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Same Work, New Context

By Sylvia Eggleston Wehr

By the time we began to grasp the magnitude of the Sept. 11 tragedy and to get a glimpse of the health challenges the nation and the world would be confronting, it was too late to recreate the Fall 2001 issue of Johns Hopkins Public Health. Although these challenges are presenting themselves in a new and devastating context, they are not new to the School. Bioterrorism, smallpox, anthrax, dust from building implosions, risk, epidemiology, and public health infrastructure are all important targets of our ongoing research. 

One thing is new to us, however, and that is the vastly increased interest in public health generally and in the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health specifically. The School’s public affairs office has been handling a six-fold increase in the number of daily media calls and the School’s Web site has seen a steep increase in daily hits. Our faculty have been inundated with calls and pleas to talk with reporters from across the country and around the world — from 60 Minutes to the New York Times to the Voice of America, and from the BBC to NHK TV in Japan. There is, in short, an intense demand for information from the School, which is recognized as a trusted and unbiased source of scientific knowledge and rational action. 

As Al Sommer notes, we are committing our “collective expertise” to these issues, and we are undertaking a number of initiatives to respond to the threat terrorism poses to our health. One way we are responding is with this special edition of Johns Hopkins Public Health. The pages that follow chronicle the School’s continuing quest to improve the health and lives of people worldwide and to respond to bioterrorist acts and other terrorist threats. 

This special edition of Johns Hopkins Public Health goes to press on Nov. 8. We recognize that in this rapidly changing environment, we risk being out-of-date on breaking news with a printed document such as this. However, we do hope that this edition serves to convey the breadth and state of our knowledge, understanding, and commitment to the broad health issues we face. The bedrock of our collective effort is our ongoing commitment to doing cutting-edge research; to training the public health leaders and researchers who will protect the health of populations; to advising policy makers, international organizations, health leaders, and community groups about our understanding of best practices in responding to old, new, and reemerging health challenges; and to providing the public with the information they need to protect their health and make informed decisions. We are committed to continuing this work with increased vigor and dedication and to increasing our efforts in new areas where we are uniquely positioned to respond.