No! I am not Prince hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.
From T.S. Eliot: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
Hamlet rarely comes up in conversation these days (among neurologists, anyway). Eliot even less so. And Prufrock? Please. My guess is Garrison Keillor’s take on “J Pru” would garner knowing nods from members of those other two Minnesota-based icons linked to strong women and good looking men, the AAN and CNS: “This…small, dark, mopefest of a poem…pretty much killed off the pleasure of poetry for millions of people who got dragged through it in high school.”
So why bring it up now? has the Wall Street Journal identified a new trend on its website that has America’s youth forsaking the big bucks earned by English BAs for the more ascetic allure of med school and a career in child neurology, purely on the basis of this poem (and, perhaps, Jane Austen)? No. Nothing quite that direct or dramatic. True, the poem’s basic themes – isolation, anomie, weariness, frustration and longing – might resonate with a lot of child neurologists and might account for one or two would-be poets perusing Annals of Neurology instead of The Paris Review. But that’s not why I brought it up. My real reason was to add up and make sense of those things that the Board and members of the Child Neurology Society have accomplished together in the past year, and what we might yet do in the years to come to counter those themes, those things that threaten to “kill off the pleasure” of present and future child neurologists plying their trade.
As CNS Executive Director, my role in the past year has largely been “To swell a progress, start a scene or two,” to be “Politic, cautious, and meticulous” in executing the larger strategic vision formulated with admirable acuity and ingenuity by CNS President E. Steve Roach and a very engaged cadre of of elected board members: Barry Kosofsky, Suresh Kotagal, Vinodh Narayanan, Jayne Ness, Nina Schor and harvey Singer. Thanks to their enormous commitment of time, energy, wisdom and resolve the Society now has a solid foundation to build on for the future. The cornerstone of that foundation, quite literally, was a long overdue rapprochement with the Foundation, the establishment this past spring of a workable framework within which the Child Neurology Society and the Child Neurology Foundation would not just amicably coexist, but would creatively and dynamically coordinate their separate missions to serve the primary overarching mission of “fostering the discipline of child neurology and promoting the optimal care and welfare of children with neurological and neurodevelopmental disorders.” Thanks to CNF Executive Director John Stone’s tireless efforts and natural feel for relationship building, the Foundation has made solid progress toward establishing a leading role in forging new and effective alliances among the many non-profit organizations with shared interests in public advocacy on behalf of the patients and families CNS members serve. A quick glance at the award profiles printed in this newsletter and on display in Austin amply testifies to the Foundation’s commitment to join forces with the CNS – with you – to support the next generation of researchers in the field, beginning with its fundraising efforts on behalf of the Philip R. Dodge Young Investigator Endowment Fund. I encourage you to stop by the CNF booth located next to the CNS Annual Meeting Registration counters; introduce yourself to John and his sidekick, Steve Peer, and invest in the future of child neurology with a much needed and much appreciated donation.
Ah, but the poem talked about starting “a scene or two,” didn’t it? In January the CNS launched a new, more robust website, one that over the course of Phase II development in the coming year will go a long way toward establishing the kind of time-saving, cost-effective, mission building “connections” child neurologists need to meet a complex array of near- and long-term challenges. The launch of a second essential communication vehicle – the news magazine, CNS Connections you hold in your hands – and the appointment of its gifted editor, Dan Bonthius, gives added force and focus to “Bringing CNS Members Together to Make Children’s Lives Better.” Dan’s engaging Q&A sessions are textbook demonstrations of how one translates onto the printed page the mix of vital information and vibrant face-to- face personal energy and engagement that are the hallmark of CNS Annual Meetings. I encourage you to read his Q&As in this issue with “retiring” CNS President, Steve Roach and with Patti Vondrak, talking about the ABPN Maintenance of Certification program; then go back and read past Q&As with Child Neuro Listserv founders, Steve Leber and Ken Mack, and TBI SIG leaders Heidi Blume, Chris Giza, and Howard Goodkin. And don’t miss his “Focus on Research” installments highlighting groundbreaking developments by CNS members in stroke and cerebral palsy studies.
What progress might be swelled, what scene or two started in the coming year? Guaranteeing affordable access for CNS members to ABPN Maintenance of Certification-mandated prep and Performance in Practice (PIP) resources is one. A third Self Assessment Exam will be added in 2014 along with several Performance in Practice modules and on-line CME courses culled from the annual meeting. Watch for progress supporting the work of committees and SIGs, strengthening the connections between them internally within the CNS as well as externally with kindred pediatric and neurologic organizations. The CNS will only thrive – and will only deserve to thrive – if it meets its members needs. Size matters. For a society our size to meet those needs effectively, it needs everyone on board, it needs the “buy-in” of everyone “in the business.” So, if you know a child neurologist or a trainee who isn’t a member, who thinks they’re better off “going it alone” and thinks their patients are better off not having their interests represented by a strong, unified Society acting as a respected partner with other medical associations and nonprofit organizations, encourage them to join. If you know a CNS member who isn’t actively engaged on a committee or SIG, or rarely makes it to the annual meeting, draw them in. It will do them, and their patients, a world of good.
It does me good. I marvel every year at how many ostensibly retired past-presidents, board members, and committed “rank-and-file” members I see at the Annual Meeting. Their loyalty to the Society they helped found, the obvious relish with which they greet proteges they trained, mentored and entrusted to carry on their legacy; their palpable excitement witnessing the influx in recent years of residents (175 this year) and medical students (35 this year), and their sheer delight in rekindling conversations about the future of child neurology is tonic beyond measure. It will be interesting to watch in the coming years as, one after another, many of them demonstrate a second burst of “founding” energy, vision, and purpose by translating that loyalty to and love for the Society they helped build into funded legacies, something that the newly formed Legacy Circle will make possible by offering planned giving opportunities to members young and old (watch for details in future newsletters).
I remember well penning the phrase years ago that is still used for the Dodge Endowment Fund – ”Honor a Founding Giant in Child Neurology…Help Fund New Ones.” For, every year I find myself surrounded by not one, but many giants at the CNS meeting. And not just past giants, but present and future ones too. When I think about Dick Koenigsberger, unable to attend last year’s meeting to accept the Lifetime Achievement Award due to poor health, then transfer my thoughts to Louis Dang, a resident at the University of Michigan who will carry Dick’s banner forward this year as the first recipient of the Richard Koenigsberger Scholarship funded by memorials given by Dick’s friends following his death in February, I am moved to make a mental – and moral – connection between the past and present that bodes well for the future. When I think of Phil Dodge and picture Peter Tsai at the podium, introduced as this year’s Philip R. Dodge Young Investigator Awardee by his mentor, Mustafa Sahin, the 2005 Dodge YIA winner, I am moved to make a mental and moral connection between the past and present that bodes well for the future. When I see Ken Swaiman, the Society’s first president, still avidly perusing the scientific posters, and think of all the future CNS presidents walking “unkown” among us – including, perhaps one or more of the Swaiman Summer Interns displaying their posters, or this year’s Bhuwan Garg High School Neuroscience Prize winner, Anna Thomas, who may well preside over the Society’s 80th Annual Meeting, I am moved to make a mental and moral connection between the past and present that bodes well for the future. I am moved with wonder. I am overcome with wonder, almost foolish with wonder. Yet, not a fool, for all that. No, these are very real connections. We could build a promising future with them, if we put our mind to it.
“Every year I find myself surrounded by not one, but many giants at the CNS meeting. And not just past giants, but present and future ones too.”