March 27, 2002

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Listed below are story ideas from The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. To pursue any of these stories, contact John M. Lazarou, 410-502-8902 or

At first glance, they seem an unlikely pair. One is a local high school student. The other is a top-level Johns Hopkins Hospital executive responsible for overall operations of a 1,000 bed hospital. But since Dunbar High School Senior Deborah Hill's sophomore year, she has been paired with Judy Reitz, Ph.D., Hopkins Hospital chief operating officer and executive vice president. Over the last four years, Hill and Reitz have forged unusual ties under the Career Development program at Hopkins. As Hill's mentor, Reitz has helped Hill find a career in health care. After her scheduled graduation in May, Hill plans to attend Essex Community College to pursue her interest in nursing.

The B.O.N.D to B.O.N.D (Building Our Neighborhood Dreams Beyond Our Neighbors' Doors) program has teamed scores of high school students with Johns Hopkins Medicine employees.

Paul Laurence Dunbar High School is one of just two Baltimore City high schools (the other is Southern) to offer a three-year program in biotech instruction, equipping graduates to move either directly into the workforce as laboratory assistants or go on to two- or four-year colleges. As part of their training, students take a rigorous course in life science and lab management that pulls together their previous math and science classes. In their final high-school semester, they spend 20 hours a week doing a graded, off-campus internship.

Though Dunbar's seven-year-old biotech program is too young to have spawned any physicians, several graduates are studying biology, chemistry and electrical engineering, and hope to get their M.D. or Ph.D. degrees. The Dunbar-Hopkins Health Partnership responds to the anticipated career and employment needs of future Dunbar graduates, as well as the health of the surrounding East Baltimore community, and the growing demand for more minority health professionals.

The care of asthmatic African Americans falls short of many recommendations contained in national guidelines, compared to that of whites, according to a recent study by Johns Hopkins researchers. The finding, say researchers, may explain in part why African Americans are more likely to have more severe asthma symptoms. The researchers also found that asthmatic women of both races are less likely to comply with daily medication use and to see an asthma specialist.

"The discrepancy in care is striking because it cannot easily be explained by socioeconomic factors or access to care," says lead author Jerry Krishnan, M.D., an instructor in the Hopkins School of Medicine's Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. "We need to further investigate whether these differences in asthma care were due to doctor, patient or health care system-related barriers." The study was undertaken because while researchers have known that misuse of medications contributes to poor asthma health in the United States, less is known about the relationships of race and gender to asthma care, particularly non-medication aspects of care recommended by national guidelines.

Is there a place for spiritual matters in the real work of medicine? A growing national movement contends that spirituality and physical healing can go hand in hand. It's not always easy for physicians to accept spirituality as complementing science in helping patients improve, but the tide is turning. Dan Ford, an associate professor of medicine, has co-developed a course on spirituality. He can discuss the faith and medicine movement, the extent to which patients filter their treatment and illness behaviors through spirituality, and how the course helps doctors recognize and respect something that many patients hold dear.

Church-based nutrition and exercise programs can move African-American women to adopt healthier habits, according to a study led by Johns Hopkins researchers. Programs set up by Hopkins scientists in partnership with 16 Baltimore churches encouraged more than 500 participants to lose weight and choose healthier foods over a year-long period. Women who participated in on-site exercise and dietary activities did much better than those assigned to self-help groups. "Urban African-American women age 40 and up bear a marked excess risk of obesity and death from heart disease," says Diane M. Becker, Sc.D., M.P.H., an author of the study and director of Hopkins' Center for Health Promotion. "This study demonstrates that church-based interventions can greatly improve their cardiovascular health."

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