Feb 01 2021

Life in the Time of Corona(virus) – Day 321

by at 7:15 am under Uncategorized

I hope you all are weathering the storm.

The third wave of COVID-19 has crested, and as it recedes, its toxic wake likely will reveal another 100,000 deaths in the United States in the next month or so. War is hell. At least we are now on the offensive. Not yet D-Day, but perhaps victory in the Battle of Britain. When the fourth wave comes, as it will, its magnitude and impact will be blunted, at least to some degree, by improving weather and more vaccinations — not enough yet to protect all of us, but perhaps enough to keep health care operational. The enemy is clever, counterpunching with new variants, but we will prevail.

Meanwhile, normal-ish life continues in this year of coronavirus. This past Thursday marked the PhD thesis defense of Allison Fitzgerald, who gave a remarkable presentation. I have been privileged to be her mentor. Zoomed in to about 150 attendees, Allison was deprived of the sweet terror of an in-person presentation and defense, and then the party that would have followed. No matter; she has made her mark. Her work took our lab in exciting new directions, and will resonate for years. Congratulations, Allison!

This wonderful event reinforced something important for me. When I moved to Georgetown I looked forward to many new challenges and adventures, and I have not been disappointed. However, I worried a lot that it would inevitably mark the beginning of the end of my research career, as I grappled with various leadership challenges. Happily, the transition turned out to be the end of the beginning. I had not considered the power of graduate students in our Tumor Biology T32 program.

Since Fox Chase Cancer Center did not have a doctoral track in its T32 training program, I did not know what to expect when I moved here. I have now mentored nine TBio MD/PhD and PhD thesis candidates since 2008, and each of them has kept me on my scientific toes; as a result, we continue to contribute to the field. I like to think I helped them achieve their goals, but the truth is that I owe them a debt of extreme gratitude. Hopefully, our contributions to knowledge will, in the end, be helpful in the war on cancer. This is one instance where there is joy in the battle.

This synergy of science and education did not happen by accident. The superb leadership of so many, led by Anna Riegel, Mike Johnson and Becca Riggins, has kept our training environment vibrant, and positioned for success in the years to come. All of us who teach, mentor, organize and support our students contribute to our communal success!

Speaking of staying on our toes, please be careful out there. The University imposed new restrictions for good reasons; this remains a dangerous moment.

Stay safe and be well.




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