the way.” And the Afro archive “opens up the there as history is being created,” Dalrymple says. “It’s multiple possibilities of that rendering of history,” Vinson a visceral experience. We want other kids to have that. adds. “And I think that’s an important lesson. These stuHere’s what they wrote. No one’s going to interpret that dents were giving order to experience. And I think the for you. You look at those words and you see what you students who were able to participate in that certainly felt think these people were saying and why they were saying the gravitas of that, but I think we can harness that and it and you start to interpret it.” through this project actually teach it.” Those are merely the first steps in exploring this vast Dalrymple and Vinson hope to demonstrate that ocean of primary sources. People’s sense of history gets educational potential with DPAAP’s next phase. Hinshaped and molded every day. And often that does not derer is leading a spring 2012 undergraduate seminar mean reconsidering what has already been told, but getthat aims to get students to explore the Afro archive ting a glimpse of a vast array of histories still to be writand develop their own research exhibitions using the ten. “The way I look at it, this place, we are the custodimaterials. Tom Smith, a 2011 graduate of the Krieger ans of about three or four different lineages of history,” School, has designed an open-sourced robot scanner Gartrell says. “There is the history of the paper itself that that he aims to use to digitize 20,000 images from the came out every week. Then there’s the history of what Afro’s archive over the 2011–2012 academic year. And went into creating that paper. Then there’s the history of though the Mellon grant has ended, the project conthe people who worked for the paper, who contributed tinues, thanks to a two-year extension funded by the to creating that paper. And then there’s the history of Sheridan Libraries, the Krieger School’s Office of the the Murphy family itself—if there was no Murphy famDean, and a Center for Educational Resources donor. ily, there may not be an Afro-American as it is today. So The Johns Hopkins–Afro DPAAP team has assembled there are a lot of layers and places that you can go as a a steering committee to help them develop 10 online researcher, and it’s not just limited anymore to what came exhibitions using materials in the archive that might be out in the paper. And that’s that layer of treasure.” of use to K–12 classroom curricula and undergraduate and graduate students over the next two years. They Bret McCabe, A&S ’94, is a senior writer at Johns Hopkins want to get teachers into the archive next summer to Magazine. Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011 43
Paying Attention toDistraction
Why is something as vital as attentiveness so hard?
friend and colleague did an interesting thing recently. He took his iPhone back to an AT&T store and departed with an ordinary cell phone. One that doesn’t have an Internet browser or email or GPS or Angry Birds or a library of his favorite 2,000 songs or pictures of his two adorable kids. He did it, he said, to get his life back from a smartphone’s siren pull on his attention. The manager of the AT&T store said that a striking number of his customers were doing the same thing—and so had he. He was By Dale Keiger fed up with the distraction. Illustration by Harry Campbell You may have noticed, on a digital screen of your own or the television or in that relic called a newspaper, that distraction has come in for much attention. Attention from parents, teachers, social critics, neuroscientists, productivity gurus. The advent and swift saturation of digital technology has prompted renewed concern regarding the importance, and difficulty, of concentration. It has also prompted a proliferation of books, articles, and websites dedicated to the problem of attention—now more commonly called “focus”—in a time of what may be the apotheosis of distraction, the Internet. There is something simultaneously contemporary and very old about this concern. Plato warned that the revolutionary intellectual technology of his day—writing—would be the ruin of the intellect, or at least the ruin of memory. By William Shakespeare’s time, the proliferation of printed texts, courtesy of Gutenberg, and Elizabethan anxiety about the mind’s capacity
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prompted the invention of portable, erasable tablets then known as “tables,” which Hamlet mentions in the eponymous play. (Author William Powers playfully refers to them as “Hamlet’s BlackBerry” in his book of the same title.) In 2011, we complain about the constant distraction of email, pausing in the middle of the complaint to check our inboxes. We applaud and admonish ourselves simultaneously for being multitaskers, we write laws to force drivers to pay attention to the highway and not text messages, we follow website links to 17 journal articles and read not one all the way through, and we buy (and perhaps even read) books like Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, and The Thinking Life: How to Thrive in the Age of Distraction. It’s not just social commentators and productivity consultants and authors who are attentive to distraction. So are neuroscientists, as they try to figure out how the brain focuses on one thing and not another, how it shifts that focus, how it remembers enough to create what we call concentration. The command that so many of us silently issue in our minds—All right, all right, all right, just pay attention—embodies a world of complications.
he Thinking Life, published by St. Martin’s Press in September, was written by P.M. Forni, professor of Romance languages in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. Forni worries that reliance on the Internet, plus the distractions inherent in constantly being connected to digital information streams—Facebook, texting—has begun to undermine deep reading, serious thought, and the ethical engagement of one person with another. “I am convinced that in order to become a deep thinker, you must become a deep reader,” he says. “I’m not necessarily claiming that we read or think less than we used to. Due to the Internet, we may be writing and reading more than we used to. The question is, what are we writing? What are we reading? And the ultimate question, what are we thinking? As we leap from one website to the next, we remain on each of them for something like 40 or 50 seconds, then there is a new slew of information, and the next, and the next again. Yes, we are thinking, but we are thinking in a very shallow way.” Text on the Internet, such as a newspaper report, magazine piece, or journal article, is embedded in what writer Cory Doctorow has aptly described as an “ecosystem of interruption technologies.” On the same page as the text, there will be links to other websites; advertisements, many of them selected by Google’s advertising algorithms as most likely to catch your eye and divert your attention; and the ever present lure of the email inbox that pings every time a new missive arrives. Says Forni, “We have this relentless avalanche of information 46 Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
that is coming our way, and we cannot begin to sift through it. The sheer size of it makes it difficult to distinguish what’s important from what’s unimportant. There is a sort of varnish of equivalence in all things coming from the Net.”
he answer seems simple enough. Need to read deeply for a sustained period of hours? Close the computer and open a book. Need to screen out distractions? Turn off your cell phone, your email, and your browser. Better yet, turn off everything electronic. Reach for a legal pad and a pen. What’s so hard? What’s so hard, according to recent research by Krieger School professor of psychological and brain sciences Steven Yantis and two Johns Hopkins colleagues, Brian Anderson and Patryk Laurent, is “value-driven attentional capture”—the potential for reward. “Anything that you do, from reaching for a drink of water up to accepting a job offer or proposing marriage, is embedded within a hierarchy of goals driven ultimately by some kind of reward,” says Yantis. The potential for reward draws our attention for obvious reasons. A drink slakes our thirst, a pork chop satisfies our hunger, an attractive person may hold the promise of sex. So we are distracted by a clinking glass, the smell of onions browning, or the cute person crossing our line of sight. Even the tiniest of possible rewards lures us. Says Yantis, “When my email chime goes off, because that’s associated with tiny amounts of reward in the past—one out of 100 emails is actually interesting—my brain has learned to pick up on that cue and say, ‘Ah, something interesting might be associated with that.’” For their experiment, Anderson, Laurent, and Yantis first had volunteers scan an array of colored circles on a computer display and find a red or green one. During this training phase, the participants gradually accrued monetary rewards, such as a nickel for every red circle they found and a penny for every green one. During the second phase of the experiment, they were instructed to look for diamond shapes among the circles. All the diamonds and circles were in various colors, but the volunteers were told to ignore that; only shape mattered now. Despite those instructions, subjects had slower response times whenever a circle appeared in red or green, meaning it had distracted the subjects from their search for diamonds. Because red or green circles had been attached to tiny rewards in the recent past, they distracted the volunteers. The research subjects all had been tested the day before the experiment to gauge the capacities of their working memories, the short-term bits of recall that do not linger long in the brain but are vital for decision making and other executive functions. The study found a cor-
relation between lower capacity and being prone to distraction. Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, calls working memory “the mind’s scratch pad,” and it is essential to the formation of long-term memory and higher intellectual ability like reasoning and creating knowledge. The amount of information flowing into working memory, known as the cognitive load, can exceed working memory’s capacity for storing and processing it. Whenever this happens it impairs learning, knowledge, and deeper thinking. This is what scares critics of the Internet like Carr. If reading a book can be likened to dripping information into working memory at the speed of reading, the Internet is more like a gallon of water dumped on us from a bucket. Scientists have determined that working memory can deal with at most a half-dozen elements at one time, possibly fewer. Carr notes that studies of people reading on the Net have found their brains are engaged in constant problem solving— evaluating links embedded in the text and deciding whether or not to click on them, for example—and exhibit divided attention. Both activities tax working memory and thus make concentrating on the text more difficult. Johns Hopkins faculty have watched laptop computers and smartphones invade the lecture hall and seminar room, bringing with them their potential to divert attention from the discussion or the lecture. And students now read online much of what they used to read on a printed page. Some faculty say that while students don’t seem any more distracted today than they were 10 years ago, coincident with the use of digital technology have come changes in reading and research habits. When someone finds a needed book in the Eisenhower Library, the other related volumes shelved with it make apparent the deep intellectual resources available for any research topic. The Internet does not make the same impression. Erica Schoenberger, a professor of geography in the Whiting School of Engineering, says of undergraduates, “They don’t know that beyond Wikipedia there’s an immense world of resources.” If they do know of those greater resources, they’ve become used to skipping around and reading fragments of texts instead of long articles or books. Krieger School history professor Gabrielle Spiegel has noticed the effect of this on doctoral students. “They are used to really small chunks of things,” she says. “A noticeable consequence is they now have greater difficulty in building a long logical argument, [understanding]
what should be subordinate, etc. It’s fairly subtle, but noticeable. I spend more time now reviewing [dissertation] outlines than I ever have in the past.” What Forni has observed of changes in undergraduates’ ability to think concerns him. He says, “The students at the top of their game are articulate and able to use critical thinking in ways as good as ever. On the other hand, students who are not at the top of the class display less ability to articulate their thinking than their peers of 20 years ago. My impression is that the gap has grown. Hopkins is Hopkins and will always have bright youngsters. But when I travel, I continue to hear provosts and deans and professors at different schools articulating the thought that the decline in the ability to engage in critical thinking is across the board and has increased.”
“We have this relentless avalanche of information that is coming our way, and we cannot begin to sift through it.”
he study of distraction is really the study of attention, because during our waking hours we are never not paying attention. When we’re distracted, we are still paying attention—just not to the task that was the previous still point of our intentional neural processing. A cell phone conversation distracts us from safe driving because we are paying attention—to the call, not to traffic and speed and staying in our lane. There is no discrete portion of the mind that could be called the “attention center.” But researchers like Yantis and Johns Hopkins computational neuroscientist Ernst Niebur are steadily learning more and more about the granular details of attention: what the neurons are up to; the interaction of components of the brain like the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus; the interplay of narrow and broad attention as you, say, concentrate on the words of this story while remaining aware that the cat just entered your peripheral vision as a breeze stirs the air in the room. Scientists are figuring out, sometimes one neuron at a time, what William James described in 1890 in The Principles of Psychology as “the taking possession of the mind, in clear and vivid form, of one out of what seem several simultaneously possible objects or trains of thought.” Yantis defines attention as the “selection of one source of sensory input for increased cognitive processJohns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011 47
ing.” Selection is the key term; attention is, in the words of Winifred Gallagher, author of Rapt, a “neurological sorting operation.” In a forthcoming textbook he is just completing, Yantis distinguishes various forms of this sorting. Divided attention lets us steer the car into the driveway while simultaneously noticing that the grass needs cutting and the kids are home. Focused attention is the sort of acute attentiveness of the batter at the plate in a baseball game. Every form of attention is selective all the time, however, because even divided attention is divided among only a few of the myriad things that our senses pick up every waking second. Attention is the filter by which we choose what to be actively aware of, what to remember, and what will guide our actions. Human powers of concentration are strong enough for us not to notice something right in front of us if we’re paying close attention to something else. This is called inattentional blindness and is central to the famous “dancing gorilla” experiment by Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris in 1999. Students were shown a film of a basketball game and told to count how many times either the team in white or the team in black passed the ball. Almost everyone in the experiment failed to notice when someone dressed in a gorilla suit strolled through the middle of the game. Focused on the basketball and the players, they were oblivious to anything else. Yet, in other circumstances, people are easy to distract. At a crowded, noisy party you could be deep in conversation with the soul mate of your dreams, but if someone else across the room in a separate conversation utters your name, that will cut through the din and instantly divert you; in 1953 researcher Colin Cherry named this “the cocktail party problem.” Says Yantis, “There’s too much information in any scene, visual stuff and auditory stuff and tactile stuff. Our brains cannot process it all at the same time. So there’s a need to select. That raises the question, Why can’t the brain process it all at once?” A simplified answer to that question is the brain may contain billions of neurons, but that isn’t enough to account for every bit of sensory information continually streaming in from the eyes, ears, nose, palate, and skin. So the brain has to marshal phenomenal yet finite resources to sift through the sensory overload and take note of what we most need to know. 48 Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
What P. M. Forni has observed of changes in undergraduates’ ability to think concerns him.
