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The Editor's Path

Secret to survival: work with amazing people.

By Brian W. Simpson, MPH ’13, Editor

In our cultural mythology, the writer enjoys special status. As a lone truth-teller, the writer pounds away at the keyboard and spins tales of pathos, knowledge and adventure that entrance millions of readers.

The editor? Not so much. Editors have been receding from pop culture faster than my hairline. The cigar-chewing, order-barking, bottle-of-scotch-in-the-desk-drawer ogre seems to have disappeared—like the typewriter.

Not surprisingly, writers have a lot to say about editors. They paint editors as obstacles, thick-skulled meddlers who live to ruin perfect prose and demand countless changes. A writers’ joke: “How many editors does it take to change a light bulb? Only one, but first he has to rewire the entire building.”

But this column isn’t meant to opine about my profession. This is a paean to another editor who defied these traits and a writer who illuminated the depths of public health issues.

Hopkins Bloomberg Public Health has a daunting mission: Expertly and engagingly cover everything from cell apoptosis to e-cigarettes, malaria to health policy, guns to genes ... Only great people make this possible.

Throughout my 16 years with this publication, I’ve relied on Sue De Pasquale, our consulting editor. Calm, creative and sharp, Sue has helped shape this publication. Confronted with a first draft of a story that doesn’t yet work, Sue offers great ideas to rescue it. I’d need a lot more space to say how much I’ve learned from her. Sue is moving on and will continue to edify the many other publications she edits as a talented consultant.

And there’s a writer I’ve worked with for 12 years. He’s brilliant, passionate and knows public health better than anyone. I’ve had the rare opportunity to work with and learn from him as well. He wrote amazing opinion pieces for us—columns that have bristled with insight, changed people’s lives and influenced the field of public health. He’s also been the consummate fact-checker and a talented copy editor of the magazine overall. Dean Mike Klag, it’s been an honor and a privilege. Thank you!