Editor’s Note: I first met Dr. Schor about twenty years ago, when I was still a resident. I was working in a lab and trying to learn how to perform and interpret assays of apoptosis. Nina explained it all to me at a CNS meeting. Her great intellect and wit made it all look easy and fun. For me, it was neither. Now, her great people skills and unwavering optimism make presiding over the CNS look easy and fun. I’m sure it’s neither.
QUESTION | What is your proudest accomplishment, as President of the CNS?
The recasting of the relationship between the Child Neurology Society and the Child Neurology Foundation, including, together, fully endowing the Philip R. Dodge Young Investigator Award and helping the Child Neurology Foundation better define its own mission, vision, and identity.
QUESTION | What was your favorite aspect of the job?
Renewing and strengthening my own acquaintance with child neurologists and using the job as an “excuse” to get back in touch with old friends and make new friends within and around the child neurology community.
QUESTION | What is the most difficult aspect of serving as President of the CNS?
I have often said to my children, when speaking of each of the several leadership-level jobs I have held, that, “if it weren’t for the need to involve humans, this job would be a cinch”. The job of CNS President is no different. When everyone is focused on mission, vision, purpose, function, serving as President of the CNS is a dream job. When individual egos, agendas, pet peeves appear on one’s radar screen, the job becomes very difficult. It is in the best interest of any leader to continually and proactively decide what is “wheat” and what is “chaff” and to constantly refocus everyone on the “wheat” at hand.
QUESTION | What are the biggest challenges facing the field of child neurology?
The biggest internal challenge – one that devolves from the very nature of those who choose to become child neurologists – is that we are intrinsically not very good at or enamored of marketing and promoting ourselves or our discipline. The kind of person who dedicates his or her life to the health and wellbeing of those who cannot advocate for themselves does not generally feel comfortable bragging! This threatens such things as payment models, layperson awareness, and visibility in the context of larger, more publicly known professional groups like adult neurologists and pediatricians. The biggest external challenge is both a challenge and a joy. We are victims of the success of science and technology. The general child neurologist is drowning in a vast sea of information and methods, and to date, our response has been to slice the child neurologist pie into thinner and thinner programmatic pieces. Staying together as a discipline and a community is a very big challenge.
QUESTION | What advice would you give to a graduating medical student, who is just entering the field of child neurology?
First, I would congratulate that student. He or she is about to embark on an exciting career surrounded by some of the nicest, smartest, most collegial, and most selfless people on the planet. Then, I would advise him or her to take maximum advantage of this professional community. Stay connected. Don’t get discouraged or overwhelmed – get in touch! What makes child neurology so wonderful is at least 75 per cent child neurologists. We are always here for each other and for patients and families everywhere. Not knowing what to do or where to turn to help a patient or solve a problem is a fantastic excuse to network with the other members of this fantastic club the student is about to join!
QUESTION | In light of the deficit of child neurologists nationwide, how can we attract more young people into the field of child neurology?
We must be visible, available, engaging, and passionate around undergraduate and medical students. Through the concerted activity of united professional organizations, we must ensure that the students who look at child neurology as a career see not only our passion and intellectual and social engagement, but also a means to a life of respect, time for family and hobbies, and value to community.
QUESTION | Are there any changes that the CNS should enact to better accomplish its goals?
I think that, at times, the CNS has shortchanged itself with a two-year presidential term. That is too long to just “pass through,” but not long enough to formulate and operationalize a real strategic plan. On the other hand, we all have our “day jobs” and being President for longer than two years is probably not tenable. The last few generations of Presidents have worked to build legacy, a passing of the baton, in service of fulfilling a strategic vision longitudinally beyond the term of a single President. I have also recast the charges of the CNS committees to capture this longitudinal aspect. But culture will not change completely in the timescale of a presidential term. It will take several generations of Presidents and the buy-in of both leadership and membership.
QUESTION | Is it a lot of work to serve as President of the CNS?
If so, where did you find the time? Serving as President of the CNS takes as much or as little time as any given President wishes to devote to it. The routine tasks – working with the Scientific Program Committee Chair to fashion the Annual Meeting agenda; reviewing CNS finances and Executive Committee meeting agendas; presiding over votes of the Executive Committee between meetings; conferring regularly with the CNS Executive Director – these tasks take relatively little time. But making an impact on the programmatic direction, financial solidity, or relationship to partner organizations takes a lot of time and even more energy, strategy, and thought. I suppose I have managed to do some of this because I am an inveterate multitasker. I have always prided myself in balancing organization with flexibility. Being President of the CNS takes both. You plan for what you can predict and roll with the punches from what you cannot!