It does this in part by imposing constraints to organize all these stimuli. For example, if your eyes gaze at a garden that contains a red rose and a yellow daisy, neurons receptive to red and neurons receptive to yellow are firing in the same visual area of your brain. Neurons tuned to respond to red have to “decide” whether to fire, if you are attending to the rose, or not, if you attending to the daisy. That’s one example of a constraint. Another arises because sensory stimuli compete for a neuron’s attention, and the only way the brain can resolve the competition and so distinguish the rose from the daisy is to attend, however fleetingly, to the rose as if nothing else were there. Says Yantis, “The brain is essentially using attention as a way to have the flexibility to represent anything that could possibly occur in the perceptual world.” So attention is not just vital, it is unavoidable. But there is sound evolutionary reason for being distractible. Imagine one of our ancient primate forebears concentrating so hard on catching a fish for dinner that he fails to notice the saber-toothed cat that considers him dinner. That’s how you exit the gene pool. To function, we have to pay attention. But we also need to be distractible, for awareness of potential hazards. The same applies to awareness of potential rewards. Given that set of imperatives, look at what we face in the 21st-century developed world. Technology has created a modern environment in which we can be bombarded every minute of every day with stimuli
that all promise rewards. None of which might matter were our brains capable of switching attention at the speed of light. But they are not. The brain’s chemical and electrical processes may be very fast, but they are not instantaneous. Processing visual stimuli, then initiating a response—look, there’s your best friend coming toward you, wave!—requires a lot of neurons to fire, and the milliseconds add up. If Niebur is right, a further source of lag may be the brain’s division of labor. He and his colleagues in the computational neuroscience lab at the Krieger Mind/Brain Institute have created a computer model that seems to explain a neurological puzzle. Scientists know that different parts of the brain play various roles in attention. The prefrontal cortex, which controls executive function such as the decision to concentrate on object A and ignore object B, does not bother itself, so to speak, with the billions of details that pour in through the senses. That’s the job of the various sensory cortices, which react to whatever the senses pick up. But if I am focused on an ant that is moving horizontally across my desk, and the ant turns right and starts moving vertically, my prefrontal cortex somehow maintains my attention on the ant even though all the neurons that registered changes in the ant’s position and direction are elsewhere in my brain. How does the prefrontal cortex keep my attention on the ant even though none of its neurons fire when the ant changes direction? In a 2001 paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Niebur proposed an answer: a feedback process by which the prefrontal cortex issues commands but lets the sensory cortices fill in the details required for execution of those commands. Experiments on human subjects have produced results consistent with the model. It’s a remarkable bit of brain engineering, but this feedback loop adds still more time to the brain’s processing. What this can mean in our distracted lives was demonstrated by Yantis in 2005. He asked research volunteers to view a stream of letters and numbers on a computer screen while multiple voices recited letters and numbers through headphones placed over the volunteers’ ears. When the volunteers were instructed to switch their concentration from the visual stream to the auditory stream, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) revealed that activity in the visual part of the brain significantly decreased, even though their eyes continued to take in the same visual stimuli as before. The brain was incapable of maintaining full attention on both the visual and auditory at the same time. Furthermore, when the volunteers were asked to shift their attention, their parietal and prefrontal cortices
lit up, indicating that several parts of the brain were involved in the decision to change from eyes to ears or vice versa. That added more time to the process. Now imagine, says Yantis, that you are a man driving your car. Your cell phone buzzes, you answer, and your wife, who sounds upset, informs you that she just got home from her office and found water spreading across the basement floor. Your brain still needs to pay attention to the complex visual stimuli and motor control involved in safe driving, but it has shifted its attention to auditory stimuli—your upset wife. You are rolling down a busy highway at 60 miles per hour but concentrating on what’s coming through your phone, and probably also imagining the scene in your basement and mentally tabulating how much this is going to cost you and responding to the rising agitation in your wife’s voice, all in reaction to auditory stimuli. If a truck suddenly swerves into your path, your brain has to switch attention back to the visual and perform the executive function that controls your response—slamming on the brakes. All that neuroprocessing, fast though it is, might take too long for you to avoid a wreck.
orty years ago, decades before there was an Internet, economist Herbert A. Simon made an astute observation that now feels prescient. In “Designing Organizations for an Information-Rich World,” Simon said, “What information consumes is rather obvious: It consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.” Forni would concur. As he wrote in The Thinking Life, “A dubious accomplishment of the often misguided age in which we live is its unparalleled perfecting of the art of distraction.” To him, distraction is more than a highway safety and pay-attention-to-the-lecture problem. He believes it is also an ethical problem. He says, “Attention is essentially a cognitive faculty with a very well-marked ethical component, because to be ethical to you, I need to be attentive to your needs and desires. I need to be aware. We cannot be kind and considerate without paying attention to others. If I am distracted, you are an abstraction, you are not a real person. Attention is necessary for civility.” And a good deal else. Dale Keiger, A&S ’11 (MLA), is associate editor of Johns Hopkins Magazine. Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011 49
People do a lot of things in the name of health. Not all of them are healthful. Here are 10 practices that could do more harm than good. By Kristen Intlekofer Illustrations
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e’re bombarded with messages to be healthier—“The Top 5 Superfoods You Can’t Live Without,” “12 Tips for Better Heart Health,” “3 Surprising Natural Cold Remedies,” “8 Tips for Healthy Living on the Go.” Never before have we had access to so much sound information about health. But never before have we had access to so much unsound advice as well, and not just bizarre fad diets or other obviously unhealthy practices. Here are 10 practices that seem healthy but could be doing damage.
We’ve Got a Pill for That
he dietary supplement industry is big—a largely unregulated $27 billion business, according to Consumer Reports. Earlier this year, CNN noted that more than 50 percent of adults in the United States use supplements, which often are promoted as curealls: No matter what ails you, the right pill or gelcap can help. On The Vitamin Shoppe’s website, you can shop by health concern: Boost your immune system, age gracefully, ease joint pain, improve your sex life. Daily multivitamins are the most popular, used by nearly 40 percent of American adults. But in recent years people have begun taking large doses of specific vitamins to prevent illness—vitamin E to avoid heart disease, betacarotene to prevent cancer, vitamin C to prevent or treat the common cold. Most vitamin supplements aren’t dangerous in and of themselves, says Benjamin Caballero, a professor of human nutrition at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. Danger arises when you overdo it. “People who
believe so much in the fact that a supplement will prevent a disease, or will prevent them from aging, take really massive doses,” Caballero says. “Instead of one capsule a day, they take five or eight.” At such high doses, vitamins can turn harmful. Take vitamin C. It’s an essential nutrient that our bodies need for normal growth and development. It aids in tissue growth and repair, and it’s an antioxidant that blocks damage from free radicals. For years, vitamin C was promoted as the answer to the common cold. (Remember Airborne? It was originally marketed as a remedy to prevent colds until Airborne Inc. changed its tune after settling a multimillion-dollar class action suit for false claims. Now, the more general message, “Helps support your immune system,” graces the product’s packaging.) But not only are the benefits of megadoses of vitamin C unproven, such doses can do harm, says Caballero. “With vitamin C, where the recommendations are 75 milligrams a day, [some] people take five, six grams”—80 times the recommended dose—“and the famous Linus Pauling recommended they take 10 grams a day. And, clearly, if you Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011 51
take five to 10 grams of vitamin C every day, you have a much higher risk of having kidney stones, calcifications in your kidneys, or some other problem.” Vitamin E, an antioxidant naturally found in nuts and vegetable oils, is another example. In recent years, vitamin E supplements containing megadoses of the nutrient have been purported to prevent heart disease and cancer. But in October, a large federal study revealed that not only are these supplements not effective in preventing prostate cancer, they were likely to increase cancer risk—men who took daily vitamin E supplements increased their risk of developing prostate cancer by 17 percent. Though researchers stopped the trial when they discovered this adverse effect, cancer cases kept increasing for several years after participants ceased taking the supplements. The danger with supplements, says Caballero, is that it’s much easier to ingest a toxic amount of a vitamin by taking pills than by eating. For example, the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements reports that vitamin E supplements contain anywhere from 100 to 1,000 IU per pill. You would have to eat more than four cups of almonds to get a mere 100 IU of vitamin E. (The recommended daily intake for adults is 22.4 IU.) Additionally, in developed nations like the United States, many foods are fortified. You already may be consuming more nutrients than you think. It’s also tricky to define toxic levels. Maximum levels of nutrients haven’t been studied in depth because researchers can’t give people a known overdose just to see what will happen. It may also take a long time for adverse effects to appear. Instead, the Institute of Medicine specifies a recommended daily intake and an upper level (the maximum amount you can safely consume without adverse effects). Caballero notes, “For some nutrients, the distance between the recommended intake and the upper level is relatively narrow, maybe 4 times, 5 times. And with supplements and fortification one could potentially reach that.” Regarding the most popular supplement, the daily multivitamin, Caballero says if you take only the recommended daily dose, it’s unlikely that you’ll get a toxic amount of any one nutrient, but it is likely a waste of money. Because in a pill you are taking all the nutrients at the same time, you are creating competition for absorption in your intestines, which diminishes the vitamins’ potency. “I don’t think it’s a danger, considering 52 Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
the doses of Centrum and all these typical multivitamin supplements. It’s just [producing] expensive urine,” he says. “However, you should not assume that taking supplements gives you a benefit that replaces having a healthy balanced diet and being active regularly. To reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease or diabetes, you need years and years of healthy diet and activity. Unfortunately, that’s the way it is.”
