Archive for January, 2012


Jan 29 2012

Taking Measures to Enhance Security

by at 11:23 pm

Last week was another busy and productive week. I was genuinely delighted to see so many people at last Monday’s faculty meeting; I think that attendance may have spiked a bit because many of our population science faculty had just had a meeting in E501, and stayed for the faculty meeting before heading back up Wisconsin Avenue. Regardless of the reason, it was great to see so many faculty members in the room, and hope we might have as large a turnout at future meetings where we discuss important developments for the cancer center.

For me, the week got off to a shaky start last Saturday, when I got a call that the administrative offices on the fifth floor of the Research Building had been vandalized. I came in to find every door opened with a crowbar, with various items stolen, including my computer monitor. Luckily, I dock my laptop into the monitor at work, so no work was taken. However, several computers were stolen, and the safe containing petty cash was compromised. Any way you look at it, the overall feeling of invasion and violation was palpable. The campus police and the DC police were on the scene, and crowbar-proof plates were added to the access doors.

As you know, GUMC has created a task force to address security issues on the medical center campus (there were also a few incidences in Building D). My major concern is for the physical safety of people who work here; had someone been in the offices when the break-in occurred, their safety could not have been assured. We don’t know who is responsible, but obviously I hope that everybody will be observant and will report any suspicious or unusual activity.

On a more positive note, look out for a big announcement about our new deputy director this week. And,  l look forward to sharing many other exciting developments with you in the weeks and months to come.


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Jan 21 2012

An Unforgettable Evening Celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr.

by at 1:00 pm

Well, we are finally getting a taste of winter. This weekend’s ice fest comes as a bit of shock to my system. It’s a bit of a contrast to last weekend, when Harriet and I visited some old friends in the Tampa area. It was pretty chilly there, with temperatures barely breaking 60 degrees, except on our day of departure when it got up to 70 or so. One of those friends is a colleague from my days in Philadelphia, and we are embarking on a collaboration that connects my work on functional genomics with his in evolutionary biology and cancer signaling. So, work was leavened with fun (or perhaps it was the other way around?). In fact, I got to play some golf. As always, golf won.

We got back last Sunday, and the next day experienced what will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of the year for me. We were invited to attend Georgetown’s Martin Luther King Day celebration at the Kennedy Center. The reception was lovely, but the actual 90-minute event turned out to be incredible and deeply moving. You can watch it on the Kennedy Center website.

The audience had to be seated early because the event was attended by President and Mrs. Obama, who occupied their usual seats in the balcony. I have never seen so many cell phone cameras and flashes go off in such a short period of time. The event opened up with a performance by the “Let Freedom Ring” choir, led by the Rev. Nolan Williams, and the choir, with its guest soloists, was truly remarkable. Then, Jack DeGioia introduced John Thompson III and the recipient of this year’s John Thompson III Legacy of a Dream award, Clarence B. Jones.

This remarkable man, born in Philadelphia to domestic servants, graduated from Columbia University and then Boston University Law School, and became a central figure in the Civil Rights movement, serving as an advisor, friend, speechwriter and lawyer for the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. In fact, Mr. Jones smuggled the famous Letter to Birmingham for Dr. King, who was then imprisoned in that city. He also helped edit the “I Have a Dream” speech.

I was deeply moved when Mr. Jones led off his inspiring and speech by telling us a story. He was a 10-year old boy, “down the shore” one summer (Philly lingo for being at one of the New Jersey beaches) because his parents’ employers were vacationing there. While playing outside a group of boys began to chase him, calling him names and using racial slurs. He ran into the house, crying, and asked his mother why that had happened. Instead of comforting him, his mother dragged him in front of a mirror and asked him what he saw. He didn’t understand, and said he saw himself and his mother, and kept crying. She then repeated the question, with the same response. Finally, she told him that she saw a man who could be and do anything her wanted in his life.

It was an evocative and powerful reminder of how far we have come in this country over the past 70 years, and how much dignity, strength and resolve was required to accomplish those gains. At the end of his talk, I found myself murmuring “thank you” to this remarkable man. His life stands as a testament to the central importance of social justice to our society, and to the greatness of this country.

