University Life posts displayed by category

Dr. Mackowiak discusses his new book

Mackowiak’s New Book Offers Intersection of Art, Medicine, and Science

Philip A. Mackowiak, MD ’70, MBA, is more medical historian than art aficionado, but in researching and writing his latest book, Patients As Art: Forty Thousand Years of Medical History in Drawings, Paintings, and Sculptures, he learned a few things along the way.

“Before doing this book, I couldn’t even spell the word ‘art’ — but now I’m an expert, thanks to the internet,” Mackowiak joked before launching a presentation about his new book to a crowd of 60 that included members of the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) community and his family and friends on Dec. 4 at Davidge Hall.

Mackowiak, professor emeritus of medicine and the Carolyn Frenkil and Selvin Passen History of Medicine Scholar at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM), delivered background and insight on the book during his half-hour lecture, which was sponsored by the UMB Council for the Arts & Culture. He displayed slides of 10 of the 160 pieces he analyzed from a medical and scientific perspective, ranging from Rembrandt’s famed The Raising of Lazarus to a watercolor titled Pollution, painted by a Canadian artist named Catherine Hennessey.

The watercolor, in fact, is featured on the cover of the book, which spans 244 pages and 10 chapters relating to medical subjects such as nutrition, surgery, mental health, genetics, and death and dying. Pollution is included in the chapter on public health. In the book, Mackowiak describes it, writing, “Hennessey’s image is arresting, shocking, yet strangely beautiful, like the vibrant colors of a sunset viewed through sickening urban smog.” (See photo, above)

“This artist has done a number of really captivating watercolors, but this is the opus magnum,” Mackowiak told the crowd, adding that he was so taken with the painting that he bought it from Hennessey.

Mackowiak continued the lecture with more art analyses and medical diagnoses, including:

  • The Dissection of a Cadaver, 15th century: Mackowiak noted that the procedure illustrated probably wasn’t a dissection at all, because a close inspection shows that three of the men standing over the body seem to be holding him down, an insight first noted by his former UMSOM colleague Frank M. Calia, MD, MACP. “And you see a fellow on the far right of the painting who’s holding something in his hand. So based on Dr. Calia’s observations and doing another consideration of the painting, I suggest that this is not the dissection of a cadaver. In fact, it’s a lithotomy — the removal of a bladder stone, and that stone is being held by the person at the far right.”
  • The Beggars, 1568: This painting depicts beggars with missing legs, but Mackowiak surmises that there was no medical reason for amputation. Studying the expressions on their faces led him to believe they were mentally retarded. “There was no disorder at that time that could have destroyed the lower legs in a symmetrical fashion without killing them,” he said. “So I suggest these were strategic amputations done by the family to make these poor souls more pitiable and therefore more effective as beggars. That sounds bizarre, and it’s hard to believe. But I saw exactly this same thing in Bangladesh when I was there as a medical student at this institution.”
  • Battle of Issus, 100 B.C.: From this mosaic, Mackowiak blew up an inset of Alexander the Great and takes a keen focus on Alexander’s eyes, which seem to show concern rather than confidence. “Does that look like an all-conquering warrior?” Mackowiak said. “To my way of thinking, it looks like a warrior who wonders, ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ The artist who produced this might well have realized the existence not only of post-traumatic stress disorder in the common soldier, but also that this sort of thing can happen to commanders, too.”

Mackowiak’s presentation clearly showed his expertise as one of the most accomplished medical historians in the country, and Patients As Art follows his first two books, Post Mortem: Solving History’s Great Medical Mysteries, and Diagnosing Giants: Solving the Medical Mysteries of Thirteen Patients Who Changed the World.  

Since the mid-1990s, he and the University of Maryland Medical Alumni Association have organized the Historical Clinicopathological Conference, which has examined the illnesses or deaths of figures such as Edgar Allan Poe, Abraham Lincoln, Eleanor Roosevelt, Christopher Columbus, Beethoven, and Mozart. The 2007 conference, for instance, determined that President Lincoln would have survived an assassin’s bullet if the R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center existed in 1865. The 26th conference will be held in May 2019. 

