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Nov. 18, 2020

Editor's note: A grateful heart

Recently, I had my annual cardiology appointment to check how my implantable cardioverter-defibrillator is working. I’m always happy to spend some time with one of my favorite Spartan nurses, but it always makes me a little nervous, too. What if it’s time to replace it? What if a new condition has appeared? What if something else is wrong? Given the way 2020 had been going, I was expecting the worst. Luckily, everything checked out fine, and I’ve got three more years of battery life left in this one.

Having an ICD that once shocked you and saved your life gives you a lot of perspective (actually, too much perspective) and a lot of opportunities to wonder, “What if?” What if I didn’t have it? What if it hadn’t worked right? What if just one of all the things that led to me having it hadn’t happened? What if no one had ever invented or tried the technology?

I’ve done a little historical research and ICDs aren’t even that old. The first device was implanted in 1980 by Levi Watkins, an American heart surgeon, civil rights activist and the first Black graduate from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. What if he hadn’t had vision and drive? What if I lived in a time before the invention? What if Vanderbilt had never accepted him?

The answer to all of these questions is that I wouldn’t be here right now. It’s a pretty sobering thought and this heart is extremely grateful for all of the right things that happened to allow me to keep living.

The work done at academic institutions is so incredibly important to answering the world’s most challenging problems. Researchers never stop asking, “What if?” and never stop looking for solutions. Here at MSU, asking the question has led to advances in human prosthetics, the origins of our universe, food for our planet, sustainable goods, health care and a greener future. Check out the beautiful MSUToday feature: The extraordinary power of ‘What if? to learn more about the visionary work going on at MSU.

Every day Spartans are working to answer the question of “What if?” We’re building soft robots to lend a helping hand, discovering a possible genetic target for treating endometriosis and partnering to meet the health care needs of rural communities.

And, of course, we’re teaching the next generation of question-askers and problem-solvers. We’re helping young entrepreneurs in a top-ranked program and posting all-time high graduation rates for our student-athletes.

Maddy Eischer is a junior double majoring in apparel and textile design, and genomics and molecular genetics — two majors that seem completely unrelated. But, in the spirit of “What if?” Maddy didn’t let anything stop her from pursuing her dreams. Recently, she found a way to combine them into a mask-making business for a public health purpose. Read her Student view: Two very different majors to learn more about this inspiring young woman who asked all the right questions.

What if? Those are incredibly powerful words that I hope people keep on asking. This beautiful world will only get better if we keep asking questions and working hard to come up with the answers. You may not be able to cure cancer or solve world hunger, but every single one of us can ask ourselves what we can do to improve lives for all of us. Even the small answers add up to big changes. Ask the questions, Spartans. Then, go find the answers. #SpartansWill

Lisa Mulcrone
Editor, MSUToday



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