No Pressure, Though

What happened? After 25 years of drivel, your Mar|Apr issue was thoroughly engaging. I look forward to the next Gazette. Well done and thanks.

George Boeck Gr’83 Pasadena, CA 

The Story of Pediatric ARDS Also Deserves to Be Told

Thank you for the thoughtful, compassionate article about ARDS and its devastating impact on adult patients [“Insidious ARDS,” Mar|Apr]. Although well done, the article glosses over the pediatric side of this syndrome. If adult ARDS is “insidious,” then pediatric ARDS is a nightmare.

I am the mother of a previously healthy two-year-old boy who died of ARDS, which began with mild, cold-like symptoms (which turned out to be mononucleosis). Within 48 hours of a doctor’s visit, he was admitted to the ICU with pneumonia, a collapsed left lung, and septic shock. Two agonizing weeks later he died. 

Each year approximately 10,000 children in the US alone develop ARDS as a result of everyday childhood infections—such as the flu, strep, or even the “common cold.” When you consider that the average child contracts six viral infections each cold/flu season (or a total of 40 by age 10), the implications are staggering. Any one of these incidents can develop into ARDS overnight, before the parents even realize it, since young children are unable to verbalize what is happening inside their little bodies. More children will die from ARDS each year than from cystic fibrosis and leukemia combined.

How many parents bring their young children to a pediatrician’s office with a mild cold, cough, or fever? Or even worse, how many don’t? How is a pediatrician to discern which child will progress to ARDS, and which won’t? The sad truth is, they can’t. Your article accurately describes the tireless critical-care physicians who treat these sickest of patients. But it is the pediatricians, the primary-care physicians, or even the emergency-room physicians who need to be more informed about ARDS, and better equipped with diagnostic tools to spot at-risk patients before they develop ARDS.

As you describe, there is no way to accurately predict ARDS in adult or pediatric patients. Yet, ARDS manifests itself differently in children whose lungs are still developing and growing. The risk factors may differ, as may the treatments. For as little as is known about adult ARDS, even less is known about ARDS in children. Pediatric research is scarce and prohibitively expensive, and we have almost no information about the long-term effects on the health of a child who survives ARDS. 

The pharmaceutical industry has been reluctant to study ARDS because it is a rare disease, and pediatric ARDS has received even less attention. But this fails to acknowledge that studying a more “naïve” pediatric population can lend insight into genetics and risk factors, more so than the adult population, which typically has a complex history and presentation due to a lifetime of bad habits, environmental exposures, etc.

With all due respect to adult ARDS practitioners, patients, and families, I would argue that the pediatric side of ARDS is even more tragic and also needs to be told.

Iris Melendez W’92 Wynnewood, PA

The writer is president of The Nathaniel Adamczyk Foundation (, which aims to prevent common childhood infections from progressing to ARDS. 

HUP Was Home to One of the First Respiratory Intensive Care Units

It is unfortunate that in the otherwise good article about ARDS it is not mentioned that HUP was the home to one of the first, if not the first, free-standing respiratory intensive care units in the country (the world?). The RICU was created under the leadership of Dr. Bob Rogers in the mid-Sixties with the support of Penn’s pioneering respiratory physiology group, which included Dr. Arthur Dubois and Dr. Robert Forster (co-authors of The Lung with Drs. Comroe, Briscoe, and Carlsen).

This brilliant and brave collaborative effort saved many lives and greatly advanced our knowledge of conditions like “Shock Lung” and the physiology of the failing lung. Later on, many other of HUP’s most talented young clinician/researchers joined the effort—Dr. Ronald Daniele, Dr. James Dauber, and many others. I was privileged to be the first medical student on the unit. We did not have an intern, so I was both inspired and very tired.

I hope that this is not “lost history” at HUP. It should not be, as this was one of its finest hours.

