Archive for October, 2018


Oct 29 2018

An American Tragedy

by at 9:39 am

Today is Saturday, October 27, 2018. Eleven innocent Americans, who happened to be Jewish, were massacred in their synagogue because they were Jewish as they celebrated the birth of a new member of the family.

My mother spent four years of her childhood in hiding from Nazi persecution during the Holocaust, because she was Jewish. Had she been caught she would have been murdered. She died after developing multiple myeloma in 1992. It was a horrible death. Now, I am glad she did not live to see today’s news. It would have completed the destruction of a heart broken by what she lived through as a child.

We live in a peculiar, deeply disturbing era, where economic security is juxtaposed with deep, tribal political divisions, fostered by the licensing of xenophobic intolerance by political leaders who believe a vote, or perhaps a tax reduction, justifies the selling of their souls. I’d like to believe this is just another bump on the ascending arc of American history, but I have read too much history to dismiss this as the “Battle of the Bulge” for an unsavory, dying view of life as it once was.

Think about it. This is a nation founded on the backs of enslaved people. Every political crisis of the American soul since its inception has been related to this fact, aptly characterized by President Obama as America’s original sin. In my view, Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton over this issue. The Civil War, Reconstruction, the Gilded Age, the Civil Rights era and now our current times all can be viewed through this particular lens. Just a few years ago, we thought that justice was prevailing. However, licensed by too many of our political leaders, weaponized by the internet and armed to their teeth, those who would destroy the greatest nation in history have the means to carry out their perverted missions as never before. How many more bombs are in the mail?

White Supremacy, in all its explicit (i.e., racism) and implicit forms, traffics with and rapidly morphs into xenophobia, sexism, ethnocentrism, and of course anti-semitism. This creed of hatred is at the core of the American struggle to reconcile its lofty political and cultural ideals with its seamy underside. Now Democrats are the enemies, and whenever hatred is in the air, Jews too often end up in the crosshairs. And sometimes, the bigots actually shoot.

What to do? First of all, turn to ballots – not bullets. Vote your conscience, vote your preference, but make yourself heard. Make sure every eligible citizen you know is encouraged to vote, and help to make it happen. Speak out against intolerance. Reach out to those who are different from you. Listen with empathy and interest. Support those who embrace the full vision of what this great country is and can be – a melting pot with the energy, decency and vision to place inclusion above supremacism, and love above hate.

As for me, I intend to attend synagogue whenever I choose. I will not permit anyone to take away my identity. I am willing to die for that right, though I greatly prefer to live. I believe that the fundamental decency of this great nation will prevail.

Have a good week. Stand up to hate in all its forms, and exercise your franchise by voting.

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Oct 15 2018


by at 8:28 am

The Site Visit approaches. We are ready.

This is such a peculiar activity – part arguing a case before the Supreme Court, part Broadway production. However, there are 30 judges, and this play must be a hit, can run only one night, and the “actors” are scientists and clinical investigators. It is a high pressure, high wire act, but we are well prepared. I now have been deeply engaged in 6 Site Visits – three as a program leader at Fox Chase and 3 as Cancer Center Director of Lombardi. You would think I’d be used to it by now, but the now-familiar opening night jitters are there – and that is good. This is important stuff, and the heightened awareness associated with a major performance brings out the best in me, and indeed in all of us.

I’ll be taking off on Thursday for a 10-day vacation, and look forward to returning to the normal, rewarding grind after that.

But even if you want to send me good wishes, please don’t say “Break a leg!” I have already done that!

Have a great week.

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Oct 09 2018


by at 9:09 am

Less than 10 days to go. Our dress rehearsal is on Wednesday. Final slides are due no later than Monday. Columbus Day is being spent to harmonize formatting across all presentations. There is not a lot more to say!

This last week will focus on assuring that all of our “numbers” are accurate across all of our presentations and have appropriate back up. We have worked very hard and everybody has really stepped up to the plate as the finish line comes into sight.

Even though the CCSG site visit preparations are all consuming, I did have other things to do last week. For one thing I started physical therapy, and continue to improve my mobility every day. More importantly I attended the Georgetown Board of Directors meetings this past week, the highlight being dinner on Wednesday evening at the Supreme Court. Imagine the irony of this thrilling experience, juxtaposed with protesters having a rally about the Kavanaugh nomination process as we entered the guest entrance.

It is hard to not feel a sense of awe at the Supreme Court, passing the paintings and busts of legendary justices. The actual courtroom is a solemn chapel, and the adjacent rooms are magnificent, as is the courtyard within the building. It was a special evening filled with unforgettable images.

It was a nice respite, but now it’s time to get back to work.

Have a good week.

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Oct 01 2018


by at 10:30 am

All in all, I had a really good week!

Our Monday Faculty meeting was highlighted in my view by the introductions of Marc Lippman, Nanette Bishopric and Phil Miller as new members of the faculty (in the case of Marc, a reintroduction). This was followed by the pleasant task of listing a large number of new grants recently awarded to Lombardi members.

As nice as that was, the best was yet to come. On Tuesday morning, I visited my orthopedic surgeon, still entombed in my straight leg splint, unable to get around without enormous difficulty. Then, liberation. The surgeon unexpectedly (and, to my enormous delight) told me to take off the brace, start walking and begin physical therapy next week. The walker (truly symbolic of my limitations) was discarded almost immediately, and the cane that followed has been largely dispensed with as well. I walked 2.5 miles on Saturday (albeit slowly and with a slight, temporary limp) and am able to walk up and down stairs (one step at a time) without difficulty. Freedom …

I could not have maintained my productivity and sanity without the help of so many people, especially Harriet, who somehow maintained her energy and sense of humor throughout my incapacity. Every time I came into work, Harriet would deliver me to a wheelchair staffed by either Cheryl Dumsick and Alexus Cole, ably assisted on occasion by a rotating cast of generous colleagues. Cheryl and Alexus were remarkable, doing everything possible to make “ortho jail” tolerable. I am so fortunate to work at a place filled with so many caring people.

Upon hearing the good news, I immediately found I had more energy to devote to work, and put that energy to good use when we hosted a major meeting of our External Advisory Committee on Tuesday night and Wednesday. We got positive feedback, very useful suggestions and I have now more or less finished my Overview, with more than two weeks left to apply polish to my spoken presentation. Now we are truly in the homestretch, but everybody seems energized and nobody is fading down the stretch. So many wonderful people have done so much to get us into this good position. I want to add special thanks to our “internal” external advisors Jeanne Mandelblatt, Carolyn Hurley and Marc Lippman for their wonderful insights and hard work over the past month.

The week was not without its moments of sadness. On Thursday, we learned that Margaret Hodges, the founder of our annual Gala, passed away at the age of 93. Her leadership of this event, which persists to this day, has led to more than $20 million raised to support our research over the years. I had the opportunity to stop by at her viewing on Saturday to offer my respects and express my personal condolences to her daughter Laurie Lapeyre and son Walter Hodges, both of whom have been wonderful Lombardi supporters.

The next few weeks are all about the CCSG site visit, but I can see the finish line, and we will finish well. Have a great week.

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