Archive for March, 2015


Mar 29 2015

Catching up

by at 9:14 pm

I trust you have had a nice weekend. Harriet and I spent the time with my dad, and we very much enjoyed seeing him. I had a wonderful visit at the NCI last Monday and took pleasure in giving my talk and getting feedback from world-class scientists. We are lucky to have so many wonderful potential and real nearby collaborators.

I chose not to attend a grant review board meeting in NY on Tuesday, preferring to not travel so soon after my kidney stone attack the previous week. Instead, I plowed through a large number of faculty performance reviews. I review all of the professors, and it took almost all day to get through the work. After picking up Harriet from an organizing meeting for the Women and Wine Lombardi event, we had a quick bite at Et Voila!, a wonderful Belgian restaurant on MacArthur Boulevard.

I spent the rest of the week catching up on a lot of pending work, including the submission of a few manuscripts. Next week promises to be equally busy.

I want to note with appreciation the service of Joe Teague as Lombardi’s Associate Director of Development. Joe will be leaving Georgetown on April 1. He has been a good friend and staunch supporter of Lombardi’s development efforts, even as he struggled with his own very serious health issues a few years ago. I am sure he will be successful in his future endeavors, and I hope you will join me in wishing him well. Jo Ann Grainger and the Lombardi Development team continue to be ramping up our fundraising efforts and I look forward to finishing off a strong year, and to even better results in the future.

Have a great week.

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Mar 22 2015

Another Interesting Week

by at 9:46 pm

Well, this was another interesting week. On Tuesday, Tony Dritschilo and I were visiting a local small pharmaceutical company to learn about their new drug pipeline in cancer. He drove, and as we pulled up into the garage I felt a sudden left-sided abdominal pain that was severe enough for me to grab a cab back to the Georgetown Emergency Room. By the time I got there the pain had migrated to the left flank, and I told the ER doc that I thought I had a kidney stone. He looked at me, watching me grimace and hunch over, and thought I was right. So, I spent about 9 hours in the ER, with a CT scan confirming the presence of the stone, receiving pain meds that knocked me out a bit but made the pain tolerable. By 10 pm it was clear that I needed to spend the night as an inpatient and I was admitted for observation, though my last spasm of pain was at about 9:30 or so. After an uneventful evening and an encouraging follow up abdominal X-ray, I was discharged on Wednesday morning to sleep off the after-effects of Dilaudid and 9 hours of torture. It sure felt good to be pain-free and off pain meds!

My care in the ER and on 7 Bles were exemplary. Importantly, I kept my eyes and ears open to observe the doctors and nurses at work with other patients, and I must say that my care, while wonderful, was matched by the attentiveness and compassion the other patients received. I was very impressed and reassured to know that, even when I am at the other end of a stethoscope, I work at a wonderful hospital.

In truth, I am still recovering, and may need a bit more care before this little episode passes into memory. However, I put in a full day of work on Thursday, including a dinnertime meeting of the Lombardi Men’s Event Committee at Morton’s on Connecticut Avenue. Friday was similarly busy, though I missed much of a very interesting Visiting Professor seminar so Harriet and I could be with our son David and his fiancee’ Kelly as he opened up his residency match envelope at noon. We all were thrilled when he found out he had matched at his first choice – the orthopedics program at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore. Since he was on call on Friday night we celebrated with them on Saturday night before returning to watch the disappointing end of the Georgetown-Utah NCAA basketball game.

Sunday was devoted to a large and fabulous family celebration for our granddaughter Aviva in Baltimore. I will be out of the office on Monday to be at NCI, where I will be a visiting professor in their Eminent Lecturer series. I was scheduled to be in New York on Tuesday, but will have to take a pass on that trip since it seems unwise to be too far away from the Georgetown ER until I am sure I am in the clear!

Have a great week.

