Archive for April, 2022


Apr 30 2022

No Blues at the Beach

by at 8:23 pm

I hope you enjoyed the beautiful weekend weather. Harriet and I snuck away to the beach and soaked up every beautiful moment (though my laptop seemed to be quite busy!). I finished preparations for Monday’s Faculty Sector meeting and hope you can attend. I also worked on a new grant application and reviewed an MS thesis paper. I was busy, but had time to take some lovely walks. We did not eat out, but we did bring in takeout.

We passed the time on the three hour drives to and from the beach listening to podcasts, transfixed by the Ukrainian crisis and other attacks on the democratic world order. I particularly enjoy the Ezra Klein podcasts and “The New Yorker Radio Hour” for their very thoughtful programming. Putin is providing a playbook for the aggressors who would destroy democracy, even as Zelenskyy, Biden and NATO provide a textbook example of how to defend the liberal world order and freedom, and the principles that have animated our country for almost 250 years.

Good news, training rides are here! BellRinger is a little less than six months away, and it’s time to get back in the saddle. Join BellRinger for regular training rides led by expert leaders. BellRinger isn’t a race and neither are these training rides. The rides will be casual and focus on safe, social group rides. Check out the full list of training rides online here. Everyone is welcome! I am bringing my bike back from the beach so I can get involved in at least some of the rides.

Stay safe and be well.




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Apr 25 2022

On the Road Again

by at 7:42 am

So, we just got back home on Sunday evening after an eventful weekend. In Baltimore, COVID has been running through Elana’s family — little Eitan, only 10 months old, was diagnosed on Friday morning and spent that evening in an ER with a fever of 105 degrees. Fortunately, he was able to go home a few hours later, and his fever broke the following morning, Other than being uncharacteristically cranky, he seems to be recovering.

Of course, that put an end to our family’s plans to get together at Elana and Ben’s for a belated family Seder to celebrate Passover together. So, we had a little Seder with Dave and Kelly and their kids on Friday evening and then drove up to Philly on Saturday for another Seder with Ken, Sarah and their kids. It was wonderful, but nothing beats being together as a family.

Speaking of family, we spent Saturday night with Ken, Sarah and their kids and then drove up to New York City (we were more comfortable driving than training up in a maskless passenger train), met my brother Steve and his wife, Ryta, for lunch, and then saw the final performance (masks were mandatory) of his musical, “Penelope.” It is a retelling of “The Odyssey,” except that Odysseus’ wife, Penelope, not Homer, is the poet. It was funny, charming in its classic approach to the musical comedy genre (decidedly not in vogue these days), and the music was great. We drove home after the show. I asked Steve if he could hear the echo of our late parents’ clapping in the midst of the standing ovation that followed the end of the show.

Steve is my younger brother. He began playing the piano at the age of 3 and was a bit of a child prodigy. I remember that when he was about 6 years old, people would ask him to play a simple song, such as “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” by ear. He would do that, and upon request would play it in the style of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart or Gershwin. Even though he was younger than me, I remember figuring out very quickly that he had a special gift, and that it would be far more productive to celebrate his brilliance than to compete with it. We have always been there for each other, appreciating each other’s successes and being there for each other during the hard times. Throughout his adult life, he has mixed his love of musical theater with his work as a clinical psychologist and organizational trainer. He has a musical style that echoes that of Rodgers and Hammerstein, and perhaps a bit of Cole Porter, with very melodic scores that recall the 1950s, even as they address more contemporary topics. He has had a number of shows performed in New York and elsewhere. So, in many ways, seeing his latest show takes me back to my youth, while marveling at our life journey together. Good stuff, indeed.

Speaking of good stuff, please check out the wonderful piece on our local NBC station about the Walking Warriors, who will walk on April 30 to raise money to support breast cancer research here at Georgetown Lombardi. Jeannie Mandelblatt gave a fabulous interview; here is the link to the piece. Thanks, Jeannie, for the fabulous publicity and your great work in leading this wonderful effort!

Have a great week, and as always, remember to stay safe and be well.




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Apr 17 2022

Living Our Principles

by at 11:02 pm

This special moment in the year is a confluence of the religious observances of Easter, Passover and Ramadan. It is a time for community, for friends and family, and reminds us of the core principles shared by each of these great religions. If you have or are celebrating any of these observances, I hope this has been a time of love and reflection.

We spent time with family, though we all thought twice about it since I had gone to AACR in New Orleans. From what I can gather a lot of people came back infected with COVID-19; I guess that is what happens when more than 11,000 people from around the world cram together in relatively tight quarters, even if they are fully vaccinated. Fortunately, I appear to have dodged that bullet, but it is a reminder that, while we may not die from COVID, we most certainly need to learn how to live with it more intelligently, for, most assuredly, it is not going away. I think I am going to shy away from potential superspreader events for a while.

Speaking of AACR, I had a truly troubling experience there. I was asked to moderate a press conference on Monday, and one of the three press releases came from a Libyan presenter, describing how the remarkable disparities in childhood cancer outcomes in high vs. low/middle income countries have widened during the pandemic. Prior to the pandemic the survival rate for children in high income countries was 80%, but was only 20% in low/middle income countries.