Soy—Miracle Food or Hazard?
everal years ago, its promoters touted soy as a miracle food, a low-fat, no-cholesterol source of protein. Researchers thought it might decrease breast cancer risk, minimize the effects of hot flashes, and increase bone density in women. Then came a “soy backlash” (as one reporter described it), with people saying that not only is soy not miraculous, it’s dangerous. Soy foods are fine, but soy supplements bear watching, says Bruce Trock, SPH ’87 (PhD), director of the epidemiology division at the Brady Urological Institute. “None of the studies that have looked at just normal dietary consumption of soy foods have given any indication of risk,” says Trock. “So as long as people are trying to get their soy from the diet—eating things like tofu, soy milk, soy nuts, miso soup—I think it’s unlikely that they’re going to risk any harm from that. And there may be benefits.” A study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research earlier this year, which looked at data from more than 18,000 breast cancer survivors, concluded that women can eat soy foods without increasing their risk of cancer recurrence. But soy supplements can be dangerous, Trock says, because a lot of them are highly processed, which might actually change the biological activity of the soy product. In several animal studies, soy supplements caused an increase in tumor growth; another study found that the more processed the soy product, the more it increased the growth rate of tumors in lab animals. And with supplements, it’s possible to get individual nutrients in very high amounts and in different proportions than you would get from eating soy foods. “There’s a reason these things are called micronutrients. They’re things that our bodies need in very small quantities. And they don’t just work singly, they work in combination, so often it’s not just
the amount of an individual one that’s important, but the balance between several micronutrients,” Trock says.
any Americans could afford to drop a few pounds, or a few dozen. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 70 percent of the U.S. population is overweight or obese, and heart disease accounts for 35 percent of deaths in the United States. Although some diet plans are so obviously not good for you as to be ludicrous—the Tapeworm Diet?—other approaches seem sensible yet could be doing harm. One mistake is drastic, unsupervised dieting— a severe reduction of calories and fat. Eating less is one thing, says Larry Cheskin, director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, but “people who are dieting sometimes go to extremes. There are many people who would just starve themselves.” Gallstones are one complication from drastic weight loss and fat reduction. They happen when the gallbladder, the organ responsible for helping us digest and dispose of fat, doesn’t empty properly so that bile sits in it and starts to curdle (called “gallbladder stasis”). Although stasis usually is temporary and rarely results in gallbladder disease requiring an operation, gallstones can be painful. Following a very strict, no-fat diet and then bingeing on fatty foods can also cause gallstones. Cheskin says that for any patients trying to lose a significant amount of weight, he recommends that they take a little fat once a day (for example, nuts, salad dressing, or a piece of cheese) to stimulate the gallbladder. Other short-term complications from drastic dieting—lightheadedness, headaches, and constipation— won’t cause permanent damage, Cheskin says. Once patients return to a higher-calorie diet, these symptoms should disappear. “I don’t want to give the impression that losing weight is too dangerous to do,” says Cheskin, adding that a proper, healthy diet plan approved by a doctor is the best way to avoid complications.
Got Milk? Got an Iron Deficiency?
ow’s milk is the ‘perfect food’ for baby calves.” It’s an oft-quoted line, attributed to the late Frank Oski, former chairman of pediatrics at the School of Medicine and head of the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. Oski drew the ire of the National Dairy Council with his 1983 book Don’t Drink the Milk, in which he claimed that milk not only causes intestinal discomfort among a large percentage of the world’s population, it might also trigger certain allergies and contribute to heart disease. “There really is no nutritional reason anyone should drink milk,” Oski said. The evils of cow’s milk remain hotly contested, with some physicians—including the late Benjamin Spock— claiming that dairy products contribute to a variety of health problems while other experts defend the high calcium content and other benefits of cow’s milk. Although the jury remains out on dairy products, there’s no question that some parents are overreliant on cow’s milk as a food for young children, says Jennifer Anders, an assistant professor of pediatric emergency medicine at the School of Medicine. When toddlers make the switch from iron-fortified infant formula to cow’s milk, which contains negligible amounts of iron, they can develop iron-deficiency anemia. “If they don’t start eating a bunch of solid foods [that contain iron] and they just drink multiple bottles a day—and I’ve seen some that are drinking a gallon a day of cow’s milk—these children will be gorgeous, fat babies from a distance, but they get very pale, and they come in with extreme anemia. I have seen hemoglobin levels of 2 or 3 [compared to healthy levels of 11 or 12]. It’s almost inconceivable how they’re still alive with that small number of red blood cells and hemoglobin,” Anders says. In addition to lacking iron, cow’s milk causes irritation of the intestinal lining, so that a small amount of hemoglobin is chronically lost in the digestive tract, contributing to iron deficiency. If left untreated, severe anemia can have serious complications, eventually leading to stunted growth and even heart failure. Anders says that because toddlers who drink a lot of cow’s milk generally look well-fed and healthy, anemia can be difficult to detect. “My experience has Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011 53
been that with most of these children, the parents don’t notice anything. The child looks pretty good—he’s chubby and happy and everything seems fine. It’s usually when they go for a checkup, or some person who hasn’t seen the child for a while sees him and remarks on how pale he is, that triggers its coming to [the parents’] attention.” For now, the American Academy of Pediatrics hasn’t come down with a verdict for or against cow’s milk, though the general rule is moderation. To prevent irondeficiency anemia, the AAP recommends that young children have a diet that includes iron-rich solid foods (such as meat, fish, and certain green vegetables); the AAP also states that children should not be given cow’s milk until they are at least 12 months old. If and when cow’s milk is introduced, it should be part of a healthy, balanced diet.
Reversing the Miracle of Antibiotics
ailed as miracle drugs in the 1940s, antibiotics have indeed been saving lives for decades. Infections such as bacterial meningitis, strep throat, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and whooping cough that sickened and killed people years ago now can be treated with antibiotics. But overuse and misuse of these drugs have begun to reverse the miracle. The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that each year, U.S. physicians write 150 million prescriptions for antibiotics. This past April, the World Health Organization dedicated World Health Day to combating drug resistance, warning that continued improper application of antibiotics will exacerbate the problem of drug-resistant superbugs, bringing society back to pre-antibiotic days. “The world is on the brink of losing these miracle cures,” cautioned Margaret Chan, director-general for WHO. Without immediate action, she said, “the world is heading toward a postantibiotic era, in which many common infections will no longer have a cure and, once again, kill unabated.” As if that weren’t dire enough, superbugs aren’t the only concern, says Pranita Tamma, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. Prolonged exposure to antibiotics can lead to yeast infections, hearing loss, kidney and liver damage, or severe diarrhea from bacteria such as Clostridium difficile. In a study published earlier this year in Clinical Infectious Diseases, Tamma and her co-authors found that shortening the antibiotic courses for hospitalized children suf-
54 Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
fering from ventilator-associated tracheitis not only was effective in preventing pneumonia (a common concern for patients on ventilators), it decreased patients’ risk of infection by multidrug-resistant organisms. Although the study focused on hospital patients, Tamma says the same principles apply to antibiotic use outside the hospital, where most antibiotic use occurs. Antibiotics are effective only against bacterial infections, not viruses. Tamma says that especially with children, it can be tricky to differentiate between the two. Physicians err not only by prescribing antibiotics when they’re not indicated but by prescribing courses that are too long. “It has become sort of a knee-jerk to prescribe antibiotics for a pretty long duration of time, without necessarily thinking about whether prolonged courses of therapy are actually necessary,” Tamma says. “For most infections there unfortunately have not been randomized controlled trials comparing different courses of therapy.” Another concern is the type of antibiotic being prescribed. The broader the spectrum, the more different types of bacteria the drug can kill, but also the more harmful it can be. For example, ear infections often recur in young children, sometimes requiring several courses of antibiotics, each drug stronger than the last. “What probably happened is the bacteria were hanging out before, saw the antibiotic, got resistant to that, and now you’re forced to escalate to a broader antibiotic,” Tamma says, adding that eventually, it might come to the point where there isn’t an antibiotic strong enough to eradicate the infection. Despite the risks associated with misuse, Tamma says that patients shouldn’t be afraid of taking antibiotics when they’re warranted. “As an infectious disease doctor, I say of course they can do some wonderful things, and I prescribe them regularly,” Tamma says. “But I think the main message is we need to be careful. Even though they do have their benefits, there are definitely some toxicities associated with them if they’re not used wisely.”
Antibacterial Soap, the Overkill (Germ) Killer
ash your hands!” How many times did you hear this as a child, or tell your own children? One of the simplest ways to stay healthy is
to practice good hand hygiene. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hand hygiene is the single most important step health workers can take to prevent the spread of infection. It seems to follow that the best way to get rid of germs is to use one of the myriad antibacterial hand soaps on the market. Not necessarily, says Athena Kourtis, SPH ’03 (MPH), a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the CDC and author of Keeping Your Child Healthy in a Germ-Filled World ( Johns Hopkins University Press, 2011). As far as household use goes, there have been no studies proving that antibacterial soaps and cleaning products prevent infection better than plain soap, Kourtis says. “And that’s probably because most of the common infections in households are viral infections, and viruses will not be killed by antibacterial soaps.” These products might be doing more harm than good. Because antibacterial soaps are actually antibiotic, their overuse might promote the development of antibiotic-resistant germs—germs that could be transmitted to anyone. “Particularly with children who share toys and other objects in day care and school, where it has been shown that if one child carries in their throat, say, a germ that’s resistant to amoxicillin, then you found that even other children in day care who have not been exposed to the particular antibiotic also carry the resistant germ. So this is a problem that easily spreads across a community,” says Kourtis. “And there are other mechanisms as well. It’s not just personto-person contact. These substances get into the water, into sewage systems, into the ground. It’s a wider community problem.” Antibacterial cleaning products contain chemicals like triclosan and triclocarban, which kill bacteria. Plain soap, by comparison, is low-tech. It works by binding to dirt or other particles, making it easy to rinse these particles off with water without releasing problematic chemicals into the environment. (There has been concern recently that triclosan might become toxic when it comes into contact with sunlight, and triclocarban is a suspected carcinogen.) In situations where soap and water aren’t available, Kourtis advocates use of hand sanitizers. Many of these products contain alcohol, which makes them effective against bacteria and a variety of other microorganisms, including fungi and certain viruses such as influenza. Because sanitizers don’t contain antimicrobial ingredients like triclosan, they don’t contribute to antibiotic resistance, making them the CDC’s recommended choice for use by health care workers.
Read the Label
ver-the-counter medications seem ideal in so many ways—convenient, inexpensive, widely available, effective, and safe. And they are all of those things, provided consumers exercise the same care with dosage and frequency as they would with prescription medications. Ah, but too many people don’t exercise the same care, and they learn the hard way that OTC drugs can have some nasty side effects. Take acetaminophen (Tylenol), for instance. Consumers tend to think of acetaminophen as one of the mildest of OTC medications. After all, it’s safe for infants, children, and pregnant or nursing women. But overdosing on acetaminophen is a leading cause of liver failure in the United States. “People don’t realize that there is a daily limit to how much Tylenol you can take,” says Marian Grant, Nurs ’00, ’05 (MSN), an adjunct faculty member at the School of Nursing and a nurse practitioner. One reason that people get into trouble is that acetaminophen is increasingly included in combination medications, such as OTC medicines like Nyquil and Tylenol PM, and in prescription drugs like Percocet and Lortab. So a patient with chronic arthritis, for example, who gets the flu might be taking Tylenol or Percocet during the day, Tylenol PM at night, and then Nyquil. Grant says, “You know, if you were to do that for several days, it might be too much if you’re a person who doesn’t have the greatest liver to begin with.” Don’t go emptying your medicine cabinet—it isn’t that Tylenol is dangerous. “[Acetaminophen] is a safe medication when taken properly,” assures Grant. “In the old days when all you could get was Tylenol, that wasn’t a problem, but now that it’s in so many other things, there is a chance for people to inadvertently take too much acetaminophen.” Another common over-the-counter medication that can lead to problems is ibuprofen, the active ingredient in pain relievers like Advil and Motrin, which can cause gastric distress and ulcers if not taken with food or when taken for too long. “The boxes warn you about that, but still I don’t know how many people take these medications with food in their stomachs,” Grant says. “If you have, say, an Achilles tendon problem and you take Motrin for weeks and you don’t take it the right way, or you’re just one of those people who’s predisposed to getting an ulcer, you could be causing yourself harm and often not even know about it. It’s not like you take the pill and an hour later you have stomach pain. It’s more subtle than that.” Even a daily dose of baby aspirin—which only contains about a quarter of the dosage of an adult aspirin Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011 55
pill—can be dangerous for patients with clotting problems. “I know that the instructions are, ‘Talk to your doctor about this,’ but most people think, ‘Oh my God, it’s just a baby aspirin, I don’t have to talk to my doctor about that.’ But yes, actually, you do,” says Grant. Grant adds that most patients don’t discuss over-thecounter medications with their health care providers— either because they don’t think of it, or because there are more pressing issues. “The average visit with a primary care provider is something like six to 10 minutes. If you have an elderly patient who has three chronic issues, you are not going to be spending that time minutely reviewing every medication,” she says. Grant recommends that patients talk to a pharmacist before purchasing an OTC medicine to get information about uses and possible interactions with other medications they’re taking. She’d also like to see more patients read the accompanying drug inserts before they start popping pills.