The entertainment continued with a performance by the spectacular Bobby McFerrin, who must be heard to be believed. I didn’t know this before, but he is the son of two opera singers; his father was the first African American member of the Metropolitan Opera company, and actually provided the voice for Sidney Poitier in the the film version of Porgy and Bess. Then, there were several ensemble pieces that included all of the performers.

Each piece was more fabulous than the one preceding it. As I have chronicled before, I come from a family that is deeply connected to the stage, and have had the privilege to witness many wonderful shows and performances. But, this evening moved to the top of the heap. I’ll never forget it.

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Jan 12 2012

New Funding Mechanisms and Beautiful Art

by at 11:21 pm

I am now “back in the swing” of things, and have been quite busy, but the real highlight for this week was the call for Georgetown Lombardi-based proposals for seed funding through a number of mechanisms. This is not to be confused with the recent request for proposals for clinical trial support. So, we have lots of opportunities to explore new, interesting ideas. I expect the awards will be competitive, but successful applicants will get a real leg up in securing external peer reviewed funding. Please take a look at the announcement and consider responding to one or more of the mechanisms.

By now, many of you have no doubt seen the wonderful quilts that now hang in Suite E501. These come from our fabulous Arts and Humanities Program, courtesy of Nancy Morgan. Nancy has established a truly innovative and deeply inspirational program that serves our patients, their families and their caregivers; it is a model for similar efforts around the country.

These beautiful works of art had previously been in our patient care areas, and we were quite fortunate to get them for our suite. I simply love the message they send, about the convergence of research, drug development, patient care and the very human touch that makes our mission so compelling.

Let me tell you more about their story. The cancer treatment garden in Meadowlark Gardens Regional Park in Vienna,Virginia was created by Walter Parham in memory of his wife Lenore, a Georgetown Lombardi patient who battled and succumbed to ovarian cancer. The garden contains plants that are nurtured and grown for the properties they contain to make drugs to fight cancer.

The therapeutic benefits of nature and art have come together in this artistic garden. Each quilt represents the healing power of one of the plants with the intent of bringing a haven of comfort, peace and hope from the organic garden into our cancer center. They are dedicated to the memory of Lenore Parham and created by her friends.

Take a look at the attached photos of the plants. Then, stop by E501 to fully appreciate their beauty and meaning. Then, go back to work, inspired by the knowledge that you do important work, and countless millions of people depend upon you to do work that makes a difference.

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Jan 09 2012

A Fresh Start to 2012

by at 9:51 am

Happy New Year to all. Our family had a great week off at Deep Creek Lake, and I came back recharged and relaxed. I did get a chance to work on two papers while we were away, but came back with much more writing to do. As you know, our CCSG competitive renewal is not due until May, 2013, but Carolyn Hurley has been fabulously organized and has me working on a preliminary draft of the Director’s Overview, and Essential Characteristics of the Cancer Center. My draft is due on February 1, so I have a lot of work to do!

Tuesday was notable for a continuation of discussions with MedStar’s senior leadership about the developing MedStar Cancer Network. On Wednesday, I had a great meeting to discuss the new “Donor Wall” in the Lombardi Atrium. It will represent a real upgrade over the current wall, and will honor those individuals who have generously supported Lombardi’s efforts over the years.

That evening, Harriet and I went to the Georgetown-Marquette basketball game. We almost left at halftime, because Georgetown was getting pounded, but boy, were we glad we stayed! It was one of the most thrilling basketball games I’ve ever attended, and I could not believe that Georgetown came back to win the game.

On Thursday, I attended the inaugural meeting of the Resource Allocation Committee, which is chaired by Bruce Cheson. Other members of the committee include Kate Taylor, Todd Waldman, George Phillips and Chip Albanese. The committee is charged with providing funds to support potentially high-impact clinical trials. This is a great opportunity for clinical investigators to conduct high priority trials with scientific collaborators. I hope that many of you will consider this terrific opportunity to extend your work from the laboratory into the clinic, or from the clinic into the lab.

The rest of my time has been spent working on the CCSG. Thanks, Carolyn!

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