Friday, August 14, 2009

Give It Up For Basic Research

The scientist who discovered the chemotherapy drug that certainly helped save my life died today.

Barnett Rosenberg was 82. In the 1960s he serendipitously discovered cisplatin, which has saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

I'd never heard the name Barnett Rosenberg until I saw his obit.

It'd be near impossible as a chemist, a scientist, a human, to wrap your mind around the fact that what you discovered has and will save untold numbers of lives. People you will never meet are alive and attending family picnics and driving cars and swinging their kids around because of your discovery. You could never know the immensity of your impact. (It's good thing I am in no danger of curing anything; this would keep me up at night.)

This week I was interviewing one of the cardiologists at work and he told me the reason he likes academic medicine and research is because his studies get published and can then be used and built upon by others.

In this way his work is greater than just the handful of patients he can see each day; it has an impact on kids now and in the future that he will never see. (He said this far more eloquently than I am, but you get the idea.)

Which takes me back to Barnett Rosenberg and this article I found. Skip to the third graph... it starts talking about Barnett and how he wasn't even trying to cure cancer, he wasn't even working on cancer and, in fact, he wasn't even working on human disease.

How's that for a life less ordinary.


The other DP said...


How quickly you forget.

markjx said...

What a good story. Thanks for the link!