Natural, but Not Harmless
eople take fish oil to reduce the risk of heart disease, ginkgo biloba to improve memory, flaxseed to lower cholesterol, and melatonin to help them sleep, believing that herbal or “natural” supplements must be safer than conventional medications because of the words used to describe them. Unfortunately, “herbal” or “natural” doesn’t always mean healthy—or safe—says Lori Edwards, SPH ’89, an instructor at the School of Nursing who teaches a course on complementary and alternative medicine. Edwards, although a self-described proponent of herbal products, stresses the importance of being cautious about them. Some supplements are safe and have proven clinical benefits. Others can be dangerous. Kava, an herb used to treat insomnia and anxiety, is a prime example. It was linked to liver toxicity—including hepatitis, cirrhosis, and liver failure—in 25 cases in Europe, prompting the Food and Drug Administration to issue an advisory in 2002. (Kava is still available in the United States, but individuals with liver disease or who are otherwise at risk for liver problems are advised to consult a physician before taking it.) “There is this constant assumption that if it’s natural it’s OK,” Edwards says. “[People are] not questioning the poten-
56 Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
tial interactions, the potential pathology of what they might be taking.” A more recently popular supplement, red yeast rice, marketed as a traditional Chinese remedy for lowering cholesterol, was found to contain lovastatin, the active ingredient in the prescription drug Mevacor. Edwards says, “Red yeast rice was one I had concerns about because it actually is the same chemical component as the statins”— a class of drugs used to lower cholesterol, which, like many prescription drugs, can cause problems if not taken properly. (Several red yeast rice products were withdrawn from the U.S. market in 2007 after the FDA cited risk of severe muscle problems that could lead to kidney disease.) Some natural supplements that are safe in isolation can cause harmful interactions when mixed with other drugs. For example, cranberry, fish oil, and glucosamine might increase the effect of warfarin, a blood thinner; psyllium might decrease the effectiveness of digoxin, a heart medication; and St. John’s wort has been known to decrease the effectiveness of a number of different prescription drugs, including birth control pills and heart medications. “The public I think still is not as savvy about this, and there are either the total skeptics or people who are not looking at this information carefully enough,” Edwards says. “And that’s my concern about why sometimes they may perceive it as being healthy, but without information it’s risky.”
New Wisdom about Childhood Allergies
en years ago, if a child had an allergy to milk or eggs, strict avoidance was considered the only remedy. Physicians believed that most children outgrew these allergies at an early age and that it was best to avoid all problem foods until then. But within the past five years, that wisdom has started to change. Whereas earlier studies showed that three-fourths of children outgrew their milk allergy by the age of 3, in 2007, a study conducted by the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center revealed that not even half outgrew the allergy by age 8. In a similar study of children with egg allergy, the Johns Hopkins researchers found that even fewer children (37 percent) outgrew their allergy by age 10. “We published a number of studies showing that fewer outgrow [milk
and egg allergy] than we previously thought. And that the rate of outgrowing it was a lot slower than what was shown in some studies back in the 1980s,” says Robert Wood, professor of pediatric allergy and immunology at the School of Medicine and the lead investigator of the 2007 studies. Practicing strict avoidance gets trickier as children get older—they start school, they attend birthday parties, they spend time in the homes of friends. Opportunities for exposure multiply, which can be especially dangerous for children who have severe allergic reactions. With many children taking eight or 10 years to outgrow an allergy, the wait-and-see approach no longer seemed best. What’s more, says Wood, researchers wondered if avoidance—the very practice intended to help children outgrow food allergies—might have been contributing to the problem. “We’d actually become concerned that some of our data looked worse than it might have been because we were practicing only strict avoidance when we published these studies,” he says. In the past several years, Wood says, researchers have begun taking a different tack with milk and egg allergies. New approaches, in which children are given foods containing milk or eggs that have been extensively heated (which breaks down the allergens sufficiently), have shown promise in helping some children build tolerance to those foods and outgrow the allergy more quickly. The new approach isn’t for everyone—between 25 and 50 percent of kids will have severe reactions even to the baked form of milk or eggs—but it’s represented a big change for others. “For the families who are doing this, it is sort of a life-changing concept because they go from reading every label on every loaf of bread or box of crackers, or fearing every birthday cake, to actually recognizing that their child is not at risk as long as that protein has been fully heated,” says Wood. “Literally 10 years ago, we didn’t recommend that anyone with milk or egg allergy eat that food because we thought that strict avoidance was the better way to outgrow a food allergy. In addition to making life so much easier, now it’s become more clear that having this exposure is much more likely to be beneficial than harmful.”
bin—the protein that makes up muscle cells—into the bloodstream. In some cases, it can result in temporary kidney damage (usually reversed by giving the patient fluids to help flush the myoglobin out of the kidneys). But in a small percentage of cases (5 to 7 percent), it can result in more severe complications, including arrhythmias and kidney failure. Jennifer Anders, assistant professor of pediatric emergency medicine at the School of Medicine, says she sees patients with exercise-induced rhabdomyolysis about once every year or two. “Mostly it’s been with one particular exercise, like push-ups for an hour, or a thousand sit-ups. They’re trying to really push themselves past the limit.” Many people have trouble getting enough exercise; overdoing it usually isn’t the problem. Although it’s rare, exercise-induced rhabdomyolysis can happen to anyone, even seasoned marathon runners and healthy teen athletes. “It’s really about doing something past the point when sensible people would stop,” says Anders. “The situations I’ve seen are where somebody is either being pushed by a coach or pushing themselves to impress a coach, where it’s just absurd even when they tell the story—‘I was doing push-ups for an hour and a half!’” When rhabdomyolysis is exercise induced, it usually doesn’t cause lasting damage, Anders says. “We mainly just give them a lot of IV fluid, give them enough hydration so their kidneys don’t get overburdened with myoglobin. Really once you get plenty of hydration into them and a day to rest, they’ll be back home. And then they’re going to have to rest until their muscles are much more recovered, probably a week or two until they’re back to any kind of athletic [activity].” Those gymnastics students in Taipei? Because their rhabdomyolysis was caught early, none of the students developed kidney failure and all were discharged from the hospital after receiving fluids and getting some rest.
A Crunch, a Push-up, a Mile Too Far
everal years ago, a large group of gymnastics students in Taipei were asked by their instructor to do a fitness test—120 push-ups in five minutes. Two days later, 119 of those students went to the emergency department complaining of muscle pain and dark urine. The diagnosis: exercise-induced rhabdomyolysis, a condition that can occur when vigorous, repetitive exercise causes muscle fibers to break down, releasing myoglo-
Kristen Intlekofer is assistant editor of Johns Hopkins Magazine. Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011 57
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News & Notes from our graduates and friends
Will Kirk / homewoodphoto.jhu.edu
Their first day of classes done, the Class of 2015 gathered at nightfall in the Wyman Quad as the bells in Gilman Hall’s clock tower tolled. The 15-minute candlelight ceremony known as First Night officially inducts freshmen into the Johns Hopkins student body. “Keep an open mind during your time here; learn from your peers, as well as your professors, and take
advantage of alumni mentors,” advised Affan Sheikh, A&S ’10, in brief welcoming remarks. Sheikh and the Class of 2010 are the first group of recent graduates to participate in the Bridge 5 initiative, designed to build connections between undergraduate classes five years apart. More information on the program can be found at alumni.jhu.edu/bridge5.
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Passion First, Precision Second A Sure Bet Roving the Sidelines Natural Wonders Slow and Steady in the Global Race Alumni Notes
ohns H Hopkins opkins M Magazine agazine • • W Winter inter 2011 2011 59 59 JJohns
News & Notes
from our graduates and friends
“The best medicine is for the kids to be performing all the time,” says Dan Trahey, co-founder of OrchKids.
Trahey knows this firsthand: Growing up working class in Traverse City, Michigan, his family didn’t have the money to buy him a musical instrument. But the local bar had a tuba hanging on its wall, which the bartender gave to his parents. Trahey played that tuba for six years, eventually using it to audition at Peabody. OrchKids is an intensive program. Children in prekindergarten through fourth grade practice their bass, brass, string, wind, or bucket drum instruments (which are inexpensive and portable) and participate in their school choirs two to eight hours a day, up to six days a week. But the substantial time commitment hasn’t deterred enrollment: In the 2010–2011 school year, the orchestra was 220 children strong; in 2011–2012, more than 300 students enrolled. Trahey—who also helped found Tuned-In, a program that gives Peabody Preparatory scholarships to public middle and high school students—has even traveled to several states and countries, including North Carolina, California, England, and Austria, to help local educators start similar programs. Unlike other orchestras, the OrchKids curriculum isn’t driven by technical proficiency. “We are passion first, precision second,” Trahey says. The program stresses teamwork and mentoring, with more experienced students mentoring younger musicians. Staff also play with the children at their many “rallies”—OrchKids’ term for performances—to give the kids help and guidance in achieving the sound they want to create. At Artscape, brass instructor Peter Lander, Peab ’99, ’99 (PC), wails the vocals to Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke” while six brass students contribute the jazzy melody. For an orchestral version of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” two staff members and one student strum the deep, haunting chords on their upright basses. And for “Kalélé,” a traditional African folk song, local beatboxer Shodekeh provides a human percussion accompaniment to the OrchKids choir. One young student, a tiny girl with rows of colorful beads in her hair, takes the microphone from Shodekeh and quietly pumps out her own beat to the audience’s cheers. “The best medicine is for the kids to be performing all the time,” Trahey says. “[Audiences]
Dan Trahey, Peab ’00
Passion First, Precision Second
n a steamy July afternoon, two rows of upside-down Home Depot buckets line the Festival Stage at Artscape, Baltimore’s annual summer festival. Twelve elementary school–age kids wearing brightly colored T-shirts that say “Baltimore Symphony Orchestra OrchKids” walk in a single line onto the stage, grab sets of drumsticks, and sit on the orange buckets in the back row. Standing in front of them, Dan Trahey leads the warm-up, guiding the kids to clack their sticks together and pound out a deep rhythm on their bucket drums. Trahey is one of more than a dozen Peabody alumni, faculty members, and students who teach music to underserved children from West Baltimore’s Lockerman Bundy Elementary School, New Song Academy, and Mary Ann Winterling Elementary School through the OrchKids program. OrchKids was co-founded in 2008 by Trahey, the program’s artistic director, and Marin Alsop, music director for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and a Peabody distinguished visiting artist. The program is inspired by El Sistema, a social movement that has used music to create community among poor young people in Venezuela since 1975. “There’s not a lot of lower-middle-class people playing in orchestras because of the time and financial resources it takes to get to that precision level,” Trahey explains.
