Scientists helping scientists

A perspective by Paul Sondel, MD, PhD, St. Jude Scientific Advisory Board chair

Paul Sondel

“The field of childhood cancer research can’t be secretive. St. Jude knows that and puts it into practice.”

People working in any aspect of cancer research, not just childhood cancer, know of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for its landmark work. The hospital’s founder, Danny Thomas, not only created an organization that generated funds to do what was seemingly impossible; he also ensured that scientists and the hospital administration could look out for the science and do what they thought was best.

Some of the best science is moved ahead when scientists present their research to other interested scientists, who then ask questions and offer feedback. That’s why the hospital created the Scientific Advisory Board. This diverse group consists of 14 scientists who have a clear interface with research occurring at St. Jude. I currently chair this group; our goal is to provide insight and feedback to the St. Jude Board of Governors  about the hospital’s research. We also provide specific recommendations for activities that the hospital might want to consider as it tries to improve what it is already doing so well.

At the University of Wisconsin, my work is dedicated to trying to do better cancer research. A component of that has a focus on childhood cancer. When I interact with scientists who have similar interests, I learn information that can help me do a better job in my own work. Every time I come to St. Jude, I learn something important about new ideas, new research, new things that are being done.

The field of childhood cancer research can’t be secretive. St. Jude knows that and puts it into practice. Ideas and data must be shared so that researchers in other places can learn from those advances and use the information. That’s crucial, as dedicated scientists around the world work to move cures ahead as quickly as possible.

All members of the Scientific Advisory Board understand what an incredibly special resource St. Jude is to the world. One of the hospital’s many strengths is its outstanding research infrastructure, enabling it to link complex laboratory and clinical research together in order to improve clinical care worldwide.

Those of us who are on the Scientific Advisory Board are pleased that a place like St. Jude exists. It’s an honor to be able to come to the hospital and learn. Even though our own jobs are at other institutions, we are in some way helping St. Jude to be even better—and to continue to be a resource to the rest of the world. l

St. Jude Scientific Advisory Board Chair Paul Sondel, MD, PhD, is the Walker Professor of Pediatrics, Human Oncology, at UW Carbone Cancer Center and American Family Children’s Hospital, University of Wisconsin.

Promise magazine, Summer 2011

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