November 13th, 2011
Not Just Pomp and Circumstance
The AHA Opening Session is something I usually avoid, maybe because I feel a bit uncomfortable in large, dark rooms with flashing lights and very loud music (a setup that seems to favor the visually gifted but audiologically impaired). Admittedly, when the recipients of the Distinguished Scientist awards were paraded across the stage to a majestic melody, I did for a fleeting instant wonder if that’s what it’s like to be at the Academy Awards.
All this notwithstanding, a few important themes came through. In addition to a brief overview of the history of CPR, Gordon Tomaselli gave an impassioned talk about the importance of continued funding for research even in these financially difficult times.
And then there were the informal nods to the non-economic costs of doing research. During his acceptance speech for the Basic Research Prize, Peter Libby thanked his wife and children for their “forbearance” when his work distracted him from his family. Then, upon accepting the Population Research Prize, Elizabeth Barrett-Connor joked that women pursuing an academic career and trying to achieve work-life balance should consider doing as she did and “marry a pediatrician.” Of course, the message wasn’t lost on anybody, and it is likely just as relevant to people who have intensely devoted their careers to education, clinical practice, and industry. I thought it was a nice touch of humanity amid a grand celebration of scientific achievement.
If you attended the opening session, what did you think?