Teach me, o masterful ones

September 19, 2006 at 5:57 pm (A Mission Statement (or two), Sam's Posts)

I don’t know why I decided to co-found a blog about global health when I didn’t know the first thing about it. I know some science; does that help? Thank you, Ben Feigenberg, for suggesting I come along to that fateful gathering that co-founder Soule hosted in May of 2006.

I am a Brown University graduate with a degree in biomedical engineering. I like the tissue engineering research I did last year. I like the nanotechnology research I am doing this year. But I’m not convinced that this is how I really want to improve the world. I think there might be more pressing health issues than the ones I am exploring in the laboratory. Maybe I should join the Peace Corps; maybe I should go to medical school; these are things I think about a lot. To help me figure out if these things are the answers, or if there are other better answers, I am going to talk. Read, and talk.

What I’m realizing as I do this reading, and this talking, is that there are so many areas of health out there that beg for contribution – each time I read about another one, I think, maybe this is my cause. And maybe I’m a little overexcited; maybe I haven’t found my cause yet; but if I haven’t, and if you haven’t, then maybe we can all help each other find our causes.

Right. So maybe we should talk. About health. In the world. I think it would be good for me. And probably you.




  1. misarita said,

    You know, I think that the fact that people have different interests is really one of the greatest blessings in the world. It means that there are people out there who really love doing the things that I detest. I can’t help but think that this simple fact leaves us with a pretty amazing skill set with which to attack some of the Big Problems facing the world. Your comment made me think of something that I was jotting down the other day.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the importance of diagnostic tools for combating disease. We (public health geeks) often talk about how to make treatments and drugs available to people. But you can’t even get that far if you don’t have good diagnostic tools. It isn’t as easy as it may sound. In order to develop a diagnostic tool, you have to find something about how the disease is expressed in a human that doesn’t show up in someone who is uninfected. For example, it isn’t enough to say that a person with a deep cough has tuberculosis. You need to swab their sputum and see if you can see the bacilli to rule out other causes. In an ideal world: They need to be cheap enough so that you can use them to screen at-risk populations. Portable to get to difficult to reach areas. Not temperature sensitive. Quick so that patients don’t need to return to the clinic to get results. Non-invasive. Culturally appropriate. And to bring in ethics, there also should be a treatment, so that you aren’t telling a patient that they have a disease for which you can do nothing. I don’t often think about this area, but it makes me value the folks out there who are biomedical engineers. I met a guy once at a TB and Leprosy conference who was heading a UN group that worked solely on building better diagnostic tools. It didn’t interest me much at the time, but I’m starting to get it.

    There are so many angles to get involved from… delicious, isn’t it?

  2. sstolper said,

    Right. You encourage me. Right now I work in the pathology and laboratory medicine department, which is in charge of processing and analyzing all the blood and tissue samples that come in. So my boss heads the processing lab (a serious conveyor belt with all these ports where different tests are done) and does research pertaining to this stuff. Hence, I do research pertaining to this stuff. It just so happens that he thinks nanotechnology is key to this field, so that’s why I’m making nanotubes (made my first batch two days ago). So really I am doing nanotechnology research as it intersects diagnostic testing. My project, like all laboratory research projects, is ridiculously specific, but the overarching goal is to amplify signals so much that merely a couple copies of a particle DNA sequence can be detected, and then we can do a better job understanding how cancer and diabetes and other stuff announces itself in the cell, and in the body.

    It makes me happy to realize that one could conceivably stay in the laboratory and still make a difference in the public health world. I suppose that was obvious, but sometimes it eludes you when your work is so far removed from the clinic.

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