Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Confronting challenges together

Below is my monthly message for the September 2017 edition of the MHRI newsletter, Focus. You can view Focus online at MedStarResearch.org/FOCUS.

Friends and Colleagues,

Confronting challenges together…

Even as the sun came out today and we enjoy our Labor Day weekend, a piece of us remains with those struggling with unimaginable challenges.

Our hearts go out to those in Texas struggling with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Seeing the devastating images on the news are so tragic, that at times they seem beyond belief. As a society with 24/7 news feeds of everything that happens in the world, we are at risk of becoming desensitized to tragedy. However, it only takes one ‘touch’ to bring it back home and remind us just how real it is.

This past week, I was ‘touched’ by two very different tragedies – Hurricane Harvey and terrorism in Barcelona.

One of many photos from the NY Times
As this past week progressed, we realized that the impact of Harvey was mounting. Families lost their houses, their belongings, their pets and in some cases, their loved ones. It is heartbreaking and the impact becomes very real when you know someone personally affected. During the week, I was in contact with many of my cardiology friends and colleagues from Houston. One colleague was at the same international conference as me and was desperately trying to get in contact his family while trying to figure out how to get back home. One of MHRI’s Board of Directors shared how he feared for his family’s safety as he urgently evacuated his house. Luckily, all my friends are safe and in a dry place, but none are in their homes and their lives will be very different for the foreseeable future.

While the effects of the storm are terrible, the response from individuals and our broader community has been incredible. I am so proud how one colleague is buying a suit for someone’s son in Houston who lost everything so that he can go back to work. I am also so proud that, at the direction of Ken Samet and on behalf of our more than 30,000 associates, MedStar made a significant donation to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief. If we look beyond our own system, the scientific community across the nation is also stepping up to lend a hand. It is truly gratifying to see the outpouring of support among those at MedStar and the research community, aiding institutions and residents impacted by the floods.

I mentioned my friend from Houston I saw at the largest international cardiology conference last week–well, that conference was in Barcelona! These conferences are planned several years ahead and there we were, in the European city where one week ago there was a terrible terror attack. On the day I arrived, I saw a sea of impromptu memorials (flowers, candles and stuffed animals as far as the eye could see) and a march of over 500,000 people with the King of Spain. The theme of the rally was No Tinc Por which means I’m Not Afraid. People from across Europe came together to help the people of Barcelona put life back on track after this unimaginable catastrophe.

Image from El Rotativo
Life is full of challenges. It is during these very unfortunate, extreme ‘challenges’ that we see the unparalleled strength of coming together. We do it out of necessity. We do it out of humanity. We do it because it empowers us to make a difference in the lives of others. Coming together is remarkably strong.  We need to harness that strength more often and harness that strength without waiting to be motivated by a disaster.

As we enter the fall, I look forward to coming together, advancing health and making a difference in the lives of others with you.


Read Focus at MedStarResearch.org/FOCUS.

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