Twenty-two years after her landmark discovery, a molecular
biologist wins "the American Nobel."
When Carol Greider’s husband and two kids poured
into the foyer that afternoon in June, they were bursting
with stories. They’d been at the pool! A heat
wave had been raging, and husband Nathaniel Comfort
wondered if the long-awaited ceiling fan had been installed
in the bedroom. None of them sensed that Greider had
news. She made one sporting bid to interrupt—“Can
I tell you one thing?”—then just waded
right in. Looking her husband in the eye, she blurted
out: “So I won the Lasker Award.”
The chatter halted. Comfort looked stunned. “You
what?” Hours later at a local restaurant, the
family celebrated the fact that Carol Greider had indeed
been tapped as one of the few scientists in history
to win “the American Nobel.”
Who could’ve known that probing a common pond
organism in 1984 would forever change medicine? Certainly
not Greider, who at the time was an exuberant 23-year-old
postdoc student pursuing a scientific hunch. A few
bold researchers had been puzzling over the key question
of how the ends of chromosomes replenished themselves.
Two of the trailblazers, Elizabeth Blackburn (Greider’s
Berkeley professor) and Jack Szostak, suspected the
key lay with an as-yet-unnamed enzyme. But finding
such an elusive protein would require a tenacious researcher.
Greider took on the challenge.
Her pond creature of choice was Tetrahymena, a ubiquitous
protozoan coveted by researchers for its abundance
of chromosomes. Greider selected about 200,000,000
of the microorganisms to study. Eight months later,
she was alone in the lab on Christmas day when the
planets suddenly aligned. She could barely contain
herself as the theorized enzyme revealed itself in
a series of DNA markers arrayed on a sheet of X-Ray
film. The research group named its new enzyme telomerase
and set it loose in the world with a paper published
in Cell in 1985.
The discovery of telomerase prompted earnest conversation
within the cloistered community of cell biologists.
What the devil was the value of such an enzyme in a
common pond organism? By 1991, though, Greider was
among the scientists who had established that telomerase
not only existed in human cells, but is specifically
expressed in cancer. Telomerase, it soon became clear,
would pave the way for an entirely new field of inquiry
into cellular mechanisms across virtually all forms
In the calm before the storm surrounding the naming
of this year’s Lasker winners, Greider saw the
honor as a way to gain a platform to tout the under-appreciated
value of “curiosity-driven science.”
There is also the tiny matter of the award’s
cash value. The $100,000 will be divided evenly among
her two co-discoverers, Blackburn and Szostak, yielding
$33,000 for the Hopkins professor of microbiology.
That should be more than enough, she says, to create
separate bedrooms for 9-year-old Charles and 6-year-old
Gwendolyn. Each will, of course, have its own ceiling
When Reed Hall Is Your Home
After a half-century of service, a storied medical
dorm talks about itself.
Cappelli and Kate Distler doing the
roommate thing on move-in day.
Since its arrival in 1957, Reed Hall has welcomed
medical students. Sandwiched inconspicuously off the
that flanks the north side of the Outpatient Center,
the dormitory has also seen its desirability wax and
wane. But now, with plans for new student housing under
discussion, the aging dorm may be settling into its
twilight years as a coveted hot spot. We decided to
Sixty-two first-year students moved into Reed Hall
at the end of August. Two of them—Laura Cappelli
from U-Penn and Kate Distler from Notre Dame—had
been assigned spots in a four-person suite on the 10th
floor. Both graduated with top honors from their universities
and received acceptances from the most select medical
schools. Neither doubted that her first choice would
be Hopkins, since they’d been blown away by the
faculty here during their interviews.
Settling in like sisters already on move-in day, Cappelli
and Distler realized that their compatible tastes in
clothing would make for excellent wardrobe sharing.
Lowell J. Reed (1886–1966). In his 38 years
at Hopkins, Reed headed up biostatistics and became
a dean of the School of Hygiene and Public Health.
In 1953, he was named president of Johns Hopkins University.
