On moving on from The Lancet’s egregious error

In the midst of the terrible summer war between the Hamas movement in Gaza and Israel, The Lancet published a rabidly anti-Israel letter entitled “An Open Letter for the People of Gaza” that accused Israel of intentional genocide and Israeli doctors of essentially being part of this genocidal activity — and of course squarely placed 100% of all the blame for the war on Israel’s shoulders, ignoring the rockets and terrorist activities of the Gazan side, and their refusal to respect cease-fire agreements. As I noted in a blog in this forum, and also on Occam’s Corner at The Guardian, several of the authors (Manduca and 24 signatories) failed to declare conflicts of interest, and professed clear anti-semitic views in addition to support for the 9-11 World Trade Center attack.

Despite the fact that I have grave concerns that: a) Israel’s failed government will likely be replaced with an even worse one in several months that will be just as unwilling to  move toward compromise and a fair two-state solution, b) Hamas will again indiscriminately fire rockets on Israeli towns and push for another round of war — I was buoyed ever-so-slightly by a recent commentary written by The Lancet editor, Dr. Richard Horton.

As it turns out, editor Horton agreed to an offer by the Israeli medical establishment to visit Israel. I read that Dr. Horton met with doctors in the north at Haifa’s Technion Univeristy Rambam hospital (including the Director-General of the Rambam Health Care Campus who interviewed me for a faculty position back in 2001) and physicians in the south at the Ben Gurion University medical school. My understanding is that he met with Jewish and Muslim Israeli doctors, rabbis and Imams, and that this visit allowed him to see first-hand how the Manduca letter failed to represent the reality in Israel. And although my preference would have been for the egregious Manduca letter to be retracted by The Lancet, I am cautiously optimistic that Dr. Horton’s commentary reflects a turning point in his understanding of the complexities of Israel and the middle-east. And I respect the courage he showed in admitting that:

I have seen for myself that what was written in the Manduca et al letter does not describe the full reality.

And that:

I was later horrified to discover that two co-authors of the letter had forwarded a vile and offensive video. The clearly anti-Semitic worldview expressed in that video is abhorrent and deserves universal condemnation.

Anti-semitism aside, I believe that there is an important lesson to be learned. The nature of medicine and science is to simplify systems. There is an understandable drive to reductionist philosophy — breaking things down to their simplest components, because the “whole,” the biological system at large — is often too complex to tackle. And while this may be a useful tool to slowly help build a more accurate picture in the scientific world, over-simplification of non-scientific systems — such as politics, good and evil, right and wrong — is frequently not helpful and even damaging. I am pleased that Dr. Horton had the opportunity to see that there are so many excellent people in Israel (Jews and Muslims and those of other religions), and that the country itself is very much split down the middle in its political views and desire for a two-state solution. I also hope very much that Dr. Horton’s letter marks a new understanding of these complexities that will be represented in any future publications regarding Israelis and Palestinians.

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Science in films: Decoding Annie Parker

It’s been a long time since I’ve actually seen a film in a theatre; the appeal of lying in bed in front of a high-resolution laptop screen when I’m too tired to think, write or even read is too great. Especially in the chill of Nebraska nights.

A few such nights ago I found a brief synopsis for a film entitled “Decoding Annie Parker (2012),” which smacked of potential for the description of real-life scientists at work, even if only peripherally to the main story. And yes, “real-life” is the key, as this film is based on a true story (as opposed to Lab Lit).

The story weaves back and forth from the 2000s to the late 60s and 70s in the Toronto of one Annie Parker. Annie loses her mother to breast cancer at an early age, and her beloved older sister dies of the same malady when the two of them are only in their 20s. Sadly, Annie herself is later diagnosed with breast cancer and much of the film depicts her courageous fight to survive — but also her valiant attempts to promote the notion that her illness has a strong genetic composition.

In the film, Annie’s insistence that her illness was in some way related to that of her mother and sister was consistently met with admonishment from the medical establishment. We witness doctors maintaining that epigenetic causes – the water, the environment, etc. are the primary factors for familial cancers rather than genetics.