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show love for the amount of hard work that these kids put in.” The audience whoops even louder during OrchKids’ final number, a group rendition of “One Day” performed with the song’s artist, Matisyahu, a Hasidic Jewish reggae singer and Artscape’s headlining performer. Wearing sunglasses and a black yarmulke, the bearded Matisyahu, his voice a deep contrast to the children’s high pitches, sings with the OrchKids chorus, while Trahey, his body moving to the beat, directs the staff orchestra, including Lander; Elijah Wirth, Peab ’99, ’02 (MM); Rafaela Dreisin, Peab ’10 (MM); and Hana Morford, Peab ’11 (GPD). With lyrics like “Sometimes in my tears I drown / but I never let it get me down / so when negativity surrounds / I know one day it will all turn around,” the song captures the attitude that Peabody alumni hope to instill in Baltimore’s underserved students. “This is preventive medicine,” Trahey says. —Jennifer Walker
A.J. Jejelowo, Engr ’09
A Sure Bet
A.J. Jejelowo found an unusual way to pay for grad school—win a poker tournament.
Courtesy of IMPDI
t was a surreal scene in New Orleans this past May. A.J. Jejelowo posed with a broad smile, his World Series of Poker Circuit championship ring shining under bright television lighting. And then there was the cash—$235,956 displayed with a bit of Cajun flair inside the wide mouth and sharp teeth of a stuffed alligator. Jejelowo embraced his cash, his head snugly inside the gator’s bite. Moments earlier, he had won the Southern Regional Championship poker game at Harrah’s New Orleans casino. After the four-day Texas Hold’em tournament, including a grueling 12 hours spent at the final table, Jejelowo could think about only one thing: “I was exhausted. I really couldn’t think of anything else but climbing into bed and going to sleep.” An amateur poker player, Jejelowo is fairly new to the game. “I didn’t even know the rules of poker until I graduated
from college. I was more focused on passing my classes and chasing girls,” he says with a laugh. Jejelowo, who was born in Manchester, England, moved to the United States when he was 9 and grew up near Houston. Initially drawn to Johns Hopkins for its medical program, he later chose to major in biomedical engineering. That learning environment helped him succeed in surprising ways, including applying the problem-solving techniques he learned in class to the poker felt. “I think Hopkins helped me become very resourceful and creative. I can work my way through a lot of situations,” he says. After earning his degree from the Whiting School of Engineering, he got a job as a biomedical researcher at Rice University in Houston, where he began playing small-stakes poker tournaments with friends. As his “real” career advanced, his love of the game continued to grow. In March, he was in New Orleans with friends, playing cards and having a good time, when he learned about the upcoming WSOPC Southern Regional Championship. The buy-in was a hefty $10,000—which Jejelowo didn’t have. Determined to give it a shot, he entered and won a smaller $1,000 satellite tournament, which gave him a place in the Southern Regional Championship. Making the final table in poker takes stamina and deep focus. One bad play or mistake, and your tournament life could be over. After day one, Jejelowo had only a short stack of chips left, but, turning his fortunes around, he built a mountain of chips in
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News & Notes
from our graduates and friends
subsequent days. Eventually, he was heads-up at the final table with Gary Friedlander, a successful player from Bellaire, Texas, who had almost $750,000 in career winnings. The cards were dealt, two facedown to each player, with Jejelowo holding Ace-9 and Friedlander holding a dominating Ace-King. With all their chips in, the last five cards—community cards, which the dealer places faceup in the middle of the table—would determine the tournament winner. The cards fell Q-65-A-9, and the last card dealt was the miracle, giving Jejelowo two pair—Aces and 9s—enough to win the hand and the championship. What does the 27-year-old plan to do with the cash? “When you come into a relatively large sum of money, you have an immediate temptation. I seriously considered buying a car or putting a nice down payment on a house, but I don’t really need the money,” Jejelowo says. “I don’t have any kids, I don’t have a ton of debt. So I’m using the money for graduate school, investing some to build wealth, and the rest I’m saving for a rainy day.” —Sean Chaffin
Leigh Ann Curl, Med ’89, ’07 (PGF), HS ’94, ’07
Roving the Sidelines
player slumps on the bench as Leigh Ann Curl applies pressure to his knee. Curl, head team orthopedic surgeon for the Baltimore Ravens, feels for tears or strains, making a diagnosis to determine if the injured player is headed back on the field or if he has an injury serious enough to send him to the locker room for further examination. “You go through the same exams as you would seeing them in the office,” she says. “You’re trying to figure out what the extent of the injury is. If it’s a typical MCL sprain, most players can stay on the field if they’re not that sore. Higher degrees of injury can put a player out for the game and one to three additional weeks. If I diagnose an ACL tear, they’re pretty much out for the game and out for the year.” Still the only woman in the NFL to hold the position of head team orthopedic surgeon, Curl has been at this for 13 years. After completing both medical school and her residency at Johns Hopkins, she spent five years as head team physician for the University of Maryland. In 1998, she began assisting the Ravens and was named a team physician the following year. A former college athlete herself, the job is a perfect fit, if a little ironic—growing
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up in Pittsburgh during the 1970s, Curl was a huge Steelers fan. For Curl, job No. 1 is keeping players healthy and safe, as national attention has turned to player safety. In July, 75 former professional football players sued the NFL over concussion risks associated with the game. Curl says she is especially pleased with the focus on safety in the NFL’s labor deal approved last summer. The league now tracks all injuries and has taken a proactive stance on improving player safety. “But,” she says, “the bottom line is it’s still football, and guys are going to get hurt.” As for working in the male-dominated field of pro football, Curl says it’s just part of the job. “I’ve never known it any other way. I grew up playing sports and that was always the norm,” Curl says. Before she came to the School of Medicine, she was a standout basketball player at the University of Connecticut. “I played basketball with the guys in high school and even in college, where guys from the Connecticut football team would play pickup games with us. “When I was in residency and interviewing for a sports medicine fellowship, I did not encounter any other females. Even at Hopkins, there were 32 surgical interns, and I was the only female. I think probably along the way I’ve gotten a little more scrutiny [than male colleagues], but that’s always just been motivation for me. Fundamentally, you just try to be complete enough, and good enough, so that if you are unfairly judged, you stand up to the additional scrutiny.” —SC
Leigh Ann Curl is the only woman in the NFL to hold the position of head team orthopedic surgeon.
Elspeth Kursh, A&S ’06
Cleaning multimillion-year-old dinosaur skeletons? It’s all in a day’s work for exhibits manager Elspeth Kursh. through a magnifying glass. “I was always encouraged to be curious and to ask questions and to do research and learn,” she says. “Being aware of my environment was one of those ways to learn more about what was going on around me.” A year after receiving her history degree from Johns Hopkins, Kursh hit a crossroads: She could go to law school or change direction altogether. She chose a change. To celebrate the museum’s 40th anniversary in May 2012, Kursh will be designing an 800-square-foot exhibit that focuses on the use of collections in research and education. It’s a fitting theme: Researchers travel from around the world just to see the museum’s exhibits. Kursh remembers a man from Canada who came to look at the museum’s collection of birds’ eggs, which is the second largest on the continent. “It seems like we’re a small museum, but we really do play with the big boys,” she says. “That kind of intellectual environment is so rare and it’s such a pleasure to be a part of it.” —JW
Courtesy of Delaware Museum of Natural History
ollusks. A polar bear claw. Q-tips and paintbrushes for cleaning multimillion-yearold animal skeletons. You never know what you might find on Elspeth Kursh’s desk. As exhibits manager at the Delaware Museum of Natural History, she could be designing an exhibit on space exploration, feeding turtles, or painting the walls in the permanent exhibit halls, depending on the day. The museum, which was founded by John E. du Pont (yes, those du Ponts), houses more than 2 million mollusk specimens, 118,000 bird specimens and nests, a Hall of Mammals, a giant squid replica, and the state’s only permanent dinosaur display. It’s Kursh’s job to plan and maintain all of these permanent and special exhibits. That’s meant climbing ladders with a special vacuum attached to her back to clean the dust off a Tuojiangosaurus and a Yangchuanosaurus, which are Asian relatives of North America’s Stegosaurus and Allosaurus. It’s meant reattaching a polar bear claw to a taxidermy specimen; gathering mollusks from Delaware, Bermuda, and the South China Sea to be displayed in the Shell Gallery; and tracking down a company to remove the 700-pound pane of glass that covers the Great Barrier Reef, a permanent exhibit, so she can crawl inside and change a burned out lightbulb. Growing up on a Pennsylvania farm, the natural world “was always presented as way more interesting than anything on television,” Kursh says. For fun, her parents encouraged her to see how many mosquitoes, wasps, and flies she could find on a square foot of their lawn. Kursh remembers being fascinated by the varieties of life she saw through a microscope and
Blooms Eternal The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life’s Work at 72, by Molly Peacock, A&S ’77 (MA) (Bloomsbury USA) An established Toronto poet, Molly Peacock has rendered an intimate prose biography of an extraordinary English gardener, artist, and letter writer, Mary Delany, 1700–1788. Late in a rambunctious life, Delany created an art—she called it “mosaick”—by painting paper bits and cutting them into flowers that leap up from the page as though nature’s own. Along her petal-strewn path she linked up romantically with Lord Baltimore, befriended royalty, and intrigued Jonathan Swift. Peacock uses the letters to bring Delany to life and adds to the book’s sense of a collage by matching the import of its chapters with the artist’s images, reproduced prettily.
