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New school colors just the beginning

November 30, 2011  |  by Bret McCabe  |  Add a comment
Photo: Will Kirk

The East Baltimore Community School is undergoing numerous improvements. Photo: Will Kirk

Annette 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 to the school? Repaved.

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Low-tech sleuthing

November 30, 2011  |  by Michael Anft  |  Add a comment
Illustration: Brian Hubble

How can developing nations get ahead of disease outbreaks without undergoing an expensive Western-world wiring job? Illustration: Brian Hubble

The 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. Poorer countries aren’t so lucky. They usually have little cash to monitor outbreaks electronically, and with only a few health outposts scattered about the hinterlands, they 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 far-flung soldiers. (The U.S. military encouraged APL to develop the program and paid much of the $5 million to do so.)

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Books: A knock on the head, and jazz in wartime Paris

November 30, 2011  |  by Bret McCabe  |  Add a comment

Precocious isn’t normally 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.

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Interns learn from rougher lives

November 30, 2011  |  by Bret McCabe  |  Add a comment

The 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 public 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.

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Now we know

November 30, 2011  |  by Dale Keiger  |  Add a comment

…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...

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A concise field guide to J. Hopkins

November 30, 2011  |  by Johns Hopkins Staff  |  Add a comment

When 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.”

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Let nurses fill the gap

November 30, 2011  |  by Lisa Watts  |  2 comments
Illustration: SIS / Dave Cutler

Illustration: SIS / Dave Cutler

Julie 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.

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Why can’t some people throw anything away?

November 30, 2011  |  by Michael Anft  |  10 comments

Genes might play a key role in hoarding, a disorder that afflicts an estimated 15 million people in the United States.

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Zelda the painter

November 30, 2011  |  by Bret McCabe  |  Add a comment

An exhibit at Evergreen, curated by undergrad Laura Somenzi, presents Zelda Fitzgerald as an artist in her own right.

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Farming for urban tilapia

November 30, 2011  |  by Michael Anft  |  1 Comment

What’s the best way to get fresh fish, free of chemicals, pesticides, and other environmental toxins? Grow it yourself.

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