In parallel with the personal story of Annie Parker, the film follows the years of hard work by geneticist Mary-Claire King, a professor at the University of Washington, who with her lab identifies the BRCA1 gene whose mutation leads to greatly increased susceptibility of breast (and ovarian) cancer.

As a scientist, I found the lab sections somewhat less than compelling, although Helen Hunt did a superb job in her role as Mary-Claire King (see a 2 minute trailer). The lab personnel (unclear whether they were students, post-docs or technicians) were less believable, and their acting was — well, let’s just say, overdone. Fortunately, they have very minor roles overall.

It’s a shame, however, that a prime educational opportunity was missed in the film — not due to poor acting, but rather the directing. There is a scene where Dr. King explains how genetic inheritance is in some ways similar to a deck of cards — an analogy with potential for a layman audience. But the speed at which the explanation takes place made it difficult even for a non-layman to follow.

There is no question that this is a very moving film. However, despite humorous interludes from time to time — and the courage and sheer willpower that propels Annie to survive to this day (!) — watching this kind of film ensures that I sleep poorly for nights to come after viewing it. And perhaps that’s the point.

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“The Whipping Man”–don’t miss it!

Over two years ago, I blogged in this space about “A Secular Passover” and discussed, among other issues, American Jews of the confederate south around the time of the civil war.
Caleb (Andy Prescott), John (Luther Simon) and Simon (Carl Brooks) in the Omaha Community Playhouse Production of “The Whipping Man”

I addressed the bitter irony of these Jews celebrating Passover–freedom from Egyptian slavery (as the tale is told)–while being served by African American slaves. Little did I realize that a remarkable play written by Matthew Lopez called “The Whipping Man” addresses the very same issue.

On Fri. eve, I had the opportunity to attend the Omaha Community Playhouse’s  rendition of “The Whipping Man,” starring three extremely talented local actors, Carl Brooks, Andy Prescott and Luther Simon, and directed by Stephen Nachamie. The Omaha Community Playhouse (OCP), which was the debut stage of Henry Fonda, Marlon Brando and a number of other famous actors, is a delightful place. With large and small theatres, the OCP has tremendous appeal. We sat in the front row of a small ~100 person theatre, essentially on stage with the actors. I was even concerned that I might trip one of them if I were to stretch my legs too far.

The OCP features “amateur” performers who are 100% professional except for the fact that they volunteer their time. Most carry full time jobs with rehearsals and performances in parallel, and their acting is truly first rate. Combined with professional directing and a wonderful atmosphere, the OCP is an Omaha treasure.

“The Whipping Man” is not an easy play to watch. Set in the immediate aftermath of the American Civil War, Jewish confederate Captain Caleb DeLeon returns to his ravaged childhood home in Richmond, Virginia severely wounded on Passover eve, just prior to Lincoln’s assassination. He finds Simon, the faithful and caring family slave left alone in the devastated house, and soon the two are joined by John, a younger family slave who grew up together with Caleb.

Simon, who throughout the play praises the Jewish family for its more humane treatment of slaves, is derided by John, who was sent numerous times to “The Whipping Man” to be beaten for his behavior. Caleb defends his family’s position, supporting Simon’s contention that John should consider himself ‘lucky’ to be a slave in a Jewish family rather than on a Christian plantation owner’s property. But as John notes, “That’s still not good enough.”

Despite the scarcity of food and the uncertainty of the situation, Simon decides that the three of them need to celebrate Passover–in part to celebrate the freedom of the African American slaves–with a traditional Passover ‘Seder’ and meal.

As the evening unfolds, secrets are revealed, and the true horror of slavery is revealed, by a shockingly clever plot and some brilliant acting. I will not be a spoiler, as I highly recommend seeing this play.

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Unconscious gender bias? What do I picture when I think of a scientist?

Recent years have seen a lot of discussion on the blogosphere on gender bias in science. There is no question that awareness is always the first step in heading for a solution.

photo 1-1

Do I have an unconscious bias against women in science?