History of a Dorm
Talk to any old-timer from Hopkins Med and you’ll
hear nothing about dorm life. Before the rise of Reed,
medical students lived in housing near the Hospital.
But by the mid 1950s, these boarding houses along Broadway
started coming down to make way for an expanding campus.
Reed Hall’s nine-story west wing went up in 1957;
the 12-story east wing in ’66. (The current room
configurations add up to 300 units). Even after the
dorms’ arrival, most Reed residents tried to
move out within a year or so.
The Grande Dame of the Dorm
Ann Snead has run things at Reed for 32 years. “It’s
been a long haul,” she says. The dorm has seen
a dramatic turnaround. Snead remembers that, some years
back, tenants had T-shirts printed up saying “I
Survived a Year in Reed Hall.” But the property’s
fortunes have changed. “Everybody wants to live
here now,” Snead is happy to report. She says
young tenants crave the dorm because of its convenience,
social amenities that include the adjacent Cooley Center
gym, near-perfect 24-hour security, and price—currently
a monthly maximum of $425. (An extra $115 will get
you a parking space). So many students want to stay
after their first year that Snead has started a lottery
system for slots. “We have to throw these people
The Most Tenured Tenants
Snead’s not completely sure who in history achieved
the longest stay at Reed, but Drew Pardoll logged a
remarkable seven-year stretch beginning in 1975 before,
she says, being named to a faculty position. He’s
now one of Hopkins’ leading tumor immunologists.
But Pardoll’s term may soon be eclipsed by a
new contender: Krishna Juluri, a Ph.D. candidate in
neuroscience, has roomed at Reed since 1999 and has
no current moving plans.
Life at Reed
Most tenants’ waking hours are occupied by intense
study, of course, and the dorm’s central location
on the medical campus allows students to haunt the
libraries and labs and clinics at all hours. (An underground
tunnel goes to the Hospital). And dorm residents like
the proximity to helpful classmates. Also on hand is
a generous supply of about 400 films on DVD, which
can be checked out for free at any time. Finally, as
in most dorms, there are parties. Last year, according
to Snead, the east wing’s entire 12th floor had
a reputation as “the biggest party floor.”
Down the Road
Reed Hall’s days as a dormitory may be numbered.
According to Richard Grossi, senior associate dean
for finance and administration, the new biotech park
going up north of campus includes plans for student
housing. This could mean Reed Hall would be re-purposed—but
it’s west wing might also be demolished to allow
for green space. Snead’s thinking of retiring
before such a transition. “This place is kind
of like my baby,” she says.
- In 1961, a west-wing room cost $45 per month,
including maid service.
- Sometime in the mid-’70s, the lobby
areas were redecorated with purple and pink
- The ratio of U.S. citizens to international
students is currently 49 percent to 51 percent.
- The dorm has a reputation for indestructibility.
Snead recalls overhearing an exchange in 2003,
when Hurricane Isabel was bearing down on Baltimore: “Don’t
worry,” said the veteran tenant to his
junior colleague, “this place is like
The ratings are in
In the midst of an endlessly steamy July, with the
once-glorious Orioles playing—yet again—another
season of lackluster baseball, one welcome piece of
news rocketed through Baltimore: For the 16th straight
year, U.S. News & World Report’s annual ranking
of hospitals placed Johns Hopkins at the top of the
The magazine ranked Hopkins #1 in otolaryngology,
gynecology, kidney disease treatment, urology and rheumatology;
#2 in neurology and neurosurgery, ophthalmology and
psychiatry; and #3 in endocrinology, cardiology, cardiac
surgery, pediatrics and the treatment of cancer and
digestive disorders, Tune in next year—same time,
Hardware's ripple effect
Times have changed for spine surgery, and it’s
all down to the screws. Our purchasers say the costs
of individual surgical screws can range from $25 each
up to $1,200 each. Rods and hooks have been following
a similar pattern. But it also seems the fancier units
have enabled our surgeons to answer a growing number
of patient needs. In just the past six years, the Hopkins
spine fusion surgeries that require metal implants
have gone from 561 cases per year to 985. On a per-case
basis, the costs of advancing hardware have nearly
doubled, from $4,902 in 2000 to $9,527 in 2006. Total
costs for spinal implants over the same period rose
from $2,750,170 to $10,641,983. RF
Source: Johns Hopkins Department of Surgery
For med students, adding an M.P.H. offers options
“Savings lives millions at a time,” cries
the slogan that proudly tops the Bloomberg School of
Public Health’s Web site. And now that
message seems to be catching on with students at the
School of Medicine, too. More than 70 med students
over the past decade have opted to delay their M.D.
