I was conducting an interview awhile back with a scientist, a very accomplished man who has embarked on a new mission that, within the next 5 years, may change the face of cancer treatments.
I have to remain secretive about his name as the interview was for a client, and the story is exclusive.
But I was struck by something this scientist said that, unfortunately, will not be included in the article. (Not enough space in the word count, not really part of the focus, etc.)
Solutions Aren’t Making it to Americans
The scientist—someone who’s definitely been in the trenches of research and knows what’s happening in universities across the nation—was talking about solutions to many of our medical problems that are out there, in the minds of today’s scientists, even in treatment centers in other countries, but aren’t making it to American people suffering from disease.
The FDA requires American research to grant approval for treatments in America, so even if research in European and Asian countries shows overwhelming proof of a less invasive, more effective treatment that could save lives and improve quality of life, the FDA won’t approve it until American research shows the same thing.
The problem? That needed American research won’t happen until there’s enough money to fund it.
It’s Not What’s Important, but What’s Creates Visibility
It’s not that there isn’t the money in this country to fund important research. It’s more what’s deemed as important—or for the careers of up and coming scientists, what’s seen as visible and exciting enough to get them noticed by universities.
Unfortunately, a lot of times, that isn’t the kind of science that can be moved into practical application within five years. We can’t blame the scientists, my interviewee said, since they are only trying to do what’s best for their careers.
The result of this system is that some new way to diminish wrinkles—which is much more likely to get a researcher noticed and a university extra money—may take precedent over a new way to kill cancer cells.
Who Are We Supporting?
After my interview was over, I mused over what I’d been told. It’s true that we don’t recognize our scientists as much as we used to. If we travel back in time before television and movies and fashion shows, we’ll see that the heroes of the day tended to be folks like Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, and Thomas Jefferson, as opposed to today’s Paris Hilton, Michael Jackson and the cast of Twilight.
People who could make our lives better, or help us to see how we could better ourselves, were given the support to do so, and the accolades when they succeeded.
Today, most of us don’t know who invented bypass surgery, even though it saves thousands of lives every year. But few people fail to recognize Brittney Spears or Lindsay Lohan. Not that I have anything against these ladies. It’s just a question—who’s getting our attention? Who are our heroes, and why?
Why do our teenage girls think more about dressing like Hannah Montana and less about coming up with a cure for cancer or an explanation for dark matter in space?
I’ve always thought it important that we choose heroes for ourselves who exemplify what we want to become. Today I realized that the heroes we choose—not just individually, but collectively—could make a difference between whether or not our loved ones die from cancer or other diseases, and whether or not they suffer barbaric treatments.
The solutions are out there. In some cases, other countries have them, and we don’t. Whose voice are we listening to?