From my personal perspective, I think I have been doing the right things. Two of my three official mentors (M.Sc., Ph.D.) were female. Two-thirds of the students I have mentored were/are female. My most talented and successful student to graduate thus far was female, and she moved very quickly through the ranks to obtain a faculty position and her own independent laboratory.

As I became more established in my own career, I have been doing my best to promote gender equality. One example is that while serving as chair of a study section for scientific funding agency, in a short time I was able to bring the number of male:female reviewers from 70:30 to 50:50.

For this reason, I stepped up with interest to the computer terminal at Omaha’s Durham Museum’s “Identity” exhibit to take a test and see whether I have “unconscious biases” regarding the relationship between men, women, sciences and arts.

The test was relatively simple: the computer placed the word “Science” on the left and “Arts” on the right, and then had me decide whether to group various words with “Science” or “Arts.” Examples were “History,” “Math,” “Sculpture,” “Physics,” “Astronomy,” “Literature,” etc. etc. The computer then placed “Male” together with “Science” and “Female” together with “Arts” and had me categorize words such as “Father,” “Sister,” “Grandmother,” “Uncle.” I would be timed for how long it would take me to properly categorize the words that cropped up to the left side of the screen (Male and Science) or the right side of the screen (Female and Arts). Then the whole process was reversed with “Male” and “Arts” grouped together on the left and “Female” + “Science” grouped together on the right, and I was again timed.

After going through this process in earnest, my results were finally calculated:
photo 2-1

According to this study, I am the non-proud owner of an unconscious bias in my perception of women (as being more fitting for liberal arts than science).

While this was supposed to be a fun exhibit (which dealt more with identity of individuals than issues of gender bias), I was somewhat distraught at my diagnosis of being gender biased. I pride myself on my lack of bias, at least conscious bias (what I can control). I even see myself as a male feminist, insofar as pushing for equality between the sexes. In fact, my last novel “A Degree of Betrayal” was described on Twitter by someone I don’t even know as “Possibly a book that every male PI should read.” Am I really that bad?

Let’s assume that this test is accurate in its assessment,  although I do have some concerns about whether the time for initial clicking and practicing was properly factored into the timed tallies. But for simplicity, I will accept that I do have an unconscious bias. What does this mean from a practical standpoint?

First, while unconscious biases can teach us about things we were/are unaware of, it’s the conscious biases that are obviously much more damaging. And since, as noted above, I make a conscious attempt to mitigate the situation, perhaps I’m not as bad as this test suggests. But what is the test actually showing?

In thinking about what this test is analyzing, one needs to be cautious in interpretations. It’s no secret that men of my age are much less likely to have a grandmother, mother or aunt who is/was a scientist than a grandfather, father or uncle. This may be a sad truth caused by society’s unfair treatment of women for generations (well, almost forever) – but nonetheless, statistically it is true. So if my responses in placing “Uncle,” “Grandfather,” or “Father” in the category of “Science” were faster than those placing “Aunt,” “Grandmother,” or “Mother” in the “Science” category, does that mean I perceive women as more fitting for the arts than sciences? Or does it merely reflect the overall demographic distribution of men vs. women in these fields, especially when going back a generation or two?

Simplifying things, my concern is whether this elegant computer program is really detecting an unconscious bias that I have toward women in science (or women as scientists), or whether it is merely demonstrating that I know that there are more male scientists than female scientists, especially as the age of the scientists increases.

I am certainly open to criticism and there is always room to improve one’s relationship to under-represented minorities in science (or any field); it’s always good to develop ways to assess conscious and unconscious bias. However, I humbly submit that as scientists, we must carefully interpret the data and ensure that our conclusions are really valid, and that whatever tests are designed to answer a specific question are designed to provide unambiguous conclusions. Unconscious bias against women in science may well be present, but I have serious doubts as to whether this program is capable of differentiating between bias and other factors.

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“Dogged Science”

Ginger at work

No, this is not posed or photoshopped. But it is apparent that Ginger is somewhat less enthusiastic about calculations in single molecule imaging than I am.