by one year by combining it with a masters of public
health from the primo Bloomberg School across the street.
And this year, with a new high tally of 15 medical
students enrolled in the dual-degree program, its’ clear
that the M.D./M.P.H. combo is hot. How come?
“I plan to spend time in Zambia in my fourth
year of medical school working with malaria,” says
Michael Sauder, who started working toward his M.P.H.
this fall. “The public health curriculum prepares
you for that kind of international medicine and international
health.” Like other dual-degree candidates,
Sauder took a leave of absence after his third year
to begin the 11-month program.
Meanwhile, Matt Burkey, a fourth-year medical student
who completed his M.P.H. last May, is using his new
knowledge to help recent immigrants gain access to
health care in Baltimore. “Medical school emphasizes
hospitals for our care delivery system,” he says, “while
M.P.H. case studies exposed me to less-expensive, outside-the-box
systems, adaptable to the inner city.
“Public health people,” Burkey says, “think
really big about how we can improve the health of a
large group of people. That’s a very exciting
conversation to have.” And now that he’s
learned both the micro and macro views of patient care,
he’s thinking, “I’d like to find
a way to combine my public health and clinical interests.”
Whether it’s tracking and preparing for the
bird flu, reacting to anthrax and bioterrorism concerns,
fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic or debating the ethical
ramifications of stem cell research, more and more
M.D./M.P.H. students are echoing Burkey’s feelings.
As James Weiss, the School of Medicine’s associate
dean of admissions, notes: “In many cases this
second degree becomes a career-forming move for our
Med Student Lobby
A boot camp for health
Should physicians weigh in on national pastimes that
threaten populations? You bet they should, say faculty
here, who are increasingly sharpening advocacy skills
of med students.
In a recent class of the School of Medicine’s
Physician and Society course, students were asked to
plan a real-world lobbying campaign targeting specific
politicians in Washington. To carry out the assignment,
one group tackled the rising menace of video game violence.
With med student Alodia Gabre-Kidan leading off the
presentation, the group made its case in a mock appeal
to a Washington lawmaker by assigning class proctor
Maggie Moon the role of Illinois Senator Dick Durban.
“Kids can find themselves at the trigger of
a gun,” Gabre-Kidan began, “just by booting
up a computer or a video game.”
To vivify their case, another student described how
one of the Grand Theft Auto games rewards players who
shoot pedestrians, blow up police cars and rape prostitutes.
Presenter Mike Sentone then referred to a BBC report
describing how a UK youth followed the lessons of a
violent video game by killing his 14-year-old friend
with a hammer. “And that’s just one example,” he
Students cited health groups that agree violent video
games in the hands of young teens portend social harm.
They trotted out alarming study results: increased
violent behavior, retaliatory aggression and physiological
arousal, along with a decrease in constructive social
What’s a good legislator to do?
Unveiling a savvy five-point plan, the students proposed
stricter sanctions for vendor violations, education
for parents, prohibitions against marketing such games
to children, funds to study their effect and a campaign
to bring other senators on board.
“The data you’ve shown was the best I’ve
ever seen,” said would-be “Senator” Moon.
|>The Hopkins duo, John and Johns.
It’s not easy being John Hopkins when you work
for … well…
A couple of years ago, when
John Hopkins took a job as a financial liaison with
the Home Care Group at Johns Hopkins, he knew he
was in for plenty of ribbing. But Hopkins is an affable
guy, so he’s remained
cheerful about his pesky moniker.
