Elspeth Kursh, A&S ’06
Mollusks. A polar bear claw. Q-tips and paintbrushes for cleaning multimillion-year-old 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. Read more…
Johns Hopkins Volunteer Summit
The 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 six years been collaborating with Johns Hopkins to create China’s first nursing doctoral program. The Bloomberg School of Public Health has researchers, faculty, students, and alumni tackling health challenges across Africa and around the world. Indeed, every Johns Hopkins school—from the Peabody Institute to the Whiting School of Engineering—has overseas outreach and a globally diverse student body, and the university is today widely recognized as one of the most global of all the world’s institutes of higher education. Read more…
a) We all have Blue Jay tattoos.
b) I got stuck in an elevator right before playing in the big game.
c) Spiderman appeared in one of my classrooms during pledge week.
d) The dean told me to pack my bags and leave town.
e) We met during freshman recruitment and have been together ever since.
f) A prank call to the radio station declaring a snow emergency got me out of an exam.
g) Tristan Davies, my instructor in the Writing Seminars, teased me all semester about my twin.
h) I knew Johns Hopkins was the place from my very first visit.
Watch Johns Hopkins Story Swap and you’ll know, too.
Around campus. Across generations. Among friends.
Leigh Ann Curl, Med ’89, ’07 (PGF), HS ’94, ’07
A 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 up in Pittsburgh during the 1970s, Curl was a huge Steelers fan. Read more…
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. Read more…
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. Read more…
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.
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.
David Frederick Unumb, A&S ’57 (MA), writes that he has been re-elected as a trustee of the Arlington Heights Memorial Library. Read more…
Dan Trahey, Peab ’00
On 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. 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. Read more…
A.J. Jejelowo, Engr ’09
It 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. Read more…
More than 5,000 alumni and friends returned to the Homewood campus April 29–May 1 for a memorable weekend of reconnecting with old friends, engaging activities, and great food. Were you there? Maybe you enjoyed a picnic lunch under the magnolias in the Decker Garden, listened to student a cappella groups battle it out Glee-style, or participated in the first-ever Alumni Authors Book Fair. And let’s not forget Saturday’s traditional crab cake lunch followed by a nail-biting 8-to-7 Blue Jay win over the Loyola Greyhounds! Read more…
How Reading Our Genes May Transform Health Care
Having mapped all of the 3 billion characters in the human genome, including 20,000-plus human genes, a consortium of international researchers declared the Human Genome Project a success in 2003. But for researchers pursuing genomic medicine—the science of predicting disease risk and tailoring treatments based on an individual’s genetic makeup—the work had just begun. For all its potential, genomic medicine, or as Johns Hopkins researchers have taken to calling the field, individualized health, is still in its infancy.
As that research moves forward, the promise of this new, genome-based approach to medical therapy becomes easier to grasp. With a simple swab DNA test, for example, a woman already can learn whether or not she’s at higher risk for breast cancer. That knowledge might prompt her to seek more aggressive treatment at an earlier stage of detection. Two people with colon cancer may soon receive vastly different drug treatments depending on the pattern of changes in their tumor cells, allowing the correct allocation of treatments that will optimize efficacy while minimizing side effects. And a man with genetic indicators for heart disease might be advised earlier about lifestyle changes to prevent complications. Read more…
Elissa Brent Weissman, A&S ’05
Don’t let the boy wizard fool you. There may be surefire paths to riches out there, but writing for kids certainly isn’t one of them. “It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme,” says Elissa Weissman, a 27-year-old Writing Seminars alumna, dryly. With three published children’s books to her name and a fourth in progress, Weissman is in a good position to know. She and her husband, Grant Roch, Engr ’04, live in a simple Baltimore row house with their baby daughter, Karina. Still, Weissman says the life of a kid lit writer offers distinct advantages.
Roch works for Constellation Energy as a qualitative analyst; while not working on her next book, Weissman teaches aspiring authors how to write children’s literature through the Johns Hopkins Odyssey program and at the University of Baltimore. For four summers in a row, she has also worked at the Center for Talented Youth, instructing precocious fourth- and fifth-graders in a writing and reading workshop.
