Test ThyselfEditor: It is indeed paradoxical that...


Test Thyself

Editor: It is indeed paradoxical that Roger Simon joins ranks with Jesse Helms and Gov. William Donald Schaefer when advocating testing of physicians for HIV. This despite the fact that there is not one reported case of physician/patient transmission of the disease.

How come Mr. Simon et al. can excuse patient testing? In the case of Mr. Simon, the explanation would be reader response and in the case of our ingenious politicians, lost votes. It would seem to me that those who advocate physician testing should also agree with testing of all patients who put health care workers at much greater risk.

Nearly one million people in the U.S. will have died of AIDS by the year 2000. Absolutely nothing has been done in the way of preventive measures by government-controlled public health agencies. This borders on criminality and can only be attributed to political expediency at both government and media levels.

It is indeed sheer hypocrisy that a leading health institution such as Johns Hopkins Hospital advocates testing of physicians but not the nurses or other health care workers who come into close contact with patients.

At the same time this famous institution releases from th obstetrics unit hundreds of women who are HIV positive back to their communities. It might set a good example for all of us if Mr. Simon, Mr. Schaefer and all self-sacrificing political representatives submitted themselves for testing.

!Brian D. Briscoe, M.D.


Redmond Finney

Editor: This month ushers in Redmond C. S. Finney's final year as headmaster of Gilman School. There is a sadness in his leaving, but joy too in the influence he has wrought.

It was in 1968, when he was appointed, that I wrote my first letter to a newspaper. I have known Reddy Finney well and said in 1968 that his appointment was not just a coup for Gilman School, but a marvelous moment for the entire Baltimore community. Time has proven this correct.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said that any institution is the length and shadow of one man. Mr. Finney and Gilman School have become synonymous. He has administered and taught with zest; he has spoken with clarity and eloquence and abhorred the common cud; he has exhibited to a singular degree an intense moral commitment; and he has brought his vision to bear with immense prowess. The legendary Mr. Chips could not compare.

Emerson also wrote that "to laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics . . . to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better . . . to know even one life has breathed easier because of having lived. This is to have succeeded." How perfectly has Emerson described Mr. Finney. When one realizes the thousands of lives that Reddy Finney has touched and allowed to breathe easier, we can comprehend what a remarkable success his life has been. We are blessed and in his debt.

'Robert I. H. Hammerman.


SAT Failures

Editor: Could it be that the children who score low on the SATs are not taught in the same language as the questions are phrased? The examples given in the paper, Aug. 27, imply that they are not. Luckily, I scored well on the verbal, given the examples.

I do not believe the test represents relevant application. Maybe the originators need to be in touch with what and how kids are being taught.

I would like to take the test now -- eleven years after graduating from college -- to see if it makes sense to me. I challenge others to do the same.

I'm sure our kids could beat us in Nintendo. Is computer knowledge represented on the test?

'Julie P. Wittelsberger.


SAT Scores

Editor: Here we go again, reacting with horror over a decline in average SAT scores.

We are led to believe that an armada of cretins now will be cast forth on society and higher education (in Maryland, anyway). Who will drive the buses and repair our VCRs? Who can possibly benefit from the ministrations of erudite professors? Who will discover the cure for cancer? Surely life as we know it is doomed.

That's a lot of power to give to a number. Never mind that any test can be constructed to yield whatever average value the test developers desire. Never mind that group testing reveals nothing about why a particular student answers a particular test item in a particular way.

Never mind that the "meaning" of a person's SAT score may be useful only insofar as it validly predicts future performance under narrowly delimited conditions, such as first semester college grades. Never mind that such a correlation is not causation, and that correlations may reveal traps to growth in our culture, not personal limitations.

Every human being alive is prepared to take the next step in his or her development, intellectual or otherwise. Where is it written that the pace of a life must follow the whims of test makers or

even professional educators?

Test outcomes are entry points to progress for all, not endpoints for some. That is "humane" testing. When will our good society ever catch up to this simple fact?

Henry H. Emurian.


The writer is assistant professor of information systems at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

'Flim-Flam' or Medical Necessity?

Editor: I have read with interest your editorial, "Fool the Feds" in your Sept. 3 edition.

Being intimately involved in saving the Kidney Disease program in Maryland, a program providing life-sustaining treatment to dialysis and transplant patients, I know full well the impact on many vulnerable patient populations in this state and others relying on the Provider Fee Project (PFP), the "scam" or "flim-flam" as you call it. The PFPs were implemented well within the law and with the knowledge and approval of Gail Wilensky, administrator of the federal Health Care Financing Administration HCFA).

On Oct. 26, 1990, Ms. Wilensky met with Rep. Henry Waxman and Sens. Jay Rockefeller, John Chafee and David Pryor as well as staff members for all present.

Mr. Waxman clearly states that the states are well within the law and that if HCFA feels it must retract its agreement, it must be done in the appropriate "forum. . . the House and Senate committees of jurisdiction, not in HCFA regulation."

If the states lose this funding we will be witness to a human tragedy whose enormity will far surpass our current health care crisis.

In Maryland alone, dialysis and transplant patients will be at risk of death within months once the funding mechanism for their life-sustaining treatment vanishes. Pharmacy assistance patients will suffer increased morbidity and mortality. Ten percent of the Medicaid patients will be denied access to care and indigent nursing home residents, suffering from Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and other conditions, will lose beds.

The crisis in funding health care for the poor has many causes. The recession drains the states' general funds. The federal government continues to mandate additional coverage to meet the needs of citizens, yet when the states utilize a funding mechanism agreed upon by Ms. Wilensky and approved by law, it is called a "scam."

Without a method of reimbursement, access to health care is denied. The patient populations on various government programs are often the most fragile citizens, those who have no voice. It is the responsibility of the medical community, Congress, state governments and, yes, the media to raise their collective voice and advocate for those whose voices have been silenced by poverty brought on by disease.

If we are to avoid an expansion of the human tragedy already existing here in Maryland, and in the 23 other states your editorial mentions, all who profess to advocate for the rights of all citizens to have access to basic health care must clearly see the reality of the situation. Step back, uncover the cause, put aside personal prejudice and get down to business.

We cannot call our society a society based on Judeo-Christian ethics if we continue to heap additional burdens on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens.

Pearl L. Lewis.


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