Doctors shift focus from people to animals

Martin and Barbara Wasserman made a career of serving people, but now focus on animals

February 23, 2011|By Meredith Cohn, The Baltimore Sun

Former state health secretary Martin Wasserman and his physician wife Barbara have made careers caring for people, but they've also long shared a passion for animals.

They share their Ellicott City home with two dogs, three cats and three horses. She's a vegetarian.

Since graduating from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1968, they've been troubled for having trained on dogs. U.S. medical schools have since eschewed canines, a few like Hopkins still use pigs.

Hopkins still views the procedures as important and says it's breaking no laws, but the Wassermans are now calling on the state's attorney for Baltimore to investigate the school for violating animal cruelty law.

"When there is an opportunity to substitute non-animals, they should go that route because it's the humane thing and the compassionate thing to do," said Barbara Wasserman. "There also is a law."

The pair isn't new to activism, though their careers have focused on people. After serving as state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene secretary from 1994-1999, he began directing the Office to End Smoking in Maryland at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

Then-Gov. Parris N. Glendenning said his "efforts to combat smoking and end gun violence have set national standards. ...His work will continue to save the lives of our children."

Wasserman, 68, is now a consultant but has also served as head of Oregon's health department and MedChi, Maryland's medical society. He has a law degree from the University of Maryland. Barbara Wasserman has worked for Native American, government and private institutions.

The pair started a medical scholarship Hopkins but shifted their contributions to a music fund about three years ago to protest training on animals.

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