News Ticker

Linkage 7/8: Eyes on the Prizes and More

At 1:30 pm, on Monday, December 12, at its Annual Meeting and Exposition in San Diego, The American Society of Hematology will recognize Janet Rowley of the University of Chicago Medical Center, and Brian Druker of Oregon Health & Science University, with the 2011 Ernest Beutler Lecture and Prize for their significant advances in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), a cancer of the blood characterized by an overproduction of white blood cells.

This is a great honor – and a storage problem.

Rowley has received many prizes over the course of her career: the Lasker Award, the Gruber Genetics Prize and the American Association for Cancer Research Award for Lifetime Achievement. President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the National Cancer Advisory Board. President Bill Clinton awarded her the National Medal of Science. George W. Bush selected her for his President’s Council on Bioethics. She stood with President Barack Obama when he signed the stem cell research bill and she returned to the Obama White to accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Then she moved to a new office with a better view, but less shelf space.

Rowley has long been known for brilliant insights, intellectual rigor, and relentless tenacity, but never for extreme neatness. “Her filing system involved piles,” said MaryBeth Neilly, a senior research technician who works with her. When preparing for the move, “we found awards all over the place,” she said. “We knew we needed a place to put them, and that her office was not that place.”

Thus was born the shrine. “Once we moved, but before we unpacked, we ordered a display case,” said Neilly. She and Rowley sorted through the honors and picked the cream of the crop; those that were the most significant, or that looked really cool. Lots of them, some of the trophies, most of the plaques and the vast majority of honorary doctorates, were transported – lovingly, but in bulk – to the University archives.

The display case soon filled to capacity. “There’s a lot of crystal in there, a lot of shiny metal,” Neilly said, such as the National Cancer Institute’s Rosalind E. Franklin Award for Women in Cancer Research, a big carved glass bowl, or the National Medal of Science, a golden medallion.

A few favorites – for reasons aesthetic or sentimental – wound up in Rowley’s office, including the Lasker, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, a large, twisting crystal chromosome from the Jeffrey M. Trent Lectureship in Cancer Research, and a bronze sculpture from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. A few more are at Rowley’s house. Two made of a particularly valuable soft, shiny heavy metal, stay at a local bank. The exact positioning of the Beutler Prize has not yet been determined.

Elsewhere…

Vijay S. Dayal, a longtime fixture of the Medical Center’s otolaryngology department, passed away last week at the age of 74. A head-and-neck surgeon and expert on hearing and balance, Dayal was also known as a skilled inventor, obtaining patents for an artificial voice box and a customized “rotating chair” used to test dizziness and balance. “Testing in the chair is not uncomfortable for the patient,” Dayal said in 1991. “It’s like a mild ride on a merry-go-round and it provides us with information we cannot get any other way.” You can read another obituary for Dr. Dayal at the Chicago Tribune.

What’s it like to be a medical student? Pritzker first-year Akash Parekh narrates a day in his life for US News & World Report. Spoiler alert: there’s not much free time, or sleep.

If parents refuse vaccinations for their child, should pediatricians be allowed to refuse to take them as a patient? That interesting ethical question was the subject of an article by the Chicago Tribune’s Deborah Shelton.

The new Scientific American blog network officially launched this week, and provides a new home to many of my favorite science bloggers. For a taste, check out Lucas Brouwers’ post on the evolution of E. coli, and this interview with John Boswell of Symphony of Science (best known for the Carl Sagan autotune track “A Glorious Dawn”).

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