Archive for May, 2022


May 30 2022

Some Things Never Change — Or Can They?

by at 10:53 pm

I hope you enjoyed your Memorial Day weekend. I think of those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom, for the abstract values that inspired this ongoing experiment we call the United States of America. We celebrate and mourn these men and women, whose mostly young lives were snuffed out cruelly by the many weapons of war. They died so we Americans could be free.

To kill each other? Really? For that is where we are today. It’s really not terribly political, or at least it should not be. Surely we can agree that murder is wrong — a sin, in fact — and while it is undoubtedly true that people kill people, it is equally true that they tend to use guns to make it happen. It is indisputably true that military-grade weapons, a preferred tool of mass murderers, are not sold or purchased for self defense or for hunting. They are efficient, highly lethal battlefield weapons. They have no place in civilized society, except for law enforcement or the military.

How have we lost our way, and why? I have spent the past 40 years in pursuit of a cure for cancer, reasoning that eliminating a huge cause of human misery and premature death would be especially impactful, as many other aspects of human life have improved the prospects for human happiness, progress and longevity. I would be doing my part!

Alas, I was not paying sufficient attention to the world around me, because life has become increasingly fragile and insecure. Wars in Asia, and now in Europe, have created horrific scenes of indiscriminate carnage and waves of desperate refugees. I have discussed the political whiplash in our own country in previous blogs, and have despaired with you about the unpredictable, horrific atrocities that started with Oklahoma City and Littleton, Colo., chugged through Newtown, Conn., Orlando, Parkland, Fla., Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, and so many others, most recently in Buffalo, and now, unimaginably, in Uvalde. These massacres of innocents have targeted Americans who identify as either Black, gay, Jewish, government workers, concertgoers or, perhaps most heartbreakingly, children. They have only two things in common: they are Americans, and they are being targeted by other Americans for extermination using weapons of mass destruction. The United States I thought I lived in these past 40 years could stop this, or at least slow it down. What happened to us? The vast majority of Americans support sensible gun control, even as many happily engage in our toxic culture wars.

I am reading Kurt Andersen’s excellent book “Evil Geniuses,” which chronicles the backlash that has undermined our traditional American values of tolerance, shared enterprise and optimism for the future. A society that does not value human life will, in the end, fail to support research to extend life, and will not support equitable care for all Americans. I don’t know that he or anyone else has a prescription for what ails our sick society, but this I do know.

One never knows when some event provides a spark that changes everything. A man from Missouri, a former haberdasher, ends a world war, creates a doctrine to protect liberal democracy from an implacable and dangerous enemy, and integrates the military. A young military veteran integrates baseball, and in doing so provides a blueprint for social justice. A Polish union leader precipitates a revolution that points to the end of Communism. A former comedian inspires a nation and the world against brutal oppression. A child speaks out against climate change; another child fights for her right to be educated. Change is possible.

On this Memorial Day, there can be no better tribute to those who gave “the last full measure of their devotion” than to take steps that protect the America they loved from those who would destroy it through senseless acts of hate. The time for talking is over; the time for action is now. If our lawmakers won’t act, it’s time to throw the bums out by using the ballot box.

Stay safe, be well, and be part of the solution.



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May 22 2022

Learning to Live in a Pandemic

by at 11:41 pm

I’ve had a long weekend, so this week’s blog will be short. The University celebrated its graduates during commencement week. We are learning to live with COVID. Though its prevalence is increasing pretty much everywhere, immunized people seem to be able to avoid the most serious complications. I played golf on Monday at the Ruesch Center Classic Golf Tournament. I have never played worse, except for the last time I played.

My workweek was otherwise dominated by my pending R01 grant, which is due early next month. After a modest family celebration for my birthday on Friday at our home, Harriet and I decamped for New York City on Saturday to attend the Hackensack Meridian Health Gala.

We did so with some misgivings, given that any large gathering poses COVID risks. So, we drove to New York, got to our hotel in time to change into our formalwear (I do prefer that the Lombardi Gala is less formal now!), and grabbed a taxi to the Glass House, an event venue on 12th Avenue.

The event itself was fabulous. We pretty much kept our masks on for the whole time. There was lots of great food and drink, and the headline entertainer was Jon Batiste (the bandleader on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert”). He might be the single coolest, most versatile entertainer on the planet. His 30-minute set was great. The gala celebrated the life of the medical school’s founding dean, the late Dr. Bonita Stanton, who tragically died suddenly about four months ago.