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On Columbus’ Origins

Having celebrated this week what is known here in the US as Columbus Day, a federal holiday, I thought it might be interesting to share (rather than review) a novel that I just finished reading — timely enough — about the life of Christopher/Christofer/Christoferro/Christobal Columbus/Colombo/Colon/Colona. The multitude of names signifies the central theme of the fictional novel, Codex 632, by Portugese author and journalist José Rodrigues dos Santo.

While the novel is truly a work of fiction, having piqued my curiosity, I spent time doing some armchair research (i.e., not actually leaving my comfortable chair and finger-driven search for any real source or library), and came to a rather unscientific (but certainly fascinating) conclusion that the author may well be correct in his main premise: that the man we know as Columbus could not have been an autodidactic silk weaver from Genoa, Italy, but was instead a secret Portugese Jew of Italian-Portugese ancestry.

In the guise of a novel, the author lays out his compelling theories with many hard facts. For example, via the letters that Columbus wrote, it’s clear that he did not speak Italian, and corresponded with people from the Italian city-states in Latin. Indeed, his own son journeyed to Genoa in search of his father’s family (after his death) without finding any evidence that his father was from Genoa. The author maintains that there was a Christofero Columbo from Genoa who was an uneducated silk weaver, but that he was not the Admiral who sailed with the Spanish fleet in 1492.

Although I was unable – from my computer and in limited time – to validate the many bits of evidence that the author put forth supporting his contention that the navigator was a secret Portugese Jew, here are a few fascinating points raised:

1) Colon set sail the morning after the edict in Spain expired requiring that all remaining Jews in the country (who had not converted to Christianity) leave. Apparently, he even required his sailors to be on board the ships at 11 pm that night before sailing (an hour prior to the deadline for the Jews) presumably because there were ~40 Jewish shipmen who sailed with him.

2) Columbus apparently converted some of the Christian dates to Hebrew dates in parts of his diary – something practically impossible to fathom had he not been Jewish.

3) Prior to sailing, he was sent certain navigational charts from Lisbon (curious in itself, since the Spanish were competitors if not actually enemies at the time) that were apparently in Hebrew.

4) He left one-tenth of his will to support the dowries of unmarried women (a Jewish tradition at the time).

5) Some of the letters he apparently wrote to his son contained small but visible symbols in the corner of the pages with the Hebrew letters Bet and Hay, that stand for “B’ezrat Hashem” or “With the help of God.”

6) According to the dos Santos (at least in his fictional novel – that at its end suggests that Colon’s true identity has been covered up for centuries), Colon’s signature contains a wealth of Jewish Kabbalistic meanings that only an educated Jew could have understood. As an example, he contends that one of the central meanings of the signature – as purported through a Kabbalistic interpretation – is the phrase “may my name be erased,” as though Colon cannot bear to have a Christian name (such as Christofer).

I found the novel compelling and fascinating – a beautifully written historical mystery that changed my perception of the man who ‘discovered America.’ But that, too (discovery of America), is likely incorrect (even after taking into consideration that America had been ‘discovered’ thousands of years earlier by native Americans).

So why would a Jewish admiral of Portugese extraction sail off to ‘find the new world’ under the Spanish flag in 1492? Well, it wouldn’t be right to spoil the entire story. I hope to have generated enough interest to induce those who are curious to read the novel and find out! In the meantime, Happy Columbus Day…


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Icons, cell biology and comfort zones

I recently returned from a week in Paris in which I attended a great meeting hosted by the French Society for Cell Biology (SBCF) called “Building the Cell,” at the Pasteur Institute and from another seminar invitation at the Curie Institute.
The Parisian icon made from immunostained HeLa cells plated on fibronectin served as the logo for the meeting.

and from another seminar invitation at the Curie Institute. While I have had the opportunity to visit a number of European cities and towns as part of my work-related travel, this was my first time in Paris – and I enjoyed it immensely.

Will the real Eiffel Tower please stand up?

Will the real Eiffel Tower please stand up?

