Oct. 15, 2014
A few weeks ago, I stood in a room full of incredibly courageous people who had been given second chances. Some had been given third, fourth or even many more. I fit right in because I, like them, had been given a second chance.
We all had implantable cardioverter defibrillators, or ICDs, that had shocked us back to life at some point, giving us those precious second chances. Without those tiny, but powerful, pieces of metal in our chests, most of us wouldn’t be around. It’s a sobering thought, to be sure, but thank goodness we all were afforded this life-saving technology.
My mother was a breast cancer survivor for decades. My great uncle received a heart transplant. A cousin had major surgery as a child. My neighbor’s premature twins are now hearty and healthy boys. Modern medicine and technology are gifts to those of us who have access to them. Because of them we get more time on this earth to experience everything life has to offer and to love those we care about.
But where does it all start? Who comes up with all these treatments, equipment and expertise? Who gives so many of us these second chances?
A lot of it starts at research universities all over the world. In my case, the first ICD was implanted in 1980 at Johns Hopkins, but research had been done earlier at University of Missouri. Advances to the technology continue, much of it through university research, just like most medical advances.
Faculty and students with a burning desire to find solutions, improve care and save lives can be found in labs, clinics, classrooms and hospitals. They work with colleagues, faculty advisers, students, patients, other universities, government organizations, private business and more to cure diseases, offer better treatment and change the world. Michigan State is one of those research institutions.
Jelani Zarif, a cell and molecular biology doctoral graduate, researched androgen receptors while at MSU and is continuing his work as a postdoctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He wanted to study a disease that affected large numbers of people and focused his research on prostate cancer. He is driven to find answers and make a difference. Watch his video and learn about his studies in the STUDENT VIEW: Receptive to Change.
He is just one of thousands of outstanding graduate students you can find on MSU’s campus and the third student being profiled in the project, The Grad Factor.
All good students need great mentors. Stephanie Watts, professor of pharmacology and toxicology and assistant dean of The Graduate School, takes her role as researcher, mentor and instructor very seriously. She knows that learning goes far beyond knowing how to use a pipette. Read her FACULTY VOICE: Research, Service and Teaching, to learn more about her.
I don’t know the name of the researchers who created the technology that keeps my heart beating. I don’t know the name of the person who first started thinking about heart rhythm problems and decided to do something about it. What I do know is that university research, what Spartans are doing every day, saves lives and offers second chances. I’m living proof.
Photo by Kurt Stepnitz