The Taker, by Alma Katsu, A&S ’04 (MA) (Gallery Books) To borrow the famously misquoted Cole Porter line, “And though I’m not a necromancer,” those folks who are have here their answer—in The Taker, “Anything Goes.” The novel is complex chronologically, but at its root is an alchemist in ancient Hungary who achieved a potion for perpetuity. To extend the Porter metaphor, the heroine becomes a poster girl for “Love for Sale.” Her first taker, a beautiful lover in the Maine woods, does her wrong and she falls in with a fiendish cult of never aging fornicators living in Boston. But as the decades descend, she tires of never aging. It ends reminiscent of “Miss Otis Regrets,” the Porter tune in which the sweet young thing pulls a revolver from beneath her velvet gown and shoots her lover dead. In this case, though, she walls him up in the cellar. —Lew Diuguid, SAIS ’63
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News & Notes
from our graduates and friends
Johns Hopkins Volunteer Summit
Slow and Steady in the Global Race
universities are branching out abroad, especially in economically surging nations in the Far and Middle East, which are expanding their educational infrastructures at a rapid clip. Saudi Arabia, for instance, has allocated 12 percent of its national budget for higher education and has cut ribbons on a brace of brand new campuses. Other countries ranging from China to Singapore to Dubai are embarking upon their own ambitious plans. “There is a sort of peer pressure to be doing this, and many schools around the world are developing relationships,” says Nick Jones, dean of the Whiting School of Engineering. “We are peppered with requests to form partnerships and hardly a day goes by when we don’t get invited to join some new venture, especially in biomedical engineering.” So, how should an already global Johns Hopkins best approach this new mad rush to international cooperation? Two words, says Jones: “carefully and strategically.” Which implies, of course,
he year was 1915: Woodrow Wilson was in the White House, war was raging across Europe, and William Welch, first dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, was in China advising leaders of Peking Union Medical College how to make the fledgling institution into “the Hopkins in China.” A few years later, Johns Hopkins graduate Anna D. Wolf, Nurs ’15 (Cert), was serving as Peking Union’s superintendent of nursing and, in 1924, dean of its newly minted nursing school. Fast-forward to today, and those first tentative ripples in the world of global academia have long since become a rolling wave. The Nitze School of Advanced International Studies has campuses in Nanjing, China, and Bologna, Italy. Peking Union, meanwhile, has for Every Johns Hopkins school—from the Peabody six years been collaborating with Johns Hopkins to Institute to the Whiting School of Engineering— create China’s first nursing doctoral program. The has overseas outreach and a diverse student body, Bloomberg School of Public and the university is recognized as one of the Health has researchers, faculty, students, and alumni most global institutes of higher education. tackling health challenges across Africa and around the world. Indeed, every Johns Hopkins school— the need for some serious thought and sustained from the Peabody Institute to the Whiting School of discussion. An opening foray into the matter occurred Engineering—has overseas outreach and a globally at the Johns Hopkins Volunteer Summit held in October diverse student body, and the university is today widely 2010. At that event, more than 60 Johns Hopkins leaders, recognized as one of the most global of all the world’s faculty, students, and alumni—including participants institutes of higher education. who had flown in from London and Guyana—used “Johns Hopkins really has been international the occasion to begin mapping a path through the from its very beginning because we had international minefield of higher education globalization, where faculty from the very beginning,” says Pam Cranston, already several universities have had to beat hasty the university’s vice provost for international programs retreats. In the realm of overseas campuses in particular, and vice dean for the Carey Business School. “We now universities ranging from Michigan State to George have a presence doing so many different things in so Mason have initiated programs with great fanfare only many different countries that it’s difficult to come up to later abandon those efforts. with the exact number. I’m going to say it’s something One lesson learned from the experiences of others like 165.” The university is present around the world in in global higher education is that it is less important no small part because it has to be: The challenges and to do it first and much more important to do it right. opportunities of the 21st century are global in nature, It is deliberation, not speed, that is of the essence, ranging from pandemic disease to a worldwide shortage in part because the playing field is so large and the of clean water to complex international economic opportunities so varied, says Cranston, a summit alliances. Only by working cooperatively across national participant. “There is one line of thought that this is a borders can universities hope to provide the answers zero-sum game, where the gain of others is your loss, the world needs. but I’m not in that camp,” she says. “I think there is Because of this, Johns Hopkins is hardly alone in plenty of room for more great universities in the world. blazing academic trails across borders. Increasingly, How prominent and desirable the U.S. style of higher universities are viewed as instrumental to economic education remains is shown by the number of countries growth, and the higher education marketplace is around the world that are trying to emulate it. Johns rapidly globalizing as a result. More and more American Hopkins is in a very strong position.”
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Summit participants concluded that any examination Program on HIV/AIDS. “Nothing should be established of a university’s global outreach has to be filtered based on resources that do not exist or cannot be through the notion that quality trumps quantity. But reliably predicted,” del Prado says. A further stumbling gauging a project’s worth is a complex issue. “Success is block requiring careful attention is potential conflict over not simply generating a positive return on investment,” cultural and political values, such as censorship and the says Terri McBride, SAIS ’87, who came to the summit role of women. University policies on these issues do from London, where she works for an international not change according to local customs, says Cranston. management consulting firm. Rather, she notes, it is “It’s important that across the board we are allowed to a combination of many complex factors: “It’s positive operate wherever around the world according to our own and tangible engagement with the local community, it’s institutional values and guidelines,” she says. “We don’t student and faculty enrichment, and it’s the opportunity go anywhere where we cannot have an agreement or an to further research and develop understanding with that country thought leadership, to name or that institution that we have but a few.” to be able to operate there Spanning all nine academic divisions, That said, the financial exactly like we would at home.” aspects of a given international Ultimately, the move with Alumni Association clubs and project have to be very carefully toward a more global chapters in over a dozen countries, considered, and must remain university is not about what of pre-eminent importance, the world can bring to Johns some 30 centers and programs at no matter how desirable Hopkins but, rather, what work with an international focus, the venture may appear. Johns Hopkins has to offer the “Sustainability is essential,” world. “We do this because and more than 2,000 students says Ruben del Prado, SPH we’re a leader,” says Jones, from outside the United States, ’87 (MA), who came to the “and we want to share the summit from Guyana, where Johns Hopkins is at home around the globe. advances we’re making with he’s country coordinator people all over the world.” web.jhu.edu/aroundtheworld/ for the Joint United Nations —Brennen Jensen
9 12 30 2090
Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011 65
Around campus. Across generations. Among friends.
Who Knew? Did You? a. b. c. d. e. f. g. h.
We all have Blue Jay tattoos. I got stuck in an elevator right before playing in the big game. Spiderman appeared in one of my classrooms during pledge week. The dean told me to pack my bags and leave town. We met during freshman recruitment and have been together ever since. A prank call to the radio station declaring a snow emergency got me out of an exam. Tristan Davies, my instructor in the Writing Seminars, teased me all semester about my twin. I knew Johns Hopkins was the place from my very first visit.
Watch Johns Hopkins Story Swap and you’ll know, too. alumni.jhu.edu/storyswap
8 c; Carl Snyder, Class of 2012 g; Zoe Bell, A&S ’09 b; Bob Clayton, A&S ’84 e; Freda Lewis-Hall, A&S ’76, and Emerson R. Hall Jr., A&S ’76
5. 6. 7. 8.
d; Jerry Brecher, A&S ’67 h; Frances Zappone, Class of 2015 f; Judah Sommer, A&S ’66 a; Sadie Howes, A&S ’11 66 Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
1. 2. 3. 4.
News & Notes
Bessie Pear Jacobs, Bus ’31, recently celebrated her 100th birthday with family and friends in West Palm Beach, Florida.
Harry P. Porter Jr., A&S ’39, Med ’43, HS ’47, and his wife, Elaine, moved into a retirement home in 2009 and are very happy.
from our graduates and friends
Choice Award for Outstanding Book of the Year from the American Educational Studies Association.
Suellen S. Rubin, A&S ’68 (MA), ’69 (PhD), and her husband, Jerome Rubin, Med ’68, HS ’70, celebrated their 45th anniversary with a cruise to Alaska.
José Ramirez Rivera, A&S ’49, had an authorized biography published by Agua Regia Editores. Ramirez Rivera is recognized for the development of whole-lung lavage, the establishment of Mayaguez Medical Center in Puerto Rico, and his contributions to the field of bioethics.
Harvey S. Cohen, A&S ’69, was awarded the 2011 Lifelong Learning & Service Recognition award from the Academy of General Dentistry. Cohen and his wife have two children and live in Baltimore.
David Frederick Unumb, A&S ’57 (MA), writes that he has been re-elected as a trustee of the Arlington Heights Memorial Library.
Larry C. Kerpelman, A&S ’58, a psychologist and health care communicator, has published Pieces Missing: A Family’s Journey of Recovery from Traumatic Brain Injury (Two Harbor Press, 2011).
Irvin M. Miller, Engr ’59, A&S ’64 (PhD), is founder and president of Math and Physics Exploration, a mathematics museum and exploration center in Poughkeepsie, New York. To find out more, visit www .mathphysicsexplore.org. Arnold B. Silverman, Engr ’59, an intellectual property law attorney for Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott LLC of Pittsburgh, has been selected for inclusion in Pennsylvania Super Lawyers 2011.
Jeffrey Kaimowitz, A&S ’64, published The Odes of Horace ( Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008) and retired from his position as head librarian of the Watkinson Library at Trinity College in 2010.
Gabriel Guerra-Mondragon, SAIS Bol ’65 (Dipl), an international consultant and former U.S. ambassador to Chile, was nominated by the White House to the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board in July. Timothy T. Pohmer, A&S ’65 (MLA), ’77 (Cert), teaches sailing and safe boating classes for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. Pohmer is also a tutor at Butler Community College in Pennsylvania.
Joseph L. DeVitis, A&S ’67, Ed ’69 (MEd), a visiting professor of education at Old Dominion University, has co-edited Adolescent Education (Peter Lang Publishing, 2010). The book received the Critics’
Alumni News & Notes Alumni Association President: Ray Snow, A&S ’70 Executive Director of Alumni Relations: Mo Baldwin Editors: Mike Field, A&S ’97 (MA), Lisa Belman Contributing Writer: Lew Diuguid, SAIS ’63 Contact us at: The JHU Office of Alumni Relations San Martin Center, Second Floor 3400 N. Charles Street Baltimore, MD 21218-2696 410-516-0363/1-800-JHU-JHU1 (5481) firstname.lastname@example.org alumni.jhu.edu Please send class notes to email@example.com. By submitting a class note, you give Johns Hopkins University permission to edit and publish your information in Johns Hopkins Magazine and in online publications. The Alumni News & Notes section of Johns Hopkins Magazine is made possible by your Alumni Association. For more information, visit alumni.jhu.edu.
Myra Weisberg Sklarew, A&S ’70 (MA), professor emerita of literature in the writing program at American University, has published an essay in the August edition of the Fortnightly Review on the life and work of Elliott Coleman, founder of the Writing Seminars program. The essay includes excerpts from seven other Johns Hopkins alumni discussing their time in the Writing Seminars. View the essay at fortnightlyreview.co.uk/elliott -colemans-seminary.
Samuel Garloff, Ed ’74 (MS), is secretary of the Pennsylvania State Board of Osteopathic Medicine and a member of the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s medical policy review committee. Christopher J. Mason, A&S ’74, published Hum Who Hiccup (Narrow House, 2011). You can visit his blog at narrow-house.blogspot.com.
H. Rutherford “Rud” Turnbull III, A&S ’59, a professor at the University of Kansas, received the J.E. Wallace Wallin Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council for Exceptional Children on April 25. The award recognized Turnbull for his 40-year career as an advocate for individuals with disabilities. He was among the first lawyers to focus on disability law and special education and has been very influential on significant state and federal legislation. Keith Oberg, SAIS ’77, is founder and director of Bikes for the World, a nonprofit group in Arlington, Virginia, that takes thousands of unwanted bikes in suburban Washington and sends them overseas to people who need them. See www.bikesfortheworld.org for additional information.
Rodney H. Banks, A&S ’75, an industrial technologist and research fellow at Nalco Company, received the prestigious Perkin Medal from the Society of Chemical Industry in September. The Perkin Medal, which is the highest honor given for outstanding work in applied chemistry, was awarded to Banks for his significant work in improving the monitoring and control of industrial water treatment. Timothy Lomperis, SAIS ’75, published The Vietnam War from the Rear Echelon: An Intelligence Officer’s Memoir, 1972–1973 (University Press of Kansas, 2011). Joseph D. Zimmerman, A&S ’75, is an OB/GYN at Kaiser Permanente in Davis, California.
Freda C. Lewis-Hall, A&S ’76, chief medical officer and senior vice president for Pfizer Inc., was named 2011 Woman of the Year by the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association. In addition to writing the book Psychiatric Illness in Women: Emerging Treatments and Research (American Psychiatric Publishing Inc., 2002) and numerous journal articles, she is a speaker and television commentator.
John Dierkes, A&S ’77, is the founder of Swim Across America Baltimore, a fundraising event benefiting cancer research at the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center. Hundreds of swimmers took part in this year’s one-mile swim held on September 18. Steven Schwaitzberg, A&S ’77, associate professor of surgery at Harvard Medical School, was named president of the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons for the 2011–2012 year. David Teie, Peab ’77, ’78 (MM), a cellist previously with the National Symphony and the San Francisco Symphony, performed with other family members in the Teie Family Concert held on September 16 in Nisswa, Minnesota. Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011 67
News & Notes
from our graduates and friends
Linda Apple Monson, Peab ’79, ’81 (MM), ’86 (DMA), a music professor at George Mason University, was honored to have an anonymous donor create an endowment in her name to support student scholarships and music programs.