I could not, however, help noticing the very limited number of non-European attendees at the meeting. On the other hand, Europeans (and Asians) appear to frequent the US for scientific meetings. While it is obvious to me that financial considerations play a key role in whether researchers from the US will attend a meeting abroad, I believe that this is only a minor reason for the low US participation in the meeting. I may be cursed for saying this, but I suspect that many American scientists (despite the fact that a fair percentage are not US-born!) do not like being outside their comfort zones.

Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris

Jardin du Luxembourg on a beautiful day

What do I mean? Not jet-lag, but the homogenous comfort that travel within the US typically provides: hotel rooms are very standard, mostly chains, and one would find the same Hilton/Sheraton/Doubletree/Ramada/Holiday Inn/Add-your-chain-here in any US city, and from the inside, it would be difficult to know where in the US one is located. Hotels in Europe typically sport very small rooms and narrow beds by comparison, perhaps resulting from limited/expensive space, and/or perhaps dictated by the beautiful but old existing buildings.

Food. The food in France is a treat – or it was for me. Perhaps a teetotaler vegetarian might heartily disagree. But the baguettes and breads are terrific, the appetizers are so enticingly prepared, that I couldn’t help thinking that although the actual food couldn’t be more different, it reminded me of the superb Japanese sense of aesthetics in maki rolls and sushi. But I suspect that many Americans are used to their standard fare restaurants.

The language. I broke my teeth trying in vain to recall my high school French. I opened my talk with a weak attempt to thank the organizers for inviting me in French. That probably took up a quarter of the 15 minutes I was given – but I did try. I also tried to engage a cab driver in chit-chat, and asked him how he liked the Prius he was driving, and told him I had one. He answered in English… But here again, I suspect that many Americans – where learning foreign languages is not a high priority – may feel uncomfortable not always being able to say and/or get exactly what they want.

Of course, it’s probably a lot more complicated than that, and time zones, passports, expense and other reasons likely are important factors as well. But given the tremendous concentration of outstanding French researchers in membrane trafficking and cell biology in the Paris area (perhaps even more so than any one location in the US), I am delighted that I had an opportunity to attend. It was great to visit such a great city with so many wonderful historical landmarks.  It was also an honor to present my own research at two such distinguished institutions in Paris. I hope the “Building the Cell will become an annual event and that I will have many additional opportunities to visit Paris and France.

Moi, at the Musee d'Orsay

Moi, at the Musee d’Orsay, Paris

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Unacceptable (science) education

For some time now I have been a proponent of including researchers – for example, those with a Ph.D. – in teaching science to high school students. While I have no doubt that the inclusion of a motivated and talented body of researchers in secondary school education will be highly beneficial to all involved: high students students, the Ph.D.-holding teachers, and the entire scientific system, it was only recently that I became aware of how badly such a change is needed.

I was recently asked to take a look at a worksheet on “The Cell” – essentially a two dimensional drawing of the cell and its many wondrous organelles and major structures – and I found the quality of the drawing to be so poor that even as an expert in cell biology with years of microscopy experience and looking at these very organelles, I could not even identify all of the structures.

How embarrassing; the Director, no less, of the Advanced Microscopy Core facility at my institution, and unable to completely place all of the names on all of the structures on the worksheet.

How not to teach biology

The microbody? Give me a break…

In my defense, here is a copy of the weird worksheet. Particularly alarming was the use of the term “microbody” – a relict term from the 50s when researchers first used electron microscopy, and couldn’t accurately place a variety of small organelles. Certainly a useless and unused term in modern science (and by modern, I mean the last 40 years…). Why would it appear as a term to identify on a worksheet of “The Cell” in 2014? Why not use peroxisome? Endosome? How did this sheet even come to be used in an Advanced Placement course for high school biology in the US?

In any case, with or without microbodies, the depiction of the cell as a static, 2-dimensional and stick-like series of structures (something that would be expected of a terrible artist such as myself if forced to draw) is not a particularly flattering picture of our secondary education system. Admittedly, I was impressed with the textbook and the relatively solid foundation in chemistry that I encountered.

