“Our Dialogue, One Year Later”
Despite the urgency of our mission, the past year has seen millions of friends and strangers fall out of health. Mortality will always be a reality, but we know in our guts that most illness can and should be treatable, if not preventable. Yet disease in all its forms continues to pile up the score in its favor against our efforts to restore and maintain wellness.
Keeping score in this mortal game is a sensible thing. However, an impartial referee would be dismayed by how slowly important things change with time, and might be tempted to yield the court to the silly people who dawdle, who trifle away our important time, who prefer window-dressing our broken healthcare system to making real progress. But we cannot allow this to happen. Time matters to us all.
Nonetheless, I remain an optimist ever since – or even before - the day in 1963 that I handed in my paper at Yale for Religion
24b, called, regrettably, “A Study: Part One.” What was I thinking? Similarly, what do I think today about our healthcare dialogue, and what hopes can we have for progress?
This year our Symposium probes both the acute/common and rare/neglected diseases that strip us of health, imagines the tsunami of diseases that are amassing for invasion at our borders, looks at the growing empowerment of groups of patients banding together to help themselves through the internet, and analyzes the possible impact of patent law and large data bases to restore urgency to the dialogue. This year we have also included several discussions about our brains and behavior, a quite daunting topic of immense importance – medical progress will not happen if human behavior resists what is possible. To help the discussion, several speakers from last year return to both moderate sessions and to maintain the thread of logic for these Symposia.
Last year we started with “omics” so that a common ground for improved evidence-based medicine was clear. The picture is more clear this year than last. Our shared goals remain to implement things that help people live healthier lives, and also to implement steps toward lower healthcare costs. This is a tough dialogue, to be sure, but one that calls us all to the table to contribute, to listen, and – most importantly – to act.