Stop. Think about this. Relatively few children worldwide get cancer. How much extra money might it cost to assure that every affected child received the care that was needed? The answer: not a lot. Why has this not been addressed previously?

As I tried to process this monstrous disparity, the presenter then showed observational data that the 30-day mortality rate has been 35 times higher in children from low/middle income countries during the pandemic. So, when the presentation ended and I turned the questioning over to the press, I mentioned, “This is really important stuff. It’s unacceptable, and something needs to be done about this.”

The first question came from someone affiliated with a very prominent journal. “So, why is this news? Didn’t we already know about this?” I fought back the urge to snarl, and noted that just because something isn’t brand new, it does not mean that the problem is not urgent and worthy of a call to action. She shrugged and sat down. There were no other questions.

I was stunned. Have we become so smug and comfortable in our privileged lives that we are indifferent to the suffering of others, even if they are children whose parents don’t look like many of us? Is this what we are about? Is this how our religions teach us to behave? The Western world watches in horror (albeit receding) as Ukrainian civilians are wantonly murdered — perhaps because the victims seem to be so much like us?

Sunflowers were planted across the street from the Russian Embassy on Saturday in solidarity with the Ukraine. It was a wonderful gesture. But, who is planting something for the kids who are doomed to die of curable cancers because of the accidents of their births? Better yet, who is actually helping? When science is not linked to the public good, the advances ring hollow to me.

The Sunday New York Times ran an article about how St. Jude has set up a field triage clinic in Poland to navigate Ukrainian pediatric cancer patients for care at appropriate facilities around the world, including in Tennessee. It is a wonderful initiative, but St. Jude should not and cannot be the only answer. Why can’t something similar be done throughout the world?

Stay safe and be well.




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Apr 10 2022


by at 8:37 pm

Greetings from New Orleans. I am at the AACR meeting, trying to lay low a bit, but I have specific responsibilities to which I must attend. Louisiana has a remarkably low rate of COVID-19 infections, but there are a lot of people here from around the country, and a few from around the world. Everyone must show proof of vaccination; masks are optional — though I am wearing one most of the time when not eating or speaking from a podium.

So far, so good. I will report more on the meeting after I return on Tuesday.

Last Thursday during a community meeting on Zoom, President DeGioia talked to Victor Dzau, president of the National Academy of Medicine, about Georgetown’s Health Sciences Strategy Initiative (HSSI). Dr. Dzau described our HSSI as the “right time and the right direction.” It does seem to be the right time — particularly as COVID has further illuminated our society’s deep disparities — to design an academic health system that takes advantage of all that Georgetown offers, from laboratory science to health care delivery, health professions training, policy and law, and the humanities. If you missed the meeting a recording is posted. Also, be sure to watch for an email this week that includes a link to a survey that will allow you to weigh in and share your thoughts about our collective aspiration and identity.

Have a good week. Stay safe and be well.



The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, organization, committee or other group or individual.

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Apr 03 2022

In Flight

by at 5:57 pm

I flew on an airplane for the first time in more than two years this past week. I chair the External Advisory Board for the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center of the University of California, Irvine and flew out Wednesday and back to DC on Friday afternoon. It was like getting back on a bike, but with a mask. The trip was uneventful, though a chance to be together with colleagues was fabulous. I didn’t realize how much I had been missing.

There is a lot going on, as always. I am helping Ben Weinberg finalize a clinical trial based on work we did in my lab for patients with pancreatic cancer. Now I am working on a grant related to that trial. Plus, I am gearing up for another trip — this time to the annual AACR conference in New Orleans. I’ll only be there between Saturday and Tuesday morning, but have a pretty full schedule.

I am reviewing an updated version of the Leadership, Planning and Evaluation section of our CCSG competitive renewal application, which summarizes many important changes we have made over the past few years. We still have over a year before the competitive renewal is due, and we have a great story to tell. Many thanks to Sharon Levy for organizing this work and making sure I stay on track!

Meanwhile, there still are multiple attacks on our communal safety and well-being. Placing internal political discord aside for the moment, coronavirus keeps trying, spinning out variants. Thus far, the numbers are still acceptable, but bear watching. Harriet and I did our part over the weekend by getting vaccinated with our second boosters. As before, we had few if any side effects, and the enhanced immunity can only be helpful.

Last but not least, Putin and his troops keep inflicting horrific tolls on the Ukrainian people, and the atrocities are out there in plain sight. I am beginning to believe that most of the rest of the world has been vaccinated against his particular form of aggression, and so far the immunity seems to be pretty effective. Let’s hope it stays that way.

I hope you’ll be able to attend the Health Sciences Strategy Initiative community meeting and reception this Thursday at 3 p.m. in the Research Building auditorium (or via Zoom). The title is “The Future of Health Sciences: Bench to Bedside to Population to Society,” which it reflects a Viewpoint in The Lancet written by Victor Dzau, president of the National Academy of Medicine. He’ll be at the meeting along with President DeGioia. After their conversation, there will be a discussion about our Health Sciences Strategy Initiative. There’s more information about the meeting elsewhere in this newsletter, but I hope you’ll join.

Stay safe and be well.




The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text belong solely to the author, and not necessarily to the author’s employer, organization, committee or other group or individual.

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