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Malaria, Past and Future


Malaria-Fighting Legacy

It must be a heady time for all at the School with the Bloomberg naming and the new malaria grants! Congratulations!

Beyond the incredible new stimulus for the malaria research, the fun will begin as the School attempts to apply its findings in the social, economic, and political environment of developing countries. That challenge already fills a long history, one that the School will need to take into account.

Fortuitously, the life of a legendary malariologist, Dr. Mohyeddin Farid, DrPH '48, illustrates how few experienced malariologists exist in the world. Mohi, whom I knew well, was not only brilliant in his own work but as an Egyptian and an Arabic scholar. He was the first to identify that the Prophet Mohammed died of malaria!

I enclose a brief note about Dr. Farid's remarkable life, which, in the context of the School's new initiative, seems highly appropriate. It should attract global public health attention. Dr. Farid died last October.

Lee Howard, MD, DrPH '60, MPH '58
Rockville, Maryland

Reflecting on Philanthropy

As a longtime admirer of the School of Public Health and the myriad achievements of its graduates around the world, I am pleased that you had such good news to report on the inside cover of the spring 2001 issue. What a juxtaposition of stories, however; Mr. Bloomberg, chair of The Johns Hopkins University Board of Trustees, financial godfather of the School's difficult 1990s, now candidate for mayor of New York City, has the School renamed in his honor, while below Dean Sommer quietly points out, "The donor [of $100 million to conquer malaria] has committed a fortune, not for personal reward, but to win a victory for mankind."

The page provides a short course into the ways and morals of today's philanthropy and raises important questions about the aims and responsibilities of givers and recipients. I hope it will provide others an opportunity to reflect as well.

Nancy Stowe Inui
Richland, Michigan

imgCredit for Essential Work

Thanks for your interesting review of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health project that examined the association of daily mortality and air pollution in American cities ["Airtight Case Against Dirty Air," Spring 2001].

The purpose of this letter is to point out the essential role played by Francesca Dominici, assistant professor of Biostatistics, in this project. She has been the leader of most of the analyses central to our New England Journal of Medicine (December 2000) report and other project papers. Francesca and several other colleagues including Frank Curriero have been critical to our success.

Again, thanks for your coverage of the air pollution mortality research at Hopkins.

Scott L. Zeger, PhD
Professor and Chair
Department of Biostatistics

Thanks for the Memories

Receiving the beautiful medal commemorating the 50th anniversary of my MPH graduation from the Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health caused me to remember with pleasure and pride the academic year I spent at the School and the great significance it's had on my professional life.

Some years ago, as a former student of statistics professor Dr. Margaret Merrell, I wrote her a letter on the occasion of her 90th birthday, expressing my gratitude and admiration for her teaching. In fact, after my experience with her, I decided to enter the field of public health statistics. During the following years, I myself became a professor in this discipline, and Dean of the Escuela de Salud Publica de la Universidad de Chile. Today, as I approach the age she was then, I treasure as an invaluable memory the handwritten letter with which Dr. Merrell kindly answered me.

Reading the periodical publications from Johns Hopkins that so kindly have been sent to me over these 50 years makes me feel proud to be a former student of a University and a School with such a brilliant history of development and progress. In a world divided by cruel differences, where health problems are so enormous, I have no doubt that Hopkins will continue making relevant contributions to overcome these differences.

Hugo Behm, MD, MPH '51
San Jose, Costa Rica

Et Tu, Al?

I liked Dean Alfred Sommer's critique of the current enthusiasm for the "genetic revolution" ["Et Al," Spring 2001]. His comment should have a wider audience.

He seems not to know that the hypothesis relating dietary saturated fat and cholesterol to the causation of CHD has been thoroughly and expensively examined in the MRFIT and LCRP trials. Both failed to support the hypothesis. The real culprit is dietary trans fatty acids, so I think. This hypothesis has not been tested.

I suppose Dean Sommer gets vast amounts of unwanted advice, but last summer I visited the School of Public Health and took a tour of the buildings, new and planned. Buildings don't make discoveries, people do. A creative person doesn't need much space, just a quiet place.

George V. Mann, MD, ScD '42
McMinnville, Tennessee

Dean Sommer responds: Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments. There is little I would disagree with.
      My understanding of the results of the MRFIT and LCRP trials is somewhat similar to yours that trans fatty acids are indeed a disaster but that only made them even worse than saturated fat and cholesterol; they did not exculpate the latter.
      Your observations on the seemingly unbridled expansion of our facilities has been echoed by others. All I can say is that it has not been our plan to "build buildings." Our first and foremost priority is the recruitment of the most stellar, promising faculty; despite all the devotion we give to limiting the growth in faculty, and only recruiting the very finest, the numbers constantly exceed our capacity to house them. In a modification of "form follows function," we are simply forced to try and have our "facilities follow faculty."

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