Newsmakers Albert “Bert” Gerard Koenders, SAIS Bol ’80 (Dipl), SAIS ’81, of the Netherlands, was appointed special representative to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and head of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire in August. Koenders previously served as the Dutch minister for development cooperation from 2007 to 2010. Prior to that he was a member of the Netherlands House of Representatives from 1997 to 2007. Michael Ellis, SAIS Bol ’81 (Dipl), SAIS ’82, formerly vice president of sales for Michelin’s twowheel tire division, was named international director of the Michelin guides, classic guidebooks for travel and restaurants, in August. Ellis, whose entire career has been internationally focused, studied culinary arts as a young man in the United States and Europe.
Alexander Auchus, A&S ’81, professor and chair of the Department of Neurology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, has been elected to the American Neurological Association. Karen B. Peetz, Bus ’81 (MS), vice chairman of Bank of New York (BNY) Mellon, a global asset and securities services company, was named Most Powerful Woman in Banking by American Banker magazine in October. Peetz, who leads a broad range of the company’s investment services businesses, that accounts for approximately 40 percent of the company’s overall revenue, has been with BNY Mellon since 1998. Susan Stoderl, Peab ’81 (MM), gave a concert at WMP Concert Hall in New York in October to celebrate her first 10 years of song composition.
Emily Nye, A&S ’82, is director of the No’eau Center for Writing, Math, and Academic Success at the University of Hawaii-West Oahu and plays the euphonium in the Honolulu Community Concert Band. Wolfgang H. Reinicke, SAIS Bol ’82 (Dipl), SAIS ’83, an international scholar, policy leader, and managing director in the private sector, has been named the inaugural dean of Central European University’s new School of Public Policy and International Affairs in Budapest, Hungary, effective September 1. Phillip “Flip” M. Schutzer, A&S ’82, SPH ’85, is planning to travel to Israel in 2012.
G. Alfred Dodds III, A&S ’84, was chairman for the American Heart Association’s Washtenaw County Heart Ball, which was held on October 22. Carol Lefkowitz Jones, A&S ’84, president of American Construction Management & Engineering Inc., recently completed a renovation of the headquarters of Western Psychological Services in Pasadena, California.
James “Jay” M. Dunn III, Bus ’85, the Hopkins Blue Jays’ men’s track and field assistant coach since 2000, was named the Mideast Region Men’s Assistant Coach of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association in May. Victoria Griffith, SAIS Bol ’85 (Dipl), SAIS ’86, recently published a new picture book, The Fabulous Flying Machines of Alberto SantosDumont (Abrams Books, 2011). Jon Laria, A&S ’85, was named managing partner of the Baltimore office of Ballard Spahr LLP, a national law firm, effective July 1. Laria, who is an active local leader in Baltimore, is also chair of the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission.
68 Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
Sharon Gleason, A&S ’88, director of development for the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital, earned the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ highest professional certification, the Advanced Certified Fundraising Executive credential, in August. Gleason was honored for her achievement during AFP’s Leadership Academy in Montreal in October.
Laura J. Beard, A&S ’89 (MA), ’95 (PhD), a professor at Texas Tech University, was interviewed by the American Association of University Women as a former AAUW fellow. You can read the interview at blog -aauw.org/2011/07/27/meet-laura-jean-beard. Allison Unger Brody, A&S ’89, is senior counsel, compliance, for Elsevier and is based in Newton, Massachusetts. Hall Gardner, SAIS Nanj ’89 (Cert), is a professor at the American University of Paris and geostrategist with a focus on the origins of war. Gardner, who is published widely in the field of international politics and the author of many books, delivered the keynote addresses at two NATO conferences in January and February. Charlotte Gaydos, SPH ’89, ’93 (DrPH), a professor of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins, helped develop a program to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. The program, called I Want the Kit, supplys free in-home testing kits for three of the most commonly reported STDs.
Sherrie Madia, A&S ’90, executive director of communications, external affairs, at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, published The Social Media Survival Guide for Political Campaigns (Full Court Press, 2011).
V. Franklin Sechriest II, A&S ’91, a commander in the U.S. Navy Medical Corps, was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for meritorious service from 2004 to 2011. The award ceremony was held at Naval Medical Center San Diego on August 17. During his seven years on active duty as a military orthopedic surgeon, Sechriest educated Navy orthopedic residents, conducted clinical research, developed and implemented hospital policy, and specialized in caring for Marines and sailors with complex knee problems.
Alex Tamin, A&S ’92, was appointed director of baseball contracts, research, and operations for the Los Angeles Dodgers in September.
Nelson Lowman, Bus ’93 (MS), former assistant director of revenue cycle operations at the University of Maryland, has joined Berkeley Research Group LLC and will be based in Baltimore.
Erik M. Chick, A&S ’94, previously of Washington Savings Bank in Bowie, Maryland, joined Howard Bank as vice president and relationship manager in September. Charlotte Daw Paulsen, Peab ’94 (GPD), a mezzo soprano, performed on September 17 at the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra’s 19th annual Opera Festival held at the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Marija Temo, Peab ’94 (MM), a flamenco and classical guitarist, singer, and dancer, has participated in numerous performances and workshops this year. Highlights include a performance at the National Association of Music Merchants in Anaheim, California, and a performance with the legendary flamenco singer Manolo Leiva in Seattle. See her website, www.marijatemo.com, for details on upcoming performances. William Zellmer, SPH ’94, delivered the commencement speeches and received two honorary doctoral degrees from Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, California, and Northeast Ohio Medical University in May.
Irene Kim Asbury, A&S ’95, was appointed municipal prosecutor of West New York, New Jersey, and is serving another term on the Hudson Vicinage Advisory Committee on Minority Concerns, making recommendations to improve minority community access to the New Jersey courts.
Sarah Chan, Peab ’96 (MM), is an assistant professor of music/keyboard studies at Northwestern Oklahoma State University. Chan was awarded The American Prize in Piano Performance in the professional division in May 2011 in recognition of the excellence of her performances of Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 and Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25. Sara Clemence, A&S ’96, ’98 (MA), weekend travel editor for the Wall Street Journal, was married in May to Andrew Sanocki. Cindy Hooper, A&S ’96 (MAG), is the author of a book to be released in January 2012 titled Conflict: African American Women and the New Dilemma of Race and Gender Politics (Praeger). Carolyn Boies Nitta, A&S ’96, an assistant city attorney in Seattle, and her husband, Keith, welcomed their daughter, Claire Fumiko, into their lives in October 2010. David Troy, Bus ’96, a Baltimore-based technology entrepreneur and founder of 410 Labs, launched a new product in July called Shortmail, a character-limited email service. Joy Whitlow, SAIS ’96, previously vice president and controller, was promoted to chief financial officer and executive vice president of National Association of Broadcasters Finance in August.
Jeffery A. Salaiz, SAIS Bol ’97 (Dipl), SAIS ’98, has been serving as the political counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, since June 2010. In April, Salaiz writes, he “orchestrated the U.S. observation mission and witnessed what some have described as the best elections ever conducted in Nigeria’s short democratic history.” Christopher Shih, Med ’97, ’01 (PGF), a gastroenterologist from Ellicott City, Maryland, won first prize in the Van Cliburn Foundation’s sixth International Piano Competition for Outstanding Amateurs held May 23–29 in Fort Worth, Texas. Shih was also awarded Best Performance of a Work from the Romantic Era and the Audience Award. The weeklong competition is held every four years.
Danielle Ompad, SPH ’98, ’02 (PhD), is a research associate professor at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University after nine years at the New York Academy of Medicine.
Jonathan Fuld, A&S ’99, and his wife, Elizabeth, welcomed their first son, Jack James Edward, on December 9, 2010. Fuld is currently the president of Fuld Fine Art in Manhattan and advises on the purchase and sale of high-end works of art. Pamela S. McNicholas, A&S ’99 (MS), is a supervising environmental scientist in the Baltimore office of Persons Brickerhoff, a global consulting firm. Cherish A. Thompson, A&S ’99, an attorney with Thompson Bergés P.A. in Miami, was selected for inclusion in Super Lawyers Florida Rising Stars 2011. Victor E. Velculescu, A&S ’99 (PhD), Med ’96, ’02 (PGF), an associate professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, is one of the winners, announced in September, of the Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research. The award is presented biennially by Memorial Sloan-Kettering to three promising scientists under the age of 46.
David Salsbery Fry, A&S ’00, was the winner of the Bidu Sayão International Vocal Competition, held in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, in April. In addition to winning first place, he received the award for best opera aria performance.
Samantha Davis Goldstone, SAIS Bol ’01 (Dipl), ’02, a cancer survivor, started a jewelry collection, Adesso for the Butterfly Project, to benefit the Brenda L. Caplan Memorial Scholarship Fund, which supports individuals and families affected by hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. Wes Moore, A&S ’01, author of The Other Wes Moore (Spiegel & Grau, 2011), was featured along with four other young veterans in the August 29 Time magazine cover article titled “The New Greatest Generation.” The article discusses how young war veterans are redefining leadership. Beth Shaw, Engr ’01, joined Brake Hughes Bellermann LLP, Newsmakers an intellectual property law firm specializing in patent preparation, Mary Beth Leonard, prosecution, counseling, and licensing, SAIS ’88, a career member as of counsel. Additionally, Beth and of the Senior Foreign her husband, Ronnie, welcomed twins Aaron Thomas and Elliot Andrew on Service, was appointed by February 21. President Barack Obama in Eric Solomon, A&S ’01, was June to be the next U.S. promoted from associate to shareholder ambassador to the Republic at Stearns Weaver Miller, a law firm of Mali, Department of State. based in Florida. Abigail Somma, SAIS Bol ’01 Leonard has previously held positions as (Dipl), SAIS ’02, has written a play titled director of the Office of West African Affairs Beneath the Hush, a Whisper, a work of at the U.S. Department of State, as deputy historical fiction, which was presented chief of mission in Mali, and as deputy chief September 15 through October 8 at the WorkShop Theater Company in of mission in Suriname. New York.
Paul J. Rabil, A&S ’08, midfielder for the Boston Cannons, was featured in a documentary-style miniseries, Stick to It with Paul Rabil, which premiered on Comcast SportsNet New England in July. Rabil, who played midfield for the Hopkins Blue Jays from 2005 to 2008, was the leading scorer in the 2005 and 2007 NCAA championship games.
Tim Kang, Engr ’02, is studying cinematography at American Film Institute Conservatory and plans to “join in alumni Caleb Deschanel’s and Walter Murch’s footsteps by pursuing a career in the film industry.” Caroline F. Miller, A&S ’02, and Christopher M. Withers were married on June 9 in Alexandria, Virginia. They are living in Charlotte, North Carolina. Sarah Zaleski Sathaye, Engr ’02, ’05 (MS), is married to Alok Sathaye, Engr ’02, ’04 (MS), and they are both looking forward to their 10-year reunion in the spring. Margaux Coady Soeffker, A&S ’02, and her husband, Reed, welcomed their second child, Evelyn Rose, on September 14.
Danielle Ewing, SPH ’03, joined New England–based BerryDunn as a senior consultant in the firm’s Government Consulting Group. Her work focuses on providing consulting services to assist clients in their efforts related to health care reform and health information technology.
Patrick Marti, Engr ’05, who is in his second year of Peace Corps service in Jamaica, was one of 16 volunteers representing the agency at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival—the capstone event for the 50th anniversary of the Peace Corps—which took place on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., at the end of June.