What’s it like to be
John Hopkins at Johns Hopkins?
When I started working here,
I was like the fat lady in the circus. People would
come by and say, “I
want to see the guy called John Hopkins.”
Any misdirected phone calls?
People call and ask for John
Hopkins, meaning the institution, and get transferred
to me. They need medical care, or medical equipment—things I know absolutely
nothing about. Or, there’s an overdue bill and
the caller—some guy from a collection agency
in, say, Dubuque—expects me to pay. I try to
explain that Johns Hopkins is a huge institution.
Has your name ever opened doors?
Definitely. I used to conduct
market surveys for dialysis equipment. I’d
call clinics and hospitals and say I was John Hopkins,
and the information would just pour out. People would
tell me everything, because the name John(s) Hopkins
has so much clout.
What about all those people
who omit the “s” in “Johns” and
call the place “John Hopkins?”
It really registers. How can
they work here and mispronounce the name? People
don’t call the Mayo Clinic the
Any advice on naming a child for someone famous?
Don’t do it. My name is John Michael Hopkins.
In my family, we all went by our middle names, so everybody
called me Michael. Then, during roll call on my first
day in high school, I decided to switch to my first
name. If I had to do it over, I’d go back to
Lydia Levis Bloch
Director with a Latin Beat
Amzel’s research travels take him back to his
He’s the son of a shoe-store salesman from Buenos
Aires. He earned his Ph.D. in Argentina and then in
1970 traveled to Hopkins on a postdoctoral fellowship.
He’s been here ever since, and now L. Mario Amzel
is the new director of the Department of Biophysics
But Amzel hasn’t forgotten his Latin roots.
In the past year alone, the physical chemist has attended
seminars, appeared on panels and lectured in Mexico,
Colombia, Argentina and Spain. He is also the current
president of the Society of Latin American Biophysicists. “I
just try to pay back the place that I came from,” he
Amzel, whose early work focused on determining the
shapes and structures of proteins, was the first to
define the structure of an antibody, the molecule that
helps the human immune system fight off infection.
He also was part of a Hopkins research team that produced
the first high-resolution pictures showing how antibodies
interact with antigens, foreign molecules that invade
Amzel is course director of “Biochemical and
Biophysical Principles” and lectures in seven
different School of Medicine courses. In 1994, graduate
students recognized him with a Teacher of the Year
Award. In 1999, he received a University Alumni Teaching
Neil A. Grauer
Follow That Fish
New physiology chief pursued childhood fascination.
For Bill Guggino, a childhood question led ultimately to his new post as director
of the Department of Physiology.
As a boy, Guggino loved the ocean and wondered, “How do fish live in
the sea?” As a graduate student seeking a research topic, he remembered
the question and began studying the chloride-secreting cells that enable fish
to survive in a salty environment.
Three decades later—including a quarter-century as course director in
organ systems physiology and histology—Guggino is an international authority
on chloride transport and a key figure in developing a gene therapy for cystic
“The protein involved in secreting chloride in fish is like the one
that’s defective in CF,” Guino notes, so he’s still studying
the basic science of the chloride channel and its malfunctions in CF.
Guggino arrived from Yale in 1982. In 1992, he co-authored with Peter Agre
a paper detailing the first water channel protein. Eleven years later, that
research won Agre a Nobel Prize.
Vice chairman of research in the Department of Pediatrics since 1996, Guggino
is recognized for work that won the Doris F. Tulcin Cystic Fibrosis Research
Award in 2005.
His vision for his department? “We need both tools and new coursework.
Then we’ll have to train a whole generation of students.”
From Uganda to Chief
A Hep-C whiz who rose
through the ranks.
The division that David L. Thomas inherits as the
new director of Infectious Diseases is a colossus compared
to two decades ago. When his predecessor, John Bartlett,
took the helm in 1980, ID had three full-time staff
members. Today, it has a roster of 55 faculty and a
staff of 177 and treats more than 5,100 patients a
year. Its research budget of $40 million is one of
With hepatitis C now the leading cause of liver disease
in the United States and killing up to 12,000 annually—the
division’s new leader comes well-equipped. Since
joining the division as a fellow in 1990, Thomas has
become a world-renowned expert on the disease. He has
also investigated how co-infections with hepatic C
viruses and HIV grow in intravenous drug users with
weakened immune systems.