David Gorenberg M’69 West Tisbury, MA

New Path Needed

I found the article, “Heads of the Class,” on the GSE Exec Doc conference very interesting [“Gazetteer,” Mar|Apr]. But I felt that the Presidential Roundtable participants are paving a dirt road instead of planning a new path. In 10 years, as online-course technology improves and become ubiquitous, they will not need to locate two-year colleges next to four-year programs. Courses can be delivered online on demand, and programs of study will not need to be constrained by location. The best teachers and institutions that deliver courses that students demand, rather than what professors want to teach, will win in the educational marketplace, and brick and mortar institutions may shrink.

Larry Mark C’82 New York

Good Questions, But …

I read with interest the interview with Penn Museum Director Richard Hodges, as he leaves the University and moves along with his career [“Gazetteer,” Mar|Apr]. However, I was concerned about the writing of the Gazette interviewer, especially when interviewing a distinguished University administrator.

For example: “What do you attribute the rise in visitor numbers to?”

Current grammar says we should not worry about having a preposition at the end of a sentence unless it is awkward. I think that this is awkward, and I don’t think that the writer even thought about this issue. Another version could have been, ‘What do you think has led to the increase in visitor numbers?’

Similarly: “What are some of the audiences that have been targeted?”

This formulation hits me wrongly. Which is used for selecting among a small list of available choices, and “Which are some of the audiences that have been targeted?” feels natural and is more appropriate.

Penn’s alumni magazine should not be stuffy and should be comfortable to readers, but inattention to careful use of language (especially in print) makes the University look inattentive to details.


John D. Evans GNu’77 Portland, OR

Not the First Art in Space, Maybe, But the First Carried Officially as Art

In response to the statements in the Mar|Apr “Letters” by Paul Eric Menchen concerning the article about my work, “To the Moon, Artist” [“Arts,” Jan|Feb]: I am well aware that many things can be called art and that perhaps many things that we do not know about, that may have been art, were taken into space by astronauts. But these are not in any official record of art in space. I am well aware that my artwork was not the first artwork in outer space. The earliest artwork anyone knows of is a poem inscribed on one of the satellites in the late Fifties. My artwork is one of about six known to NASA.

In my book Burgess, the Quiet Axis, Joseph McShane’s 1984 artwork, “Payload G-38,” is clearly mentioned along with all the other known artworks, including the “Moon Museum” taken to the Moon in 1971 as a private astronaut’s payload and later Hoeydonk’s “Fallen Astronaut.” I admire McShane’s artwork (eight glass spheres) and have always mentioned it in any writings, lectures, seminars or studios where space art is discussed. McShane’s artwork was officially flown as a scientific payload under different policies. My issue was the naming or policy issue.

If anyone wants other space-art historians’ opinion, they may speak with Professor Raymond Vezina at UQAM in Montreal, or with Professor Bettyanne Kevelas at Yale. She has recently done research on my artwork/payload at both NASA headquarters and in Houston. In her lectures she has said how amazing the level of admiration and respect she found for my work with everyone involved (many now retired) at NASA.

I approached NASA as an artist in 1976 to fly an artwork as an official “art payload,” not under any other type of payload then existing. What then ensued was an eight year process to develop the “Non-scientific Personnel and Payload” policies that were then put in the Federal Register, creating the legal and official policies that open outer space to cultural and artistic activities and presence—hence my art as the first official publicly announced “art payload.” (I am proud of this legal and policy opening for the arts.) To reiterate: My claim upon NASA was to fly an artwork, by an independent artist, as art—and for NASA to say that publicly! The new policies we developed created the legal basis for all future artworks in outer space with NASA.

A competition was announced and around 200 proposals were received. My artwork, the “Boundless Cubic Lunar Aperture,” was chosen and subsequently flew on the Space Shuttle Discovery in March of 1989.

The term that I, NASA, and all formal documents and those historians who have written about me or space art relative to my artwork taken into outer space by the Space Shuttle Discovery in March of 1989, is: “The first Non-Scientific Payload, the first official work of art taken into outer space by NASA”.

