Thursday, November 1, 2012


Sometimes I catch myself being a crotchety-old-grouch when it comes to certain cancer related things. For example, when I read about 'X' cancer awareness campaign, I find myself thinking, 'what exactly are we supposed to be aware of'?

The statistics? Yes, the figures are staggering; just about everyone knows someone who's died from cancer. Residents of the US have about a 1 in 5 chance of dying of cancer. In 2008, ~5-600,000 people in the US died from cancer (23% of all mortality), which is a frequency surpassed only by heart/vascular disease.

That people do research and that private/donor money is important for research? Well, that's a huge area that does need more awareness.

Recently I was riding by some outdoor University tennis courts. There were a ton of construction workers putting some kind of pipes and electrical stuff under the courts. I don't know this for sure, but it seemed like they were installing equipment that will help keep the outdoor courts warm during the cold months of the year. I counted the construction workers; there were 46 of them. Oh yeah, and these courts are right next to an indoor tennis facility.  But, I guess now that we're in the SEC, we need to keep up with Georgia, Florida, et al.

Meanwhile, researchers and students pinch pennies and pray for miracles.

Sometimes I think I'm crazy for taking the MD/PhD educational route at my particular University. But when I examine my value system and my motivation, deep down I believe that research is important for society and that my voice in research (as someone with cancer) is important. It's a little sad, but there was a facebook conversation/debate I recently witnessed where someone was basically saying that research is really only funded by the private sector and that basic science research does little for the economy. Unfortunately, after really thinking about the economics of things and reading this, I can't really disprove that point of view. But, I BELIEVE that it is wrong. And I choose to BELIEVE that discoveries made on the bench-top do lead to improvements in patient care and that these discoveries, no matter how obscure or strange sounding, often do spur economic growth (both because Universities create jobs and because discoveries are often open sourced and can be built upon by a poor grad student in Cambodia or Genentech).

Anyway, my point in all of this: we need to examine our beliefs, our priorities, and realize that gestures like growing a mustache or wearing pink also need to be backed up with tangible substance. It's not just the thought that counts. Wearing pink in October is fine and dandy, but it doesn't make anyone a better person for doing so, and ultimately it doesn't mean much unless it really inspires people to work for change...maybe it's figuring out WHY the breast cancer statistics are as they are or any number of other questions. Or maybe someone interested in doing something positive would donate to the University of Missouri MD/PhD program? Clearly our University is more interested in things in the same ballpark as the football coaches incredible salary.

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