Thomas assumed leadership of the division on July
1, after having spent a year in Uganda working with
other infectious disease experts from North America
to help the Ugandans establish an institute for combating
the effects of AIDS and other infectious diseases.
Neil A. Grauer
More Alpha Docs
Albert, professor of neurology
and co-director of the Johns Hopkins Alzheimer’s
Disease Research Center, has received the 2006 Ronald
and Nancy Reagan Research Institute Award.
Joseph Brady, professor of psychiatry
and behavioral sciences and the founder of the Division
of Behavioral Sciences, has been honored by the Association
for Behavior Analysis for outstanding contributions
to the experimental analysis of behavior.
Allan Joel Belzberg, associate professor
of neurosurgery, was one of only 10 listings in the
new edition of Who’s Who in Medicine and Health
Care, in a special section titled “Healthcare
Honorees: 10 Who Made a Difference.”
Benjamin Carson, director of the
Division of Pediatric Neurosurgery, has received the
Spingarn Medal, the NAACP’s highest honor.
H. Ballentine Carter, professor of
urology, has been elected to the American Association
of Genitourinary Surgeons.
Richard Chaisson, professor of medicine,
epidemiology and international health, has received
the 2006 World Lung Health Award for scientific achievement
from the American Thoracic Society. Founder of the
Hopkins Center for Tuberculosis Research, he leads
the largest TB-related research effort in the United
States, with more than $100 million in grants.
Ronald Cohn, chief resident in the
McKusick-Nathans Institute for Genetic Medicine and
the first Hopkins resident to train in a combined pediatrics
and genetics program, has received the first Harvard-Partners
Center for Genetics and Genomics Award for medical
Nancy Davidson, professor of oncology
and director of the breast cancer program in the Sidney
Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, has been inducted
as president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
Mark Donowitz, professor of medicine
and director of the Center for Epithelial Disorders,
has become president of the American Gastroenterological
Association and recently received the American Physiological
Association’s Davenport Award for career achievement.
Frank J. Frassica, director of orthopedic
surgery, has received the American Orthopaedic Association’s
Smith & Nephew Endoscopy Distinguished Clinician
Educator Award and the Southern Orthopaedic Association’s
Distinguished Southern Orthopaedist Award.
Donald Jasinski, professor of medicine
and chief of the Division of Chemical Dependency at
Hopkins Bayview, has been selected to serve on the
United Nations’ International Narcotics Control
Board Advisory Panel of Experts to monitor the UN’s
international drug control conventions.
Edward McFarland, Sports Medicine
and Shoulder Surgery and current director of the Division
of Adult Orthopaedics, has been named the first Wayne
H. Lewis Professor of Orthopaedics and Shoulder Surgery.
Lewis is the president of Investor Services Limited
and a patient of McFarland’s.
Eduardo Marbán, chief of the
Division of Cardiology, has been named the 2006 recipient
of the Gill Heart Institute Award for Outstanding Contributions
to Cardiovascular Research.
Anirban Maitra, associate professor
of pathology and oncology, has received the 2006 Outstanding
Young Scientist Award. Maitra’s research has
led to several potential treatments for pancreatic
Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, assistant
professor of neurosurgery, has been named one of the
first 13 recipients of a Physician-Scientist Early
Career Award from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
The award provides $150,000 over three years to cover
direct research expenses.
Srinivasa Raja, director of the Division
of Pain Medicine, has been elected to a three-year
term on the board of directors of the American Pain
Society. He also has been nominated to the Scientific
Advisory Committee of the International Association
for the Study of Pain.
Patrick Walsh, University Distinguished
Professor of Urology, has been elected president of
the American Association of Genitourinary Surgeons.
Neil A. Grauer