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Travel Aid
Uneasy about an upcoming trip abroad? The Travel Medicine Consultation Service has the tools you need to make your journey safe.



Against a backdrop of zebra paintings, Indonesian hats and other exotic artifacts, Judy Baker provides pre-travel advice and immunizations, post-travel diagnosis and treatment, and routine jabs such as flu shots.

With terror threats and outbreaks of SARS and encephalitis looming large, globetrotting isn’t the happy-go-lucky pursuit it once was. These days, a service that both arms travelers against disease and counsels them on their destination’s ins and outs is practically essential.

And that’s just what the Johns Hopkins University’s Travel Medicine Consultation and Immunization Service offers clients. Here, on the 8th floor of the Outpatient Center, Hopkins employees, business travelers, relief agency workers and other wayfarers can get immunizations and schedule individualized advisory sessions, through which they learn about the potential health risks and cultural differences they might find abroad.

Assistant Director Judy Baker, who holds a B.S.N. and M.P.H. in international health, is a well-seasoned, experienced traveler who has lived and worked throughout Africa and Asia. She checks six sources daily to keep abreast of the latest developments in international medicine. “If a family is moving to Uganda, they need to know about medical evacuation insurance, insect-borne illnesses, food and water safety, and what health care options will be available to them. And it’s comforting to get that information from someone who’s done it before.”

Baker also takes time to help people who are adopting overseas navigate emotional and political pitfalls. “We give people the tools to make informed decisions, while promoting an understanding of other cultures,” says Baker, herself the adoptive parent of a 9-year-old Vietnamese girl.

Medical Director R. Bradley Sack launched the service in 1986. When Baker arrived in 1987, she decorated the offices using oriental rugs, ethnic art, even kitschy collections of historic bug-spray bottles. Today, Baker and client coordinator Shone Sterner run the clinic full time, operating only by word of mouth and out-of-pocket fees for service. (Insurance doesn’t cover travel immunizations.) They avail clients of scores of information packets they produce and update themselves. These packets cover topics ranging from jet lag to diarrhea to dengue fever. For those who fear needle injections, Baker has covered the exam room wall with drawings and “shot advice” from her daughter’s classmates guaranteed to distract even the most jab-shy adult.

The Travel Service maintains 50,000 patient charts and juggles as many as 30 immunization appointments and 50 phone inquiries a day. It’s a unique entry point into the Hopkins system. “We’re one of the only specialties that sees clients of all ages, even whole families at once,” explains Baker. “And because we’re on campus, we can easily refer people to other services they might need.”

- Lindsay Roylance

The JHU Travel Medicine Service is open Tuesday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Appointments: 410-955-8931.


 

 

 

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