Larry Pitrof, the alumni association’s executive director, noted that when Mackowiak talked about retiring five years ago, two benefactors — Carolyn Frenkil and Selvin Passen, MD — stepped up to fund the doctor’s endowed scholar position. Pitrof thanked Frenkil, who was in attendance, for her support, as well as the UMB Council for the Arts & Culture for its sponsorship of the lecture.

“We’re celebrating an awful lot of history on the UMB campus right now,” Pitrof said, “and it’s our belief that programs like this truly separate the great institutions from the good ones.”

— Lou Cortina

Learn more about the book.


Lou CortinaEducation, People, UMB News, University LifeDecember 6, 20180 comments
Read More
Protect your valuables

Protect Your Valuables

Be mindful of your valuables by remaining alert. Keep items such as purses, electronics, and money out of sight. If you are traveling with important items such as your cellphone and wallet, strategically house them in inside pockets and avoid using your cellphone in transit.

Also, take the extra steps in your routine to remain safe. Before leaving your vehicle, make sure your windows are rolled up completely and valuables are stored under the seat, in the glove compartment, or in the trunk of your car.

For more safety tips, visit this UMB Police and Public Safety webpage.

Jennie RiveraEducation, University LifeDecember 5, 20180 comments
Read More
"Bloodsworth" Book Discussion

One Maryland One Book Discussion: ‘Bloodsworth’

Please join UMB’s Council for the Arts & Culture and the Thurgood Marshall Law Library for a discussion of the One Maryland One Book program’s selected book, Bloodsworth: The True Story of the First Death Row Inmate Exonerated by DNA Evidence, by Tim Junkin.

Read the book ahead of time and join us for a discussion Jan. 16 at noon in Room 3314 in the Thurgood Marshall Law Library.

Drinks and light refreshments will be provided. Feel free to bring your lunch.

Michele OndraBulletin Board, People, University LifeDecember 4, 20180 comments
Read More
Project Jump Start brown bag

Project Jump Start: Helping the Homeless

Project Jump Start is funded in part by the University Student Government Association at UMB, and our mission is as follows:

  • To assist homeless individuals in meeting their basic needs through weekly food, clothing, and toiletry drives.
  • To provide homeless individuals in Baltimore with the information and support they need to access available resources in the community.
  • To collaborate and build partnerships with others to advocate for the development of policies and programs that will meet the needs of the homeless population in Baltimore.

Learn more at this webpage.


Darya BarshakCommunity Service, People, University Life, USGADecember 4, 20180 comments
Read More
Craft Fair items

UMB Holiday Craft Fair Heightens the Spirit of Community Building

Dinnise Felder’s frost-tipped evergreens were shimmering. When the sponsored programs research administrator at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) combined her greens with Diane Starkell’s brilliantly burning noel candle, they formed a welcome sign to the 11th Annual UMB Holiday Craft Fair.

The aroma of clove and balsam fir radiated between the Elm Ballrooms and the lobby at the SMC Campus Center at the 3½-hour event on Nov. 30. It was either that or Theresa Carrington’s You and Me Soaps, whipped shea butter, and fragrance oils.

More than 60 vendors — faculty, staff, students, and friends of the University — displayed their unique crafts at the fair. In addition to UMB, a common vein that connected them all together was not only the passion for what they do but also the love and support for their Baltimore community.

Starkell, owner and creator of Terra Verde, remains active in the community through her participation in farmers markets and local events such as the UMB Craft Fair.

After wrapping up a soy candle housed in a copper Mason jar, she said, “You can also find me at the farmers market underneath the Jones Falls Expressway, every Sunday from 7 a.m. to 12.” This was a common refrain heard among vendors and even the cacophony of shoppers testing out samples.

In front of Infused Spreads, a family-owned business specializing in handcrafted preserves, jams, and fruit butters, Emem Moody caught up with one of her regulars. They exchanged narratives of when Moody participated in the Baltimore Herb Festival back in May and when the habanero plum butter is expected to make its return. “I did not bring any with me this time,” Moody said.

She later mentioned the JFX farmers market and assured the customer that she will have the habanero plum butter then. Asked if she made and packaged the jams herself, Moody, who was joined by her husband and daughter, said, “My husband and I both make the jams and butters.”

