The CNS Executive Board met, this year, at the AAN meeting in Washington, DC. The cherry blossoms greeted us as we arrived. How appropriate that this beautiful symbol of the evanescence of life is speculated to be native to the Himalayas, where, not long after the AAN bid goodbye to our nation’s capital, more than 8,000 people died as a result of a 7.8MW earthquake. There is hardly a community in the US that does not count people of that region among its citizens, hammering home the fragility of our existence and the absurdity of the juxtaposition of our quest to control the human genome and its neurological consequences with a natural disaster of biblical proportions.
As I write this newsletter column, the annual Lilac Festival has just begun in Rochester, NY – a joyous event in a year in which the cold seemed never to end. In contrast to the cherry blossoms symbolization of transience, the lilac’s persistence through snow and ice and their ultimate profusion of blossoms never cease to amaze me. I worry each year (I am, after all, both a mother and a child neurologist) that the frigid winds will damage or kill them; and each year, after a week of 70 or 80 degree weather, they emerge in all of their purple glory. In some ways, they remind me of us.
Lilacs may have begun their existence on the Balkan Peninsula, but they have spread throughout large fractions of the world. Wikipedia tells us, “It is not regarded as an aggressive species, found in the wild in widely scattered sites, usually in the vicinity of past or present human habitations.” Like the lilacs, child neurologists are found always among people, for we exist to help – heal, educate, mentor, console, guide, maximize the potential of – people. Ours is an intensely social enterprise, and the functions we study and influence are those that make people most human and most interactive. And we are, perhaps sometimes to our detriment, “not an aggressive species”, happily giving credit for our successes to our patients and families and students and trainees, and doing lots for many with precious little.
How do we “market” ourselves without losing the gentleness, the people-centeredness, the social enterprise of child neurology. This is not an easy task. But we have begun it in our own unique way, by bringing our vantage point to the halls of Congress, the families of our communities, our sister professional organizations in neurology and pediatrics, and social media. But we have much yet to do.
It is fitting that we return to the US national capital region for the 2015 annual meeting of the CNS. And perhaps symbolic that we will be housed on the opposite bank of the Potomac from the US political leaders. Yes, there remains a river – seems like an ocean sometimes – between us and them. We must continue to cross that river ourselves from time to time. And we must yell so they hear us from the other side and perhaps cross to meet us in service of their public, both national and international, and our patients, families, and future.
Nina F. Schor, MD, PhD