Letters: Spring/Summer 2024

Sue DePasquale

From the Editor

Each issue, I invite you to write and “tell us what you think.” Rest assured, your responses have an impact. Consider the letter I received in January from Dennis G. Carlson (right), who kindly opened my eyes to a vital — albeit short-lived — chapter in Johns Hopkins history: the Johns Hopkins University School of Health Services (1973–1979).

Despite my long tenure at Johns Hopkins, I was only vaguely aware of this important program. The more I looked into it, the more fascinated I became — and the more convinced I became that we needed to revisit this “radically different” approach to health and medical training in our pages. The result? “Zeitgeist of the Times,” by Linell Smith, on p. 30.

As an editor at one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, it is always exciting to bring you stories about the ways Johns Hopkins people lead the way with advances in education and training. I have been humbled to learn that many of the modern initiatives we’ve proudly covered — from the importance of the arts in medical training to the critical role of social determinants of health in diagnosis and treatment — were bedrocks of this program dating back half a century; a program that prepared hundreds of health associates and nurse practitioners to go out into the world and make a difference.

Thank you, Dennis, for so gracefully offering me the long view. And to our other readers: Please, write! You never know where your insights might lead.

Sue DePasquale


As an alumnus and former faculty member at Johns Hopkins University, I have been gratified in recent years to read in alumni publications about the increasing inclusion of the arts as valid elements in research, health promotion and medical services. One might even recognize the beginning of a significant “paradigm shift,” with newsworthy events such as the use of music in treating patients with Parkinson’s disease, establishment of the International Arts + Mind Lab in the School of Medicine, and publication of the stimulat­ing book by Magsamen and Ross, Your Brain on Art [Winter 2024].

Most readers might assume that these kinds of developments are entirely new pio­neering efforts at Johns Hopkins. That would not be accurate. It should be known, at least by the Hopkins community, that teaching in the arts and humanities as related to health played an essential role in the training of primary health care practitioners in the ex­perimental Johns Hopkins University School of Health Services more than 50 years ago.

All students in the two-year Health Associate Program were required to take two or more courses in the arts and humanities that provided theory and practice in a wide range of courses including music, visual arts, drama, dance, literature, as well as history of science and medicine and philosophy. Learning goals included ways to enhance holistic health care, encourage use of affective dimensions in health care, and improve ca­pacities for cross-cultural effectiveness.

While the extent of influence in students’ lives and professional practice was difficult to evaluate, learning in the arts and health seemed highly positive to most students and close observers.

Dennis G. Carlson, M.D., M.P.H., M.A. (Institute of the History of Medicine, 1970) Director, Johns Hopkins Center for Allied Health Careers

Tell Us What You Think

We’d love to know your thoughts about this issue of Hopkins Medicine magazine. Please drop a note to Sue DePasquale ([email protected]) with your feedback.