still haunted by our Fall
2001 issue of Johns Hopkins Public Health. Although it
was conceived last summer and completed by Sept. 11, it covered
many issues that subsequently resonated so strongly with the nation
The coincidences abound. Our cover story, "In Harm's Way,"
highlighted the dangers that public health researchers experience
in their quest to save lives and improve health. I think we will
have to expand our "In Harm's Way" heroes to include people
like environmental health researcher Alison
Geyh, PhD, who has spent weeks at Ground Zero gauging the long-term
health risks to workers posed by airborne particulates. Our Prologue
story on Anna Baetjer highlighted the doyenne of occupational health,
a discipline central to the anthrax response as postal workers and
mail handlers found themselves facing a serious new risk in the
workplace. In his Et Al piece, Dean
Al Sommer addressed "our chronic state of high alert,"
a condition that has since been ratcheted upward.
In the fall issue's Editor's Note, I talked about the difficulty
of defining public health and explaining what we do to the public.
(Some of the responses to my plea for assistance are printed in
our Letters section on the next page.) The trauma caused by the
Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the fall anthrax terror campaign
has brought public health to the forefront of American political
and cultural consciousness to an extent we never could have envisioned.
(See proof of this in the New Yorker
cartoon celebrating epidemiologists.) Suddenly, Americans now
have a grasp of what public health is about and why it's important.
The fall's bioterrorism attacks have taught us all the necessity
of having an early warning system of disease surveillance and a
public health infrastructure that can respond quickly and effectively
to outbreaks in ways that individual doctors and hospitals cannot.
With billions of federal dollars already flowing into our flagging
public health system, the next few years hold the promise of an
unparalleled and badly needed public health renaissance.
In this issue's Special Report, "The Science of Security,"
we chronicle the School's many contributions to the national preparedness
effort. Hopkins Public Health Scientists Working to Address Terrorism
and the Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies represent important
national resources that are making an impact right now in the areas
of biomedical science, public health law, vaccine research, health
policy, and many other disciplines.
To be sure, we claim no extrasensory insight here at the magazine
and our prescience was wholly coincidental. But in covering the
world of public health as uniquely viewed from the Johns Hopkins
Bloomberg School of Public Health, we necessarily write about what
matters. And now in these difficult times, the work of public health
and the School is only more important because, as we saw last fall,
terrorism puts us all "in harm's way."
SYLVIA EGGLESTON WEHR
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