A perspective.

Sometimes, working in a lab so far removed from everything, you forget. But I had a week this past week when I couldn't. It is nice to be reminded. It is nice when what I do gets put into perspective. It is nice... and a little bit depressing.

I was sitting in a meeting with the Powers That Be of our (Insert Scary Unpopular (ie Unfunded) Cancer Here) Research Project (when they say it it sounds like it is in Capital Letters). Somehow I was 'invited' (I use quotation marks because it wasn't really optional) to participate along with all of the PI's. Them and me... the peon. I got to witness the ideas being thrown around, the banter, the reparte. It was, in my humble opinion, fascinating, exciting, and... a colossal waste of time. They had lots of ideas, some good... and every time it came down to who would actually do the work all eyes turned to me. But I digress.

This is a collaborative effort among quite a few labs from several different departments, and among the people at the table were a molecular biologist, an immunologist, a bioinformatics guy, the Matriarch, and one M.D., an oncologist. He kept getting interrupted by his beeper going off. You know how irritating it is when you are in the middle of a seminar and you keep hearing the horrible beepers beep? Don't they have a 'vibrate' mode? Well, it is worse when it keeps happening in a small group meeting and, it seems, it happened every time he himself started to speak. So he would excuse himself, go out to the hall, and come back a few minutes later and try to catch up to where the conversation had radically drifted.

Finally, after one of these events, he apologized. "I'm sorry. I've got a patient in the hospital who is dying today, and I need to go soon for the last rites."

Aw man. He's got a patient who is dying and he is sitting around this table apologizing to us? I just looked at him and wondered how he could handle it so seemingly calmly. We all told him to "go, go!" and watched as he walked out the door to deal with the reality while we sat around the table and discussed the best in vitro and in vivo models to use for our experiments. We decided to make a priority list. Some of our patient samples belong to patients who are still alive. We decided to focus on those. In case we can find something that will help.

The exciting thing is that... the reason for this meeting is that we think we have found something that will help. But as I just said... we have to do a lot more in vitro and in vivo work before our M.D. might start using these therapies off label as a last ditch effort. And yet, for me, this is the closest I've ever been to seeing something that could- really, truly- make a difference.

So next time maybe he won't have to leave to be with a dying patient.


Lisa said...

Wow....that is really powerful.