In today’s era of wonderful online tools, 3-dimensional movies – and yes, super-resolution microscopy (“trailer” for Structured Illumination Microscopy, coming to a blog near you soon!) – much more can be done. Look at those lovely 3-dimensional Golgi stacks/ribbons! Now that’s a cellular organelle!

So what’s the problem? Let’s get well-qualified Ph.D. teachers into the system.

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I sense a problem with undergraduate education

A lot has been said about job prospects of biomedical graduate students and the ever-declining percentage of Ph.D. graduates who are ultimately able to find academic faculty positions. Indeed, the importance of exposing graduate students to a variety of scientific career options has become recognized in recent years. Many graduate programs, including my own, now require students to annually complete an Individual Career Development Plan (IDP).

These are positive developments, and as chair of my departmental (Biochemistry and Molecular Biology) graduate and admissions committee, I warmly embrace this change in attitude. As a department, we have even gone further and have begun annual career development meetings with each year’s crop of students, and we are trying to arrange occasional lectures and workshops from invited scientific speakers whose careers lie outside of academia.

However, I believe that it’s important to remember that even by preparing students for a variety of non-academic scientific careers, there is unlikely to be a demand for the increasing number of Ph.D. graduates currently being pumped out by the system. In reality all of the non-academic science jobs being discussed and courted have existed for years. It’s not that science journal editors and staff, science policy makers, teachers at undergraduate colleges, industry, science writers and grant review administration have become highly abundant positions all of the sudden; it’s merely that students are now being encouraged to seek out and obtain qualifications for such positions (if they show interest) in the course of their Ph.D. studies.

These non-academic positions are probably just as competitive as academic ones. Without a major change in policy – such as encouraging Ph.D. graduates to teach high school students (with financial incentives and an understanding that science is crucial for the advancement of the human race) – it is unlikely that there will be a major change in demand for Ph.D. holders.

However, it’s important also to remember that despite the lack of good jobs that properly reward Ph.D. holders for their years of study, unemployment is extremely low for this sector. Indeed, it was estimated that even for those carrying a bachelor’s degree that unemployment was below 4%, and this is likely significantly lower for those with a Ph.D. in the sciences. These data are likely a result of the ingrained motivation, independence and critical thinking that are part and package of a Ph.D.

There are many articles that discuss what should be done to “fix” the problem, including awareness at the national level that there are too many Ph.D.s being granted, and even altering the grant system so that institutions will admit many fewer students. I fundamentally disagree with this idea, and think that a greater number of Ph.D. students and graduates represents a culture that is more literate in science and one that will be better equipped to have the brightest, most talented and determined go on and lead scientific research in the next generation.

In the past, when voicing my ideas of “the more the merrier,” that Ph.D. holders who have become solid critical thinkers can contribute to society in a variety of important ways, both directly in science and in other occupations, my main detractors complained that having people go through all this labor and study only to find that great and well-paying jobs aren’t readily available “isn’t fair.” Is it fair?

I agree that it isn’t fair, but as I frequently point out to students, life isn’t fair. We were not all born wealthy, or with advantages. We were not all born with equal opportunities. Some parents can afford to send their children to outstanding private schools, or spend time teaching them on their own. Other parents work hard just to feed and clothe their kids. Some kids work during high school and on through college. Others can afford to focus exclusively on their studies.

It is also important to note that fewer and fewer career choices lead to “guaranteed high paying jobs” for graduates. In the US, I think that dentists, physicians, pharmacists, and engineers can reasonably assume to find well-paying jobs at the end of their training. This is not necessarily true any more for lawyers (as more and more graduates vie for jobs), business degree holders or any Ph.D. graduates from what is generally known as “the liberal arts.” So whether the system is really so slanted against biomedical Ph.D. graduates is not altogether clear.