On a happier note, the event also celebrated the remarkable, enormous and new NIH grant to Dr. David Perlin from the Center for Discovery and Innovation to develop new drugs for emerging viral threats. As many of you know, he is also our deputy director for consortium integration. Congratulations, David! The folks at Hackensack know how to throw a great party!

The next morning we had breakfast, hopped into the car, and drove to the beach, where we’ll be staying through Memorial Day. I’ll be working from here, and there will be no shortage of important work to do, though I hope to keep afternoons free for a bit of R&R. With some luck, COVID will wait on us for at least this week. My batteries could use some recharging.

Stay safe and be well.




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May 15 2022

Sorrow and Progress

by at 9:41 pm

I was looking forward to writing and sharing good news from the past week. I’ll still do that here in my blog, because as a group united against cancer, we must continue to keep our eye on the ball and celebrate our victories.

However, my message this week must begin on a sad note. There are no words to describe the horror and fear that must have fallen upon the people shopping in a Buffalo neighborhood grocery store as a lone white gunman shot and killed 10 fellow shoppers and wounded others. What we now know from reports is that this man killed the shoppers because they were Black.

Meanwhile, the indiscriminate mass slaughter of innocent civilians continues in the Ukraine. There is evil in this world, and when we see it we are compelled to stand up against it. The world has taken note of the Ukraine and has pretty much united to support it. When will we do the same for our fellow citizens, whose crimes apparently were to live normal lives? When will we as a nation stand up for our ideals?

Enough killing. No more words, please. It’s time for action.

There is no good way to transition to happier news, but I do want to share some uplifting moments from this past week.

On Tuesday night, Harriet and I attended a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Friends of Cancer Research, which was attended by a largely maskless throng of the oncocratic glitterati. COVID angst aside, it was a lovely event, and we seem to have avoided a coronavirus bullet, at least so far.

The next morning, I participated in a smaller gathering at the Eisenhower Building on the White House grounds to discuss the Cancer Moonshot. This all-day meeting focused on issues such as access to care and data transparency. There were about 60 of us, and I was joined by Lucile Adams-Campbell. I don’t yet know if any of our suggested action items will be prioritized, but I came away convinced that the Administration is laser-focused on the work to be done.

That meeting coincided with the announcement that Georgetown Lombardi has received a substantial donation from the Ralph Lauren Foundation to expand our work in community outreach and engagement under Lucile Adams-Campbell’s leadership. Many thanks to Lucile and Justine Weissenborn for their great work to make this dream come to life.

We spent the weekend in the Philly area, attending an event and then visiting with friends and family.

As we all process the events of this weekend, we can find strength in our shared fight against the common enemy of cancer — work that does not, and should not, stop!

Stay safe and be well.




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May 08 2022

National Nurses Week

by at 8:57 pm

Happy Mother’s Day! I hope all mothers and mother-like figures enjoyed the weekend.

We are in the middle of National Nurses Week. Think about the last two years — it has been hard for everyone, but in many ways, nurses have truly been our front-line heroes — from the darkest times of spring 2020 through the COVID roller coaster that has followed. They are our patients’ primary caregivers, their best advocates, and many times have been the last people who our dying patients would see as they succumbed to COVID — again and again and again, as we close in on 1 million COVID related deaths in this country alone.

No wonder that so many nurses have burnt out, their psyches ground into dust by relentless cycles of fatigue and misery. Many have left the field, others have moved into less stressful nursing roles, and still others have found that alternative arrangements — nursing gig work, if you will — beats the more traditional forms of employment.

Sometimes you don’t know what you have until it’s not there. Nurses, our health care system’s glue, are hard to hire, hard to keep, and it is incumbent on all of us to recognize that it is not just about the money. It’s about being part of a team, part of a shared mission that brings a sense of purpose and belonging. It’s about breaking down ancient hierarchical health care structures that don’t work in our post-modern, technology-driven, post-COVID era. It’s about embracing the future.

Health systems and clinical research enterprises like our own Clinical Research Management Office (CRMO) are living this new reality. Our need for nurses has never been greater, and we have a golden opportunity to rethink how we create work with added value that will foster excellence, inclusion, opportunity and purpose.

I want to acknowledge all of our nurses — those in the CRMO, and those who directly work with our patients — for all they do, and look forward to communally redefining ways to make their work, which is so very important, into the work we all do — together.

Meanwhile, I am looking forward to attending a Cancer Moonshot event, organized by the White House, on Wednesday of this week with Lucile Adams-Campbell. It promises to be very interesting. Stay tuned for more news about the event and some related activities.

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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