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March for Science: Do You Want to Go Forward?

written by Thu Tran, MD,FACOG
on Monday, 24th April ,2017

You might have guessed it, a group of Lady Docs friends and I were among the marchers in the March for Science last Saturday in Washington D.C.  I did not participate in marches and rallies until recently, but as in a sign I saw and that moved me during the Women’s March last January, “the time is always right to do what's right.”  I woke up Sunday morning still sore from walking and standing in the cold rain from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. when we headed back home on the metro.  Prior to the march, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., we were at a breakfast with US Senator Chris Van Hollen, a firm believer in science and in protecting our environment. 

Why didn’t we have some sun and dryness on Saturday? It was ironic that the march took place on such a cold gray and rainy day, and then the sky was blue and sunny the morning after.  It was Earth Day, and mother earth had had a long cold shower.  Did I regret all the time my toes were wet and freezing and my body was aching for a hot shower? Not even for a minute!  Toward the end of the march, the zipper on my favorite raincoat, a pink and red L.L. Bean I bought when I went with my family on a trip to the Galapagos Islands, no longer worked.  I opened and closed it too many times, as I had left a self charger in an inside pocket to recharge my phone and those of my three friends who were with me through the march.  I wanted them to take as many photos as they could, to show how the cold rain did not deter tens of thousands of us from making a statement on behalf of our mother earth and its civilization.  The time is now, to fight for good education on science, to fight so that scientists will be able to continue their important work in finding cures for illnesses especially cancer, improving our life, and saving our environment.   We can live without any more banks, hotels, wall street companies.   We can’t live, however, by stalling or stopping the progress of science.  Frankly, scientists might not be well known to the public like politicians or sport stars, but on your sick bed, do you want to call a scientist or a Goldman Sachs executive to be your advisor? It’s your call, but you know who I’ll reach out to live longer and have more time to invest my money!  There was a reason so many people wore “brain hats” last Saturday during the march; they knew they were marching with the brightest people in society.  The nerds in science tend to be our true saviors. 

Do you enjoy your beer, coffee, cell phone, computers, twitter account, 3D movies? They all came from the work of scientists! Science goes beyond health and medicine.  I was humbled by organic chemistry as a college student as I worked for quite a few hours in the lab extracting caffeine from coffee.  If scientists worked at my pace, there would not have been decaffeinated coffee.  I did, however, go into medicine and now use facts discovered by scientists in my field to treat my patients.  The survival rate in some serious cancers has improved dramatically because of research.  When my son had stage 4 neuroblastoma as a toddler, the survival rate was quoted by many institutions including Johns Hopkins as 10% in three years.  It has now risen to 40-50% at five years.  We believe his “experimental” treatment with monoclonal antibodies was one critically important component of his treatment plan.  Without the research on monoclonal antibodies (ongoing during his treatment course) then, which has since become a standard recommended treatment modality for neuroblastoma, many more children would not have survived this tragic cancer.

Should physicians become political activists? Why not? Don’t we live and work like everyone else? Don’t we want to fight injustice like everyone else?  With our advanced education, training and discipline, we might in fact be better than the average person in analyzing the political agendas that will affect our patients’ lives.  We can be the knowledgeable gate keepers between the government and its people. 

Wasting public funds on bogus research is irresponsible, but cutting funds to science without analyzing the potential loss to society is dangerous.  Those who care about their environment, their children’s education, the progress of their society, should resist any agenda that will impede the progress of science.

Do you love science and believe its progress is critical to our existence?  If you do, pay attention to government policies on scientific research and environmental issues and ask yourself if these policies will take our society backward.  Do not let the scientists fight alone for you.  Come out and show your support, not only during a march for science, but at the voting booth, and you should learn on which side a candidate stands.  Does he want science to progress or regress? For me, the vote is clear.  Those who plan to take me back to the “cave man” era will not earn my vote.  March forward with me and science; do not march back to the ice age.

Tags: march for science, science march

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