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Chartering Success

Posted 12/15/2004

Through an after-school running program for 6th and 7th grade girls, I have had consistent involvement with KIPP Ujima Village Academy—a Baltimore City Contract School—for a year now. KIPP Academy is a model of efficiency, strength, and effort that is consistently proving its success as an alternative to the standard public schools (“Learning Curve,” Dec. 8).

George VanHook, a Baltimore City School Board member, voted against giving 10 city schools charter status, and justified his vote by stating “I don’t want to see something that works for a certain group of folks at the detriment of others.” What if nothing is working? Is Mr. VanHook suggesting denying charter status to these schools—that are proving themselves over and over again—because it may affect the floundering modicum of mediocrity we currently have in the public system in our backyard? Mr. VanHook would make a valid point were these new schools not succeeding where others are failing.

These kids aren’t being offered a golden opportunity on a silver platter. It means work to be at KIPP. Longer hours than standard public schools. Stricter uniform standards. A different color shirt has to be worn by the students for academic or behavioral reasons, singling them out so that they can’t slide under the radar for less than acceptable performance.

These kids get involved and take advantage of their opportunities, regardless of what the common student might see as a “hassle.” 11-year-old 6th grader Harriet leaves running practice in the dark at 5:30, walks to the day care down the road to pick up her five-year-old sister Lois, and then walks home and handles dinner and homework. But you wouldn’t hear her complain. She made the calls by herself to KIPP to get interviewed for enrollment, because at the age of 11, she still knew what it would mean for her future to get into KIPP. The school is full of kids who want to be challenged, kids who will take you up on your promise to create success for them if they are willing to run the gauntlet.

I believe many of these kids would have been lost already in the standard public school system. KIPP teachers are required to answer cell phones in the evening so that kids have no excuse for incomplete homework the next day. KIPP is continuously in the top scoring bracket for Maryland School Assessment Testing in Baltimore City, they are in the top attendance-rate echelon, and they have a set number of mandatory Saturday sessions and summer programs the students must attend. All this is designed to create a committed student. What they are doing is working.

If there is doubt by the City Council, complacency within Baltimore’s communities, or reservation from Baltimore City School Board Member Mr. VanHook, talk to a KIPPster. Don’t vote against a currently effective plan because you have “concerns” about a possible future effect on a currently faltering system.

Michelle Christensen

The Doctor Is In

I would like to respond to your recent article on obesity surgery, “Fat Chance,” which appeared in the Nov. 24 issue.

First, I must congratulate Edward Ericson Jr. on a fair and balanced treatment of this very complex issue. In fact, this is a life-saving procedure that is offered as a last resort to an extremely high-risk patient population.

Statistics show that the morbidly obese patient faces a 1 percent mortality rate with any surgical procedure, not just weight-loss surgery. While these patients are scattered through the surgical populations of other specialties, they are obviously concentrated in bariatric surgery, where every procedure becomes a high-risk tightrope, each patient a potential disaster looking for a place to happen.

The problem with obesity surgery is that a poorly informed public perceives it as a “magic wand,” and the inherent risks of caring for this patient population have become a target of opportunity for malpractice attorneys. For while the patients fully understand and accept the significant risks involved, grieving family members will go for the “free consultation” offered by advertising attorneys spinning what has become the malpractice lottery wheel.

As was pointed out in your article, these cases are often settled out of court, regardless of whether any “malpractice” actually occurred. This is simply because it is cheaper for the insurer to settle, and the attorney bringing the action stands to collect up to half of any settlement. Until there is meaningful tort reform, the situation will only become worse, driving competent practitioners of high-risk specialties out of business.

Good Samaritan Hospital stopped offering this service in April of 2004. I was the only surgeon performing this procedure at that institution. I have done over 400 gastric bypass procedures since January 2001. Of these, a total of 349 procedures were done at Good Samaritan. I had concentrated my practice there, and consequently had resigned from other hospital staffs because of time constraints.

Since undergoing their procedures, my group of over 400 patients has lost a collective total in excess of 44,000 pounds, 22 tons of fat. They have had their diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, and other conditions cured by their weight loss. My series and results fall well within all published parameters, and my practice adheres to standards promulgated by the American Society for Bariatric Surgery.

While I am no longer doing this operation at Good Samaritan, I continue to perform other surgeries at that institution. It was the hospital service that was interrupted, not my surgical privileges.

I am now resuming my bariatric surgery practice at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, an outstanding institution with strong, committed, and forward-looking leadership that understands the scope of the problem and the dire need for an effective treatment of the nation’s leading health care crisis and its leading cause of preventable death.

William J. Roe Jr., MD

Oyster Irritant

I appreciate your paper’s review of Pearls (Omnivore, Dec. 8). I am happy to see the local press take interest in a restaurant that I have put a lot of sweat equity into. All criticism is constructive—to a point. However, I take offense to the phrase “WASP-glitzy.” What on earth does that mean? I am scared to think about what you will say about Ray Lewis’ new place down the street. I would like to invite your reviewer back for a second or third time so that his opinion can be a little more objective—and hopefully he can draw a less RACIST opinion about Pearls.

Michael Broglio
Executive chef, Pearls

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