The tart and heat from Moody’s jam sample turned this shopper’s attention to the assortment of olive oils and vinegars at Dimitrios Komninos’ table. The olive oil and vinegar bottles were aligned evenly on top of a dark blue tablecloth. The scene was set for casual taste testing, but the flavors and products were anything but.

As one of the descendants of the Dimitri Giannakos family, Komninos’ products brought the UMB community back to his olive farm in southern Greece. “My family grows and harvests the oils,” Komninos said. “We have a farm at the foothills of Mount Taygetos, where we have been producing olive oil for over 100 years.” While Dimitrios’ olive oils are featured in several Baltimore restaurants, shoppers also can find a taste of southern Greece at the Waverly farmers market on Barclay and East 32nd streets.

Starkell, Moody, and Komninos are just some of the many vendors who go beyond the storefront and bring their craft directly to the community. Whether it is at the UMB Craft Fair or beyond, face-to-face interactions are one of the core values that drives many of these local vendors. For the UMB faculty, staff, students, and friends who participated in this year’s Craft Fair, they had an opportunity to showcase their skill and craft that goes beyond their schools and departments, whether that was an artistic craft or baked good.

For the local vendors, their roots within the community collectively paints a unique portrait of Baltimore that goes beyond its sports teams, geography, and policies. It is precisely the owners of these small businesses that make the contribution to go out and build narratives that gives Baltimore a unique story.

— Jennie Rivera

See more photos from the UMB Holiday Craft Fair.

Jennie RiveraPeople, University LifeDecember 3, 20180 comments
Read More
Hello ... Hola on chalkboard

Spanish Language Conversation Group Meeting on Dec. 7

The Spanish Language Conversation Group will meet Friday, Dec. 7, from 12:15 p.m. to 1:15 pm. at the School of Social Work, Room 2310.

The group will be joined for the first part of the meeting by guest speaker Amy Greensfelder, who will talk about her work as executive director of the Pro Bono Counseling Project of Maryland and will offer information about volunteer opportunities and advanced clinical field placement opportunities for social workers. The meeting will include some time afterward for discussion in Spanish.

There will be light snacks provided, so please bring your lunch.

For questions, please email Katie  at

Katie GoldenClinical Care, Collaboration, Community Service, Education, People, UMB News, University LifeDecember 3, 20180 comments
Read More
Barbara Mikulski speaks to the UMB audience

Mikulski Talks Social Work Roots, Local Organizing, D.C. Politics

Barbara Mikulski, MSW ’65, was a social worker before launching her legendary and pioneering 45-year political career, but she doesn’t consider it a former job.

“People always say that I was once a social worker, but I say this: If you are a social worker, there’s never a ‘once,’” said Mikulski, drawing applause as the featured guest in the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) President’s Panel on Politics and Policy on Nov. 27 at the SMC Campus Center. “You are a social worker forever in whatever you do and whatever you become. And I think going into politics is social work with power.”

A proud graduate of the University of Maryland School of Social Work, Mikulski talked about those social work roots, community organizing, civility in Washington, presidential politics, the 2020 census, and more in her conversation with UMB President Jay A. Perman, MD. She also took questions from the crowd of 220-plus that filled the Elm Ballrooms for the seventh installment of the panel series, which was launched in January 2017 to examine issues important to the University community that are likely to be affected by the Trump administration and Congress.

(Read about past speakers here and view a photo gallery from the Mikulski event here.)

In his introduction, Perman described Mikulski as his friend and advisor and detailed her trailblazing work as a champion for women, higher education, seniors, and the disadvantaged as the longest-serving woman ever in the U.S. Senate. He pointed out that when Mikulski was asked why she wasn’t seeking a sixth term in 2016, she said, “Well, do I spend my time raising money, or do I spend my time raising hell?”

“You know which one she chose,” Perman said with a smile.

Indeed, during the hourlong event, Mikulski showed the mix of feisty and folksy that made her a Maryland political legend and a 30-year force in the Senate, stressing that interpersonal relationships and unconventional thinking often are the keys to getting things accomplished. Now a professor of public policy at Johns Hopkins University, Mikulski began by recounting her shift from social worker to community organizer, rallying opposition to a federal highway construction project in Baltimore 50 years ago.