It was through that program that she got the idea for her third book, Nerd Camp, published by Simon & Schuster earlier this year. “It was the first day and during break all these 10-year-olds who had never met were sitting around not knowing what to say until suddenly someone asks, ‘How many digits of pi do you know?’ and then they all started talking,” recalls Weissman. She discreetly moved the conversation on to another topic lest she be given a similar grilling—she’s pretty sure she knows four—but made a writer’s decision to store the moment away for future use. She subsequently employed it in Nerd Camp, whose hero, Gabe, is both thrilled and slightly mortified to have the opportunity to attend a six-week sleepaway camp known as “Smart Camp for Geeks and Eggheads.” Read more…
Bruce E. Blausen, Med ’87 (MA)
Besides updating your Twitter status or slicing digital pomegranates with Fruit Ninja, your smartphone can also help you learn about gestational diabetes, mitral valve stenosis, and a host of other medical conditions, thanks to Bruce Blausen. His Human Atlas app—available for the Web, smartphones, tablet computers, and bedside LCD monitors—uses 3-D video animations to explain over 300 common medical conditions and treatments.
A graduate of the Art as Applied to Medicine program and a tech enthusiast, Blausen was among the first to recognize how new digital technology could transform patient education. Fifteen years ago, when his mother, Dolores, was experiencing heart trouble and asked him to explain “this stuff” to her, he created and sent her VHS tapes of stock medical animations. He later learned that she was sharing them with other seniors in her retirement home who wanted a better understanding of their own medical conditions. Recognizing an unmet market, Blausen began to form an idea for what would eventually become the Human Atlas app. Later, with the surging popularity of smartphones, he saw a way to have educational animations in the palm of your hand, right at the point of care. “Within one or two minutes, a physician could explain and show video animation of atrial fibrillation,” Blausen says. “The patient gets a better grasp of what’s being done to him, thereby alleviating many of his fears and concerns.” Read more…
Rebecca Messner, A&S ’08
Although she’d never made a film before, Rebecca Messner has the filmmaker’s gift. “I know about telling a story,” says Messner, a Writing Seminars graduate and assistant editor at Urbanite magazine in Baltimore. It’s a lucky thing. Brought on two years ago as a research assistant for a major film documentary about the life and legacy of Central Park designer Frederick Law Olmsted, by the time the film premiered in August 2010, Messner had—by attrition—become its co-director and writer. And with no small success. Olmsted and America’s Urban Parks has been broadcast nationally through American Public Television, and New York Times critic Neil Genzlinger wrote, “Ms. Messner’s film makes you glad that Olmsted’s hands, and mind, came along when they did.” Read more…
Margaret “Peg” Huff Leiendecker, Nurs ’65
In a city that draws tens of thousands of visitors every year to historical sites such as Monticello and Montpelier, a singular collection of wartime memorabilia resides in a little-known museum. Displayed on mannequins are military nursing uniforms—complete with accessories such as overcoats, handbags, and hats—and one of the very first bomb disposal suits. U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps posters and “Sons in Service” flags adorn the walls. Glass display cases house British cap and collar badges, and an antique typeset cabinet showcases World War I– and World War II–era jewelry, pendants, and pins. Ask collector Peg Leiendecker what she and her husband call their museum, however, and she’ll answer, “Our basement.”
The couple didn’t set out to create a private museum in the basement of their Charlottesville, Virginia, home. “It’s like putting on pounds,” Leiendecker says. “It just happened.” Her husband, Bob, a retired U.S. Army explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) officer and military historian, had been collecting bomb disposal items for years. Leiendecker, a retired nurse, frequently tagged along on visits to antique shops and trade shows. On one pivotal occasion, she says, “I met this one fellow at an antique show who had a World War II nursing uniform on display. I got to talking with him and before I knew it, I had purchased this uniform for $125 and that was it.” Leiendecker began doing some additional research to find related items and the collection “just mushroomed,” she says. Read more…