Emphasizing Health for All

Septuagenarian Tango

Thank you for the inspiring story of the ultimate teacher, Dr. Anna Baetjer ["Occupational Health's Dynamo," Fall 2001]. She was a unique friend to so many students, especially to the several generations of military officers who came to the School. Dr. Baetjer befriended us and our families, invited us to her Roland Park home on holidays, and shared her collection of Christmas ornaments from students past. Each year, many current and former Army, Navy, and Air Force physicians gather at the Aerospace Medical Association meeting. At the Hopkins reunion night, we can still envision Dr. Baetjer standing on a chair with her hands on the shoulders of two of her former students, bringing everyone up to date on things at Hopkins. We will never forget the field trips, nor will we forget the fracture that she accidentally sustained while learning the tango at age 75. We were not the least surprised to find out that she was actually learning the tango on ice skates.

We are blessed to have had Dr. Anna Baetjer in our lives.

James R. Hickman Jr., MD, MPH '74
Mayo Clinic
Rochester, Minnesota

Defining What We Do
Editor's Note: The following are a few of the letters we received in response to my call for help in defining public health.

To understand public health is to grasp the health concerns of the world's populations. It is to become personally in-volved with health issues that face 4.6 billion people. The emphasis of public health is, and always has been, the prevention of disease. The types of diseases, however, have represented an ever-changing focus. Not long ago, the major concentration was on controlling infectious diseases through immunization programs. Modern lifestyles have spawned new threats to health, including environmental health hazards and chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease. The field is concerned with people facing health hazards prevalent in modern, urban cities as well as people struggling against hunger and sickness in underdeveloped countries. This requires that continuing and emerging threats to the health of the public be successfully countered. These threats include immediate crises, such as the AIDS epidemic; enduring problems, such as injuries and chronic illness; and impending crises foreshadowed by such developments as the toxic byproducts of a modern economy. The public health community has a great deal of work and many challenges to face.

Richard Steele, MD, MPH '90
Silkeborg, Denmark

I graduated from Hopkins in 1987 with an MPH, after nine years as an ICU nurse. The best way I can think of to describe public health is to put words to the different health focus I learned during the MPH courses. Instead of looking at health from an individual patient's view, and trying to treat that individual's health problems, public health looks at issues that affect whole groups at a time: dirty water, dirty air, issues affecting a whole workplace or working group, management of health care systems, disease epidemics and immunizations, even things like terrorism and bioterrorism. The public health emphasis is a much healthier one for me than individual patient care. Good luck.

Linda (Peace) Johnson, MPH '87
Puyallup, Washington

Public health is a broad philosophy rather than an individual discipline. It deals with populations rather than individuals treated by clinicians. It encompasses all the medical and non-medical measures used to improve and maintain health of populations. As a result, public health measures may be as disparate as the promotion of seatbelt laws, fluoridation of public drinking water supplies, or the removal of a pump handle from contaminated public wells. The statistical component of public health legitimizes or disproves anecdotal-evidenced therapies, interventions, or beliefs.

Robert Siegel, DDS, MPH '83
Annapolis, Maryland

That's Gandhi, G-A-N-D-H-I

I happened to have received a copy of the Fall 2001 issue of the Bloomberg School of Public Health magazine and was surprised to find that a well known and much talked about historical name has been misspelled by your journal. [In that issue] Mahatma Gandhi is spelled "Ghandi." This is utterly inexcusable as he was not a little nobody from a little known country. It is more than a little upsetting to find that most Westerners do not take the trouble to learn how to pronounce and spell foreign names; it appears that they get a mental block when they see something they do not recognize. Really it is not so difficult and especially a name like Gandhi should not be such a novelty. I would like to suggest that when names of prominent personalities are used in your articles, their spellings be checked out first. It is only respectful to these great people and to the countries they came from.

Geetha Bansal, PhD
Bethesda, Maryland

Editor's reply: We apologize for this error. While we strive for perfection, occasionally mistakes do slip past us and get into print. When they do, we take a little solace in the words of Gandhi himself: Whenever I see an erring man, I say to myself I have also erred…

In This Issue of Johns Hopkins Public Health Magazine:

Copyright 2002, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. All rights reserved.