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Week of 30 August 2002 · Vol. VI, No. 1

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All Things Considered: SPH prof says millions should be vaccinated against smallpox

With the Bush administration expected to announce a plan for vaccinating some Americans against smallpox, many state and local public health officials say that the estimated number of vaccinations - between 10,000 and 500,000 given strictly to health-care workers - is not nearly enough to cope with a smallpox bioterrorism attack in the United States. On NPR's August 22 All Things Considered, William Bicknell, an SPH professor of international health, said that federal officials will need to vaccinate millions more than they have suggested so far. A former state health commissioner, Bicknell has developed a computer program to simulate the spread of a smallpox epidemic, and he says that terrorists could spread the disease before anyone knew what was happening. "Let's assume there are five terrorists who come to five different cities in the country," he said. "And each of those terrorists, while they're infectious, visits three different cities . . . Well, those assumptions lead to 93,000 cases and 23,400 deaths." In addition to the 5.5 million Americans in the health-care community, Bicknell says, the government should also vaccinate another 10 million in the civil services. "We don't have tools to prevent bombers, to prevent planes from flying into buildings," he says. "This one we can effectively take off the table; it helps protect the rest of the world. The more we do beforehand, the quicker, more effectively we can control it in the case of an attack.
I think it makes sense."

American Journal of Public Health: BU study finds chronic child
illness jeopardizes employment of welfare parents

Researchers at Boston Medical Center have found that welfare parents with chronically ill children face substantial barriers to employment. They studied over 500 primary caretakers of children ages 2 to 12 who were current, former, or nonwelfare recipients. The children suffered from at least one of seven illnesses, including asthma, diabetes, sickle cell anemia, epilepsy, hemophilia, cerebral palsy, and cystic fibrosis. In the September issue of the American Journal of Public Health, the researchers report that current and former recipients of welfare were more likely to have high child health-care use (three or more emergency room visits or two or more hospitalizations). These parents were also more likely to have missed a child's medical visit because of difficulty getting time off from work, and they reported that their child's illness adversely affected their employment. "Our analyses clearly show that the parents of these ill children face significant problems with their employment," says Lauren Smith, author of the study, a MED assistant professor of pediatrics and medical director of the pediatric inpatient unit at the Boston Medical Center. "These families face the difficult decision of whether to miss work, jeopardizing their employment and income, or to miss their child's medical appointments, potentially jeopardizing their child's health."

Chronicle of Higher Education: Interview with Ha Jin

The August 19 Chronicle of Higher Education printed excerpts of an interview in the upcoming spring issue of the literary journal Boulevard with acclaimed author Ha Jin (GRS'94), a CAS creative writing professor. Winner of a list of enviable awards - including the PEN/Faulker Award for Fiction, the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction, and the National Book Award - Ha Jin offered the following thoughts. On being a Chinese-born immigrant writing in English: "Before coming to the States, I had no idea about what freedom was like, especially its flip side. Gradually I realized that it precluded security. It's hard for a recent immigrant to accept uncertainty as a human condition." On his approach to writing: "I am always in control of the destination of a story. I revise heavily. Generally speaking, a story takes between 50 and 100 revisions to be finished. The labor frightens me." On the differences between English and Chinese: "Chinese is very rich in describing feelings. For sadness there are some words English doesn't have. So too for taste. There are some abstract words that Chinese doesn't have, such as truth, identity, and solitude. Obviously, English is a more speculative language, whereas Chinese is more earthly, closer to things."

Associated Press: SMG dean says value of MBA depreciating nationwide

With matriculation at American business schools soaring this fall, two Stanford researchers are calling into question the value of a master's degree in business administration. An August 25 article by the Associated Press reports that despite strong demand, some MBA programs are rushing to counter the Stanford study. Surveying decades of research, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Christina Fong of Stanford's Graduate Business School argue that MBA programs teach little of practical use in the business world and the degree has little effect on salaries in the long run. The article, which appears next month in the debut issue of the journal Academy of Management Learning and Education, questions whether the explosion in popularity of MBAs has diluted their value. In the AP story, Louis Lataif, dean of SMG, says, "An MBA may no longer be enough. There are too many of them out there. . . . There are lots and lots of schools in the MBA business who in fact may not be adding value." In response to the Stanford study, the Graduate Management Admission Council, which manages the GMAT admissions test for most business schools, sent out results of a study showing U.S. MBA graduates reported an average starting salary of $77,000, up from an average of $50,000 before they pursued the degree.


30 August 2002
Boston University
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