Melissa Fireman, Ed ’06 (MS), is founder and chief executive officer of Washington Career Services, a career management firm. She has recently co-authored a workbook titled Career Magellan: How to Begin Your Career Journey (Washington Career Services, 2011). Kathryn Francis, Eng ’06, is among the group of engineers who has been inspecting the Washington Monument for cracks and other damage caused by the August earthquake.
Michele M. Bleech, Bus ’07 (Cert), ’09 (MBA), is a strategic practice executive at Bluepoint Surgical Group in Virginia.
Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011 69
News & Notes
from our graduates and friends
Gregory Mullenholz, Ed ’07, a staff development teacher at Twinbrook Elementary in Rockville, Maryland, was one of 16 teachers selected to be a Teaching Ambassador Fellow for the 2011–2012 school year. Mullenholz was further selected to work full time on teacher quality issues in the Washington, D.C., Office of the Secretary at the Department of Education headquarters. Joe Xue, Engr ’07, and two other Johns Hopkins alums competed as a relay team in the San Francisco Triathlon at Alcatraz in August. Xue ran 7 miles, David Chow, Engr ’07, swam 1.2 miles, and Bobby Ng, Engr ’07, biked 25 miles.
Sean Doordan, Bus ’08 (MS), was promoted to assistant vice president, leasing, of St. John Properties, headquartered in Baltimore in July. Doordan, who has been with the company since 2005, will continue to oversee the marketing and leasing of the commercial office and R&D/ flex portfolios located in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties. Scott Filer, SPH ’08, has been elected to the board of directors of Public Health Foundation Enterprises, a nonprofit agency dedicated to improving the health and well-being of people and communities. Michael Han-Yu Leung, SAIS ’08, launched a community business project in Vancouver’s Chinatown/Strathcona neighborhood. This Space (www.thisspace.ca) encourages community members to vote on various decisions impacting businesses in their neighborhood.
Lakindra Mohr, SAIS ’08, graduated magna cum laude from Boston College Law School in December 2010 and has joined the AntiCorruption and Corporate Intelligence unit at PricewaterhouseCoopers. Her article, “Lessons Learned: An Analysis of Recent Rule-of-Law Reform Efforts in Haiti,” was published in the Journal of Haitian Studies in 2010.
Angelica Evans, A&S ’10 (MA), a communications specialist with Johns Hopkins Community Physicians, published “Twitter as a Public Relations Tool” in the Winter 2011 issue of Public Relations Journal.
Robin Lloyd, A&S ’11 (MAG/MBA), previously a legislative assistant to former Rep. Anthony D. Weiner, was hired in September to work in the Washington, D.C., office of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Engr ’64. Lloyd will handle issues related to the federal budget as well as health and human services. Thomas “Tom” S. Smith, A&S ’11, a Philadelphia native, is now living in Baltimore and working on Project Gado, a robotic scanner for sensitive archival materials. The robot, named the Gado 1, was developed for under $500 to scan a collection of historic images at Baltimore’s Afro-American newspaper.
In memoriam John A. Kirchner, A&S ’37, HS ’49, July 31, New Haven, Connecticut.
Larry K. Haines, A&S ’59, ’62 (MA), June 27, Dallas.
Samuel A. Rittenhouse, Engr ’37, August 8, Towson, Maryland.
Walter Robert Power, A&S ’59 (PhD), June 6, Camarillo, California.
William B. Breeden, A&S ’39, January 21, Medford, Oregon.
Robert R. Kent, A&S ’61, Med ’65, ’69 (PGF), HS ’67, July 18, Lutherville, Maryland.
Sara K. Neese, Nurs ’40, June 29, McLean, Virginia. Emmett L. Buhle, A&S ’41, ’44 (MA), ’49 (PhD), July 31, Media, Pennsylvania. William T. Sackett Jr., Engr ’41, ’50 (PhD), January 20, Longmont, Colorado.
Robert “Bob” C. Carlson, Engr ’63 (MS), ’76 (PhD), September 6, Palo Alto, California. Pascal A. Girard, Bus ’63, June 10, Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Gary K. Ackers, Med ’65, ’65 (PGF), May 20, Oro Valley, Arizona.
Gayle G. Arnold, A&S ’42, August 17, Richmond, Virginia.
Bruce E. Dahrling II, Med ’65, February 10, Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Thomas Brundige III, A&S ’42, August 31, Baltimore.
F. Gould Charshee Jr., A&S ’66, June 11, Towson, Maryland.
David Seligson, SPH ’42 (ScD), March 3, Branford, Connecticut.
James Patrick Connaughton, Med ’67 (PGF), HS ’67, Bus ’02 (MS), September 11, Lutherville, Maryland.
Wilda A. Mahoney, Nurs ’46 (Cert), July 17, Woodbury, New Jersey. Malcolm W. Bick, HS ’47, June 4, Nokomis, Florida. Burton V. Lock, A&S ’47, September 23, 2010, Baltimore. James N. Rosenau, SAIS ’49, September 9, Louisville, Colorado. B. Cullen Burris, HS ’50, August 27, Chatham, New Jersey. William B. Miles Jr., Engr ’50, September 14, Salisbury, Maryland. Leon Trachtman, A&S ’50 (MA), September 5, Lafayette, Indiana. John P. Watkins, Med ’50, September 1, Las Vegas. Robert F. Siegfried, A&S ’52, August 6, Coopersburg, Pennsylvania. Edwin Thoet Jr., A&S ’52, January 26, Williamsburg, Virginia. Emil “Buzzy” A. Budnitz Jr., A&S ’53, September 11, Baltimore. Marvin L. Daves, Med ’53, HS ’57, June 30, Prescott, Arizona. A. Ridgely Park, Engr ’53, July 19, Fallbrook, California. Joel A. Carrington, Ed ’54 (MA), March 2, Owings Mills, Maryland. Alton C. Hlavin, Engr ’56, July 3, Vienna, Virginia. Jon Park O’Donnell, A&S ’56 (MA), West Palm Beach, Florida. Roger W. Finlay, A&S ’57, ’62 (PhD), March 13, Saint Helena Island, South Carolina. Louis R. Mills Jr., Engr ’58, September 16, Towson, Maryland.
Thomas A. Considine, Engr ’67, August 4, Timonium, Maryland. Frank M. Nelson, Engr ’67 (PhD), August 5, Potomac, Maryland. James W. Althouse III, A&S ’68, June 9, Hudson, Ohio. Nellie “Nonnie” H. Bartlett, Ed ’68 (MA), July 24, Easton, Maryland. James E. Carson, HS ’71, September 17, North Wilmington, Delaware. Judith Grossman, A&S ’71 (MA), May 21, New York. John E. Friedel Jr., Engr ’72, June 26, Arnold, Maryland. Dorothy Sucher, Med ’75 (MS), August 22, Silver Spring, Maryland. Bernadine Healy, Med ’76 (PGF), HS ’72, ’84, August 6, Gates Mills, Ohio. William Laramie, Peab ’78, September 1, Hartford, Connecticut. Dorothy Ehlers Bennett, A&S ’79, May 7, Baltimore. John F. Downing Jr., A&S ’80, September 27, New Canaan, Connecticut. Joseph Emmett Queen Jr., Engr ’83 (MS), September 12, Riva, Maryland. Margaret F. Jensvold, Med ’84, August 2, Kensington, Maryland. Armand Jean Vanek, Engr ’89 (MCE), July 18, Greensburg, Pennsylvania. Ross J. Brechner, SPH ’91, August 4, Catonsville, Maryland. Andrew J. Weiner, Engr ’93, July 29, Henderson, Nevada.
Carl Leland Mohre, Engr ’58, June 26, Melbourne, Florida.
Joseph C. Stokes Jr., Bus ’95 (MS), September 19, 2009, Leverett, Massachusetts.
Felicien M. Steichen, HS ’58, Med ’61 (PGF), June 27, Mamaroneck, New York.
Barbara A. Tarver, Ed ’99 (Cert), August 22, Baltimore.
70 Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
“Merging Words” Solutions Puzzle on page 17. 1. asp-ire, car-ton, for-age, imp-air, men-ace, par-son, red-act, rot-ate, tenant, war-den. 2. cast-rate, cove-ring, disc-over, hostages, mass-acre, mist-rust, must-ache, past-oral, port-able, read-just. Note: Combinations such as imp-act and men-age, or over-cast and mass-ages, are perfectly good words, but I don’t think they let you complete the sets of 10 combined words.
Continued from page 15 neglected to note that Americans intent on entering Syria surely better not reveal any evidence of having traveled to their ally Israel. If these are examples of the scholarship Johns Hopkins is most proud of, we truly do have quite a problem. Robert Stevens, A&S ’76 Fairfax, Virginia You’re welcome, Ms. Lewison Bret McCabe’s article, “The Greatest Veneration,” in the Fall issue of Johns Hopkins Magazine is fascinating—I enjoyed it immensely. I’m sure you know all about many of the other portraits—but I had to make sure you were aware of the only one with two doctors in it [Howard W. and Georgeanna Seegar Jones, by Henry Cooper, 1977]. Georgeanna graduat-
ed in 1936—along with my husband, Edward Lewison (his portrait, by the photographer Leonard Greif, is in his library in the Bunting Blaustein Building). Unfortunately, Georgeanna died of Alzheimer’s about five years ago, but Howard—who will be 101 in December—was in Baltimore in October for their lectureship. His body is failing but his mind is still fabulous. Again, many thanks for your great article. Betty Lewison Baltimore, Maryland Correction: In “The Greatest Veneration” [Fall], we incorrectly identified one of the physicians portrayed in John Singer Sargent’s The Four Doctors. It is William Halsted who is portrayed standing behind the other three doctors “with one hand magisterially on his hip.”
Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011 71
H o w To :
Win a Nobel Prize
Scientists theorized that vacuum energy—labeled “dark energy” because we understand little about its nature—was pushing galaxies apart faster. Adam Riess, a professor of physics and astronomy at the Krieger School since 2005, was the lead author of the first journal publication on the accelerating universe. He shared the Nobel Prize in physics, announced in October. Riess explains, with little gravity, how the world’s most prestigious award is won. —Michael Anft
Pick a project. Among the wish list options early on in Riess’ career was “making first contact with E.T.” He wisely chose to study the universe’s expansion instead.
Discover something mind-blowing—like dark energy, for example. To do this, you need to follow some steps within steps: Observe, analyze, do the math. Then publish, promote, repeat.
Be awakened by a phone call at 5:30 a.m. by someone who has a Swedish accent but who isn’t from Ikea.
72 Johns Hopkins Magazine • Winter 2011
Explain to your 7-year-old daughter that winning the Nobel Prize is like getting a gold star for your schoolwork.
strophysicists have known for decades that the universe is expanding. Still, they’ve wondered, could the expansion eventually peter out, leaving the universe to ultimately end when gravity causes all celestial bodies to crash together? In 1998, two competing research teams studying light left by stars that exploded billions of years ago found that the universe was much more likely to end in a whimper than a crunch. The reason? The universe is not only expanding but flying apart at a higher rate of speed.
Thank You Again Our appreciation for your boundless generosity is difficult to express, especially with three fingers made of a synthetic polyester blend, but we will never stop trying. If you gave, thank you. If not, there is still time to make your annual fund gift. Again, from all of us, thank you.
Checks can be made payable and sent to: Johns Hopkins University Office of Annual Giving P.O. Box 17073 Baltimore, MD 21297-0509 800-548-5422 giving.jhu.edu
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