There is another very good reason why I think dramatically decreasing the number of graduate students would be harmful to science. As chair of our graduate and admissions committee, it’s clear that we rely heavily on a combination of undergraduate grades, Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) scores and personal interviews to select our students. Recommendation letters can also make an impression (one way or the other). But it’s obvious that the top grade scorers don’t necessarily make the best researchers. Sure, overall there is an extremely vague correlation, and certainly students have to have a grasp of science to succeed. But I’ve seen many average students (from undergraduate studies) who have truly excelled in the lab and have gone on to do outstanding research – and continue on to academia. By limiting the number of Ph.D. students accepted into graduate programs, we could be losing an outstanding crop of potential researchers. My point is that success in research (or lack of it) should be the factor limiting researchers from continuing on to academia – not something less meaningful such as undergraduate grades.

Finally, I would like to point out that I am not sitting in my academic ivory tower, oblivious to the problems of today’s students. My goal is not to sacrifice 5 or more years of many students’ lives just to seek out the very best fitted ones for academia. Although I noted that life isn’t fair, that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to make it as fair as possible. For this reason, I believe that perhaps the most important thing that can be done for potential future graduate students is to provide them with career advice and information early on in their undergraduate years.

Again and again I see students interviewing for graduate school when they have no idea what it’s all about. Many do not understand even the very basics of the system, and frequently students have a warped view that a Ph.D. degree will entitle them automatically to a great job. Although in my graduate program we try to educate the students in the course of interviewing them, it is really not the time to do so. Students need to have qualified counselors who will answer their questions while they are still in their undergraduate institutions. They need to know the statistics for obtaining jobs in academia and other scientific careers – before they apply to graduate programs. They need to understand the criteria that make for a successful Ph.D. (not merely the minimal requirements stated for obtaining the degree). Then, and only then, can they make a calculated decision as to whether they want to launch themselves into a 5 year program. That, at least, is a fairer way to do things. And I take off my hat to those who choose to do so.




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It’s time to take responsibility – why the editor of The Lancet should resign

There are a lot of people, governments, and organizations who need to step up and take responsibility. But in this piece about taking responsibility, I call on Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, the UK’s premier medical journal, to apologize and resign. If publishing the deceitful and fallacious  “Open letter to the people of Gaza” wasn’t enough to merit his stepping aside, then his failure to allow the Israeli Medical Society and/or Israeli doctors and scientists to respond to these lies in a rejoinder article certainly is.

I have responded to the malevolent letter (saying that it is merely ‘biased’ would be giving too much credit to the authors) in the pages of The Guardian. But had I known at the time that several of the authors of this letter knowingly lied and reported that they “had no competing interests,” violating The Lancet’s “Declaration of Interests Policy,” I would have called for his resignation in my rebuttal.

As it turns out, Mads Gilberts, one of the co-signatories on this letter, made the following statement in Dagbladet, Norway’s second largest daily tabloid (I used Google translate to convert the text from the Norwegian) regarding the most horrific terror attack ever carried out on US soil:

The attack on New York was not surprising, after the policy has led the West in recent decades. I am outraged by the attack, but I am equally upset over the suffering that the United States has created. It is in this context 5000 dead people must be seen. If the United States government has a legitimate right to bomb and kill civilians in Iraq, including those suppressed a moral right to attack the United States with the weapons they had to create. Dead civilians are the same whether Americans, Palestinians or Iraqis, says physician and professor Mads Gilbert.

- Do you support a terrorist attack on the USA?

- Terror is a bad weapon, but the answer is yes, within the context I have mentioned, says Gilbert.

The first author of the hateful Lancet rant, Paolo Manduca, is the recipient of funding from various anti-Israel NGOs. For example, this abstract clearly states that the study was funded by Interpal, Gaza, London, UK. As noted in the following bulletin, Interpal (also known by another benign-sounding title as The Palestinian Relief and Development Fund) is designated by the US treasury as a terror organization. And for anyone who wants to know why Hamas is considered a terrorist organization, read the description of what Hamas has done at the bottom section.

Whether a once-respected medical journal is the place for addressing complex geo-political issues is one question. But having chosen to do so by exclusively accepting a blatantly deceitful account from several highly radical and terror-supporting physicians and researchers – while rejecting any opportunity for a rejoinder from Israeli doctors – clearly indicates that Horton can no longer qualify as a fair, unbiased editor for anything published in The Lancet.

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