“I said, ‘Look, we need to fight this,’” Mikulski said. “So we got people in the community together at a bar, had a few shots of ouzo, and said we have to give ourselves a militant name and create the illusion of power. So we came out with SCAR, the Southeast Council Against the Road, and I began the highway fight that took me into politics.”

In her next stop, early during her tenure on the Baltimore City Council that began in 1971, Mikulski said she asked the body’s president to go outside the committee structure to create a rape task force, aiming to treat women who had been assaulted as trauma victims rather than merely crime victims. Counting the task force as among her proudest achievements, Mikulski said of her approach, “Always go outside the box, because otherwise you leave yourself in a box forever.”

This type of thinking was present during her time in the House of Representatives (1976-1986) and in the Senate (1986-2017), she said, particularly in regard to bipartisanship. Mikulski, a Democrat, recalled that in the early 1990s a newly elected Republican senator from Texas, Kay Bailey Hutchison, reached out to her for a meeting and, despite her staff’s misgivings, she obliged. This led to a friendship with Hutchison and regular meetings among female senators from both political aisles, she said.

“We didn’t agree on a lot of issues,” Mikulski said. “But we agreed on two things first: We would approach each other in a zone of civility and we would never demonize each other. We would always interact with integrity, a sense of honor, and intellectual rigor.”

Mikulski said that areas of agreement included promoting women’s economic empowerment and especially women’s health, and that the senators from opposing parties could find common ground on issues such as mammogram quality standards and breast cancer research funding.

“We all agreed if we were going to ‘Race for the Cure,’ we wanted to lead the marathon, so that was another proud accomplishment,” Mikulski said.

Searching for Common Ground

Staying on the topic of political relations, Perman asked about the state of affairs in Washington today and whether the partisan divide could ever be bridged. “How do these two parties at odds on absolutely everything find some common ground?” he said.

While lamenting the vitriol and gridlock, Mikulski was optimistic that newcomers in the next Congress — “a blue wave that I’d hoped would be a tsunami,” she said — could help to turn the tide of negativity.

“There’s a tremendous new group coming in and a lot of new women got elected,” Mikulski said. “And not only does the blue wave wear lipstick and high heels, it wears camouflage. Many of the women coming in have had military service. And these veterans bring a different view. They’re a different generation. They’re not only going to come to fight for veterans’ health care, but they will oppose wars that should not be fought and make sure we win wars if we’re going to fight them.

“Most important, I believe they’re going to put country over party. I think that they’re going to make a difference, not only in terms of policy, but in terms of tone and tenor. Keep an eye on them.”

Asked about her thoughts on the 2020 presidential race, Mikulski said she thinks the Democratic nominee will come out of the West or Midwest and that President Donald Trump will face a challenge from within the Republican Party. She said the Democrats’ race could be over quick, partly because California’s primary was moved from June to March, and she mentioned four senators — Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, and Sherrod Brown — as possible contenders.

“These are very talented people,” she said. “You also have Joe Biden pondering a run and Bernie Sanders pondering another run. So it’s going to be exciting.”

2020 Census Critical for Baltimore

Bringing the discussion back to the local level, Mikulski, a lifelong resident of Baltimore, stressed the importance of the city’s participation in the 2020 census, tasking Perman and the University community with aiding Mayor Catherine Pugh to make sure every person is counted so the city can receive its fair share of federal funds.

“The consequences for Baltimore and Maryland are significant,” Mikulski said. “Eighty-five percent of all federal funds that will come to Baltimore will be formula-driven, from Medicaid to mass transit, from Section 8 housing to school lunch programs. If we don’t get the census right, we will disadvantage ourselves for a decade — for a decade!”

An undertaking like the census, Mikulski added, is where members of the UMB community can learn real-world lessons in civic engagement. And while she recognizes the power of technology and social media, she hopes that young people will realize that it takes more than emails, tweets, or hashtags to effect social change.

“This is a fantastic tool for organizing,” Mikulski said, holding up her cellphone, “but it’s also bloodless, you know? You might get the email, but you don’t get the person. So that’s why there’s nothing like interpersonal gatherings.

“I would encourage civic engagement and volunteerism, and my advice is this: Don’t treat civic engagement like it’s just an event. ‘Oh, I will go to the march. Oh, I will race for the breast cancer cure.’ That’s great. That’s wonderful. But you’ve got to do more than that.

