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November 01, 1987|DICK RORABACK | Times Staff Writer

Bugs in Space

To the layman, the concept is pretty far out. NASA agrees, literally, and plans to incorporate Mark Christian's science project into a future space shuttle mission. To Christian, 17, a senior at King-Drew Medical Magnet High School in South Los Angeles, "The whole idea evolved from a simple thought."

Christian's concept of simple : "The Susceptibility of E. Coli and Staphlyococcus Aureus to the Bacteriocidal Effects on Space-Grown Antibiotics," an essay that won first prize--not to mention $3,000 and a computer--in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's nationwide Space Science Student Involvement Program.

"The Russians experimented in 1983," said Christian as he shuttled between classes, "and found that certain space-grown bacteria were resistant to antibiotics produced on Earth. I'm going to grow the same bacteria but produce the antibiotics in space, too--hoping that the same effects that changed the bacteria will raise the potency level of the antibiotics."

Practical applications? "It could help astronauts who get sick in space, especially on future long-term flights."

With that, Christian (who's "pointing to Harvard, Stanford, Howard or UC Berkeley") was off to a school lab, then a little chess, a little jazz. "He's very unassuming," said teacher/advisor Ernie Roy: "intelligent, well-read, articulate--an ideal student." A future doctor to boot, and a good man to have on your side should you come down with a strep throat up there where they don't make house calls.

Wearing Many Hats

They call her "Supernurse."

She's Vivian Burgess, Mount St. Mary's College alumna of the year; Vivian Burgess, bedside nurse, then head nurse at Queen of Angels Hospital; Vivian Burgess, coordinator of the USC School of Medicine's Introduction to Clinical Medical (ICM) Program, "correlating the academic setting with the clinical environment." Vivian Burgess, touring Europe now, a retirement present from the ICM faculty--but not really retired, just shifting focus.

On her return, Burgess will devote all her time to Phillip's Manor, a "cooperative living project" for senior citizens in a house in the Crenshaw neighborhood of Los Angeles. Bought and refurbished with her own funds, Phillip's Manor now houses six seniors, from 65 to 91.

"It's a blend of companionship, care and independence, without the stigma of the 'institution,' " Burgess says of her experiment, which is sustained by private funds. "Residents share a common space, but furnish their own rooms. A weekday housekeeper/cook does the heavier work and prepares one main meal. The residents do their own laundry, fix their own breakfasts and suppers and so on."

And who prepares weekend meals? "Um . . . Vivian Burgess."

Eye on Yugoslavia

Even for an ophthalmologist, the trip to Sarajevo was an eye-opener.

Dr. James J. Salz, a Cedars-Sinai eye surgeon, just back from Yugoslavia after two weeks as a volunteer for Project Orbis, "a unique and rewarding experience," is already making plans for another tour--to Warsaw next May.

Orbis is a flying hospital that touches down throughout the world, Soviet Union to Africa, to treat local eye patients and--more importantly--to instruct foreign physicians in America's latest surgical techniques. The plane, Salz says, is a marvel of ingenuity: a gutted DC-8 refitted with a completely equipped operating room, three different laser instruments, ultrasound, a teaching compartment and "the most sophisticated video system; doctors can watch the operations not only on the plane but in remote classrooms, even ask questions during the operations."

Patients are selected "by need, but also for the teaching value; we want a variety of operations. What (the Yugoslavian doctors) were doing was what we were doing 20 years ago. We retrain them, and there's an obvious and immediate ripple effect: They take the new techniques back to their hospitals, along with videos, and they retrain their colleagues. . . ."

A permanent staff of 20 is bolstered by volunteer specialists and volunteer pilots, the whole Project Orbis (330 West 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10036) financed mainly by private contributions.

For Salz, besides the personal satisfaction, "the people were wonderful, the food great and the scenery! Closest thing to California I've ever seen."

Call Her Sergeant

It's not because she's black. It's not even because she's a she. In the opinions of colleagues and superiors, it's because she's just a very good law officer. Period.

Nevertheless, Annie Butler has set a precedent. This month, Butler became the first black woman sergeant in the history of the Los Angeles County Marshals Office.

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