Letters to the editor

Responsible Reporting

As both a Johns Hopkins alum and a member of a National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention Task Force Committee (that a fellow alum happens to chair), I was both touched and proud to read about the great work being undertaken by faculty and staff at my alma mater to educate journalists on responsible reporting in this space ["How To Write About Suicide," Fall]. As noted in the piece, the research shows that both words and context matter and responsible reporting saves lives. Kudos to Dr. Eaton, Dr. Wilcox, Ms. Pattani, and the entire team.

Efrem L. Epstein, A&S '90
New York

No Good Purpose

I was shocked to read the reference to Halsted's radical mastectomy surgery as an achievement to be celebrated ["Angels and Demons," Fall]. I cared for scores of women mutilated by this procedure for no good purpose. Coming from the self-proclaimed bastion of scientific medicine and with support from the polymath Rudolf Virchow, beloved as a "heroic" procedure (and a source of income) by surgeons, the procedure was the standard of care for nearly a hundred years. The "more is better" theory was never supported by evidence or even by common sense. Indeed, 40 years before the procedure was even done, an experienced surgeon pointed out that if there was spread to the lymph nodes, extensive surgery was not curative, and if there was not, extensive surgery was unnecessary.

It wasn't until the mid-20th century that the procedure was questioned by George Crile, a surgeon who was convinced that "universal acceptance of a procedure does not necessarily make it right." His pioneering work has saved untold numbers of women from the real horrors of the Halsted procedure. His skeptical view of conventional wisdom marks a true scientist. It is his work that should be celebrated. No doubt Halsted possessed notable surgical skills, but it really doesn't matter how good a surgeon you are if you are hurting patients rather than helping them. This man was no hero.

Burden S. Lundgren, BSPH '88 (MPH)
Norfolk, Virginia

Walking Through History

I greatly enjoyed the article on William Halsted, including the mention of his living at 1201 Eutaw Place, at the corner of Dolphin Street ["Angels and Demons"]. It happens that I attended the Baltimore Hebrew College at that address from 1951 through 1953. I do not know when the college first located there but recall that not too long after 1953, the building and much or all of the block were demolished.

I had no idea then that the great Dr. Halsted had lived there; perhaps I had never heard of him at that time when I was in high school. However, once I started at the Johns Hopkins University in 1953 as a premed undergraduate, I became very much interested in the history of the medical school and hospital. I am still in awe when I enter the building on Broadway and look up at the great statue of Jesus. I recall visiting the Welch Medical Library, wandering around there reverently, and by chance walking into a big room where John Singer Sargent's famous portrait The Four Doctors hung.

Thank you for the article, a small trip down memory lane.

Earl L. Baker, A&S '57
Orange, Connecticut

"Distant Galaxies, in High Res," the Artifact spread for the fall issue, included an image of the Southern Ring Nebula as one of the many scenes of distant galaxies captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. As reader Thomas Long, A&S '68, astutely points out, that nebula is part of our own Milky Way galaxy and is "only" about 2,000 light-years away.

In our fall issue story "A Voice for the Alumni Community," we incorrectly spelled Mary Ann Dickson's last name on one reference. We also should have credited Dickson's portrait to Emily Billington Photography. We regret the errors.

Give us your feedback by sending a letter to the editor via email to jhmagazine@jhu.edu. (We reserve the right to edit letters for length, style, clarity, and civility.)

The opinions in these letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the magazine's editorial staff.