“Engagement has to be a lifestyle, not an event.”

— Lou Cortina

Lou CortinaFor B'more, People, UMB News, University Administration, University LifeNovember 30, 20180 comments
Read More
Woman with several shopping bags

Avoid Becoming a Holiday Crime Victim

The holiday season is one of the busiest traveling and shopping times of the year. In the midst of all the activities — and distractions — it is easy to let your guard down and overlook signs of danger. Consider some of the most popular tips on holiday crime prevention:

  • Don’t overload your arms with packages and bags. This can easily make you vulnerable to criminals, as you are unable to defend yourself.
  • Have your key ready when approaching your vehicle and home.
  • If a charity or fundraiser refuses to provided detailed information about its mission, identity, costs, and how the donation will be used, it is most likely a scam.

There are many holiday tips that may save you from being a victim of holiday crime.

For more information, look at these holiday crime prevention tips.

Jennie RiveraEducation, University LifeNovember 30, 20180 comments
Read More
Employee of the Month Ferdine Ramadan and Dr. Perman

With Quick Action, Security Officer Ramadan Earns Employee of the Month Award

“Protect the people.”

That’s the mindset Ferdine Ramadan carries with her every day in her job as a University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) security officer stationed inside Health Sciences Research Facility I. And it’s what prompted her quick thinking and actions recently when two men took an apparent disagreement from the sidewalk into the building.

One man entered the facility first, being pursued by a second man, but Ramadan’s rapid response defused the situation. She stopped the first man from moving farther inside the building while calling for backup on her radio, then persuaded the other man to back down before sending both outside the facility while UMB Police arrived on the scene.

“My main thought was to get them out and protect the people inside the building,” says Ramadan, an 18-year UMB employee. “I didn’t want them to get upstairs. I didn’t want them to scare people or get to the point where it gets physical and escalates.”

For her actions, Ramadan received the UMB Employee of the Month Award for November, earning praise from University President Jay A. Perman, MD, and congratulations from UMB Police Chief Alice Cary, MS, and other public safety colleagues during a ceremony Nov. 26 in the President’s Boardroom at the Saratoga Building.

The ceremony was supposed to be a surprise, but Ramadan had figured it out. Someone told her she’d been nominated for the UMB award, and her colleagues had been offering congratulations, without saying why. “I’d say to them, ‘What are you congratulating me for?’ And they would walk away without replying,” she said. “I kind of knew something was going on.”

Perman took note of that in his remarks. “This was going to be a surprise, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that we want to honor you … so act surprised or something!” he joked before handing Ramadan a plaque, a letter of commendation, and news that an extra $250 would be in her next paycheck.

Turning serious, Perman told Ramadan, “You are the Employee of the Month because the people who you help and the people who you protect have chosen to honor you. And it’s a real privilege for me to thank you. Clearly you provide an example for everybody at UMB because you are so devoted to this institution. It’s very much appreciated.”

Ramadan’s effective response was appreciated, too, by Anita Warren, a research data entry operator at the School of Medicine who observed the security officer’s actions that day and promptly put forth her Employee of the Month nomination on the Human Resources website.

“I was able to witness firsthand the professionalism, effectiveness, and safety-first attitude of Ferdine Ramadan,” Warren said. “These men were attempting to enter the facility without due cause or reason, other than to harm each other and maybe innocent bystanders. Ms. Ramadan politely but forcibly got these men to leave the building, then she was able to alert her fellow officers to the situation.

“With her willingness to ensure the safety of the staff and visitors first, she was able to provide vital information to responding officers. I believe if it was not for her quick action, this situation could have escalated.”

Asked about being singled out for such praise, Ramadan says that she doesn’t like to draw attention to herself and that she was simply doing her job. And she called it a teachable moment.

“When I got home, I replayed the whole incident in my head, sort of thinking, ‘What could I have done differently? Maybe next time I should communicate to my superior officers better via my radio.’ But the more I think about it, I was just doing my job the best I could.

“The main thing is that nobody got hurt, and I’m happy for that.”

— Lou Cortina


Lou CortinaPeople, UMB News, University LifeNovember 30, 20180 comments
Read More