Lowry Burgess FA’61 Pittsburgh 

Welcome, Protesters

With regard to the enlightening critique of the Occupy Wall Street protesters by John L. O’Shaughnessy [“Letters,” Mar|Apr]: He may wish to move to China, whose lack of rules he relishes. As for me, I welcome the protesters.

J.D. Rockefeller is no longer the gold standard of success, Mr. O. You insult Ivy League education and the disciplines of environmental sciences and urban planning—two fields that are predicated on concern for others. I suspect that, somewhere in your soul, you are jealous that there will be future successes who did not rape and pillage.

Robert Vigderman C’81 Amherst, MA

Just FYI, the Subtitle Is, “How We Can Stop Corporate Communists, Banksters, and Other Vampires from Sucking America Dry”

A suggestion to those readers who may wish to take umbrage at Werner Zimmt’s letter, “What Does Create Mean to Them?” [“Letters,” Mar|Apr], and to the professors to whom he refers: please read Dylan Ratigan’s book The Greedy Bastards.

Leon W. Zelby EE’56 Gr’61 Norman, OK

Surrender in the Sun

Isabel Govan Lang’s letter about preserving wartime memories [“Letters,” Mar|Apr] put me in mind of an experience I had in 1970. I was in Germany with the Army and knew a German man who had served in WWII. His story stuck with me all these years because it was stranger than I could ever have imagined.

He was captured in North Africa in 1942 and spent the rest of the War in captivity. It is the location of the POW camp that got me: Tampa, Florida. I guess if you have to be a POW and miss your chance to serve on the Russian Front, Tampa is about as good a place as any. He said they gave him a job in the PX and showed me his watch which he purchased there and was very fond of. He also told me after a while they considered him reliable so he got weekend passes to go off base.

At the Reading Airport World War II Show three years ago I met an American who had fought in North Africa in 1942 and when I told him the story he remarked that if they had known the prisoners were going to Tampa, they could have gotten all the Germans to surrender.

Joe Deegan C’67 Philadelphia

A Belated Thank You

Seven years ago two obituaries appeared in the Gazette that I’ve been carrying with me from place to place ever since. They appeared side-by-side as a tribute to two of the English professors whose classes I’d taken as an undergraduate in the 1980s—Dr. David J. DeLaura and Dr. Paul J. Korshin [“Obituaries,” July|Aug 2005].

I was both shocked and saddened to learn of their passing as in my mind they were preserved forever in their mid- forties—an age frighteningly similar to my own as I write this letter. Even this morning as I unfold the crumpled page it seems that there must be some mistake that not one, but two professors of mine were old enough to have died seven years ago. But on the chance the story was true I thought it best not to wait another seven years to send a letter.

This letter is a belated thank you to Dr. DeLaura and Dr. Korshin for making my experience at Penn more meaningful. I don’t know enough about their scholarly accolades to remark on their contribution to the study of 18th-century literature or Victorian poetry, but as a student they provided a critical dose of both inspiration and perspiration.

What I remember most about Dr. DeLaura were the pop quizzes he gave for each reading assignment and that it pained him to do so. “I really hate to give these quizzes,” he’d say, “but there’s no other way I can be sure you’re reading the material to participate in our classroom discussions. I want us to have interesting, meaningful discussions.” He genuinely wanted us to learn something, which motivated me to read more critically so as not to disappoint him.

Dr. Korshin focused less on discipline and more on what might be described as an immersion experience. Standing in front of the class in bow tie and bespoke suit he lured you back to the England of Fielding, Jones, Smollett, and Sterne for hours at a stretch. The experience of listening to him expostulate on the lives of the authors was nearly as entertaining and instructive as the books themselves. I can’t imagine anyone bringing Tristram Shandy to life in the way he did.

And so thank you once again David and Paul for dedicating your lives to literature and learning, and for the time you spent with students like me all those years ago at Penn. It was a worthy use of your time and energy and you encouraged and inspired a lot of us along the way.

Alex Tokar C’86 San Francisco

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