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Mar 15 2015

More Work to Do

by at 9:45 am

Well, this certainly was an interesting week. As I mentioned in last week’s blog, on Tuesday I chaired the NCI BSC meeting, where I expressed the Board’s appreciation for the efforts of Harold Varmus, the outgoing NCI Director, and then introduced Doug Lowy, the new acting Director. Lowy had a significant role in the development of the HPV vaccine, and the general expectation is that he will hold the position at least until the 2016 elections. However, some opponents of HPV vaccination recommendations have voiced concerns about Lowy’s suitability, namely because the vaccine tacitly recognizes sexual behavior in adolescents.

Following the meeting I flew to London, and landed there early Wednesday morning. After freshening up I joined the Royal Society of Medicine Symposium on antibody therapy, which was organized to honor the contributions of Professor Richard Begent. The day and evening were wonderful, and I enjoyed the hospitality of Richard and his wife Nicky. While I was in London, checking my emails, the announcement regarding the pending transition of Howard Federoff appeared in my inbox. I had known it was coming, but certainly viewed this as a bittersweet moment. Howard recruited me in 2007, and we have had a strong professional and personal relationship over the years. In an exceptionally challenging era the Medical Center, led by Howard, supported the mission of the Cancer Center, and we would not have had a successful re-competition of our CCSG without that support. He had a tough job, and no doubt is moving to an exciting new opportunity (and probably a challenging one as well), but I will miss him and wish him all the best as he moves into the last few months of his work here.

Like all of you I don’t have any insights into what the next few weeks and months will bring. But I do know that our mission is unchanged, and we still have a lot of work to do. So I wish all of you a good and productive week of work.

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Mar 08 2015

Change is in the Air

by at 7:42 pm

I just finished packing for a very brief trip to London on Tuesday night. I am giving a keynote lecture at a Royal Society of Medicine symposium honoring the accomplishments of my colleague and friend Richard Begent, a wonderful antibody engineer and GI medical oncologist (e.g., my doppelganger) who led the integration of two large cancer programs in London a few years ago, and took a lead role in systems medicine to boot. I am honored to have been asked to speak at the symposium. I fly out Tuesday night (directly from an all-day meeting of the NCI Board of Scientific Counselors), speak at 1 pm on Wednesday, participate in a dinner that evening, and head back to DC on Thursday.

Speaking of the NCI, I would be remiss in not noting the impending departure of Harold Varmus as director of the NCI after a distinguished five-year term of service. Despite crippling financial pressures, I believe he leaves the NCI stronger than when he assumed his responsibilities. I am especially appreciative of his focus on the quality of science conducted under NCI auspices, ending an era of somewhat fanciful large initiatives that distracted from the critical importance of supporting the best, most promising ideas and accomplishments. Interestingly, Linda Weiss also retired at the end of February as Director of the NCI Centers Branch, and we have a new Program Officer to boot. So, there is change in the air! However, we are on a very solid trajectory and have no reason for anything but optimism as we move forward. I am sure that Doug Lowy will be very effective in his new responsibilities, and I look forward to working with him.

In the meantime, this week promises to be very busy. I look forward to the end of the week, when the dust settles a bit and I can enjoy some home time.

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Mar 02 2015

Enough, Winter!

by at 6:05 am

Well, I have had enough of winter for this year. As I write this, the university is once again having a delayed opening. Flights have been canceled, travel disrupted and we have another miserable weather week ahead. And to think that Spring Training has started in Florida and Arizona for Major League baseball teams!

The past week was highlighted by my participation in a NCI site visit in New Mexico; travel was naturally disrupted by bad weather, but I got where I had to go, more or less in time. I had the delightful luxury of using some of the travel time for recreational reading; finishing one book and digging into another book, “The Brothers,” about John Foster Dulles and his brother Alan; they were once widely celebrated public figures as Secretary of State and Director of the CIA in the 1950s. John Foster Dulles was then thought to be a towering figure, who was memorialized by the honor of having a lousy airport named in his honor. He is now more of a historical footnote, but in fact was responsible for the prosecution of the Cold War, the consequences of which reverberate to this day.

I was back in the office on Thursday, and was able to get some work done. After a quiet weekend I look forward to getting in a full week of work. Stay warm and dry, and drive carefully!

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