Columbia University Health Sciences is a complex, exciting organization. Every day more than 15,000 people enter and emerge from the labyrinth of halls and streets that make up our campus. They are patients, scientists, clinicians, students, administrators, and support staff.
Within this diverse stream of humanity are individuals who generate new ideas and technologies and whose work influences the care of patients locally and worldwide. We also set the next generation of nurses, dentists, public health officials, physicians, and scientists on a course of life-long learning.
Our conduct of medicine and philosophy of education rely on a deep respect for the values that guide the scientific enterprise. Such values include objective experimentation, free exchange of information, rational thought, and a desire to relieve suffering. We practice a reward system based on merit, not privilege or political ideology. This perspective should serve as a role model for others. As Charles Darwin said, "There is grandeur in this view of life" so we communicate it by discussing specific accomplishments, how they are achieved, and what they mean.
In Vivo, now celebrating its first anniversary, helps express our scientific ethos to the outer world and reinforces it for ourselves. In Vivo gives voice to our philosophy of excellence in research, clinical practice, and education.
We are all busy and it is all too easy to lose sight of the context in which we work. But while facing the challenges of a modern academic medical center in a rough economy, we need a sense of ourselves beyond our own research group, department, and school.
We need to exchange ideas, a process that is becoming more difficult to do through the traditional scientific literature. We go to conferences and meetings throughout the country, but In Vivo lets members of the Columbia University Health Sciences community know what is going on in their own backyard.
In its first year, In Vivo articles have presented vivid descriptions of new scientific findings at Columbia University Health Sciences and how they fit into or diverge from traditional views. Other articles highlight students learning about their discipline, the world, and themselves. Still others thank donors and supporters who help us do what we do. The Point of View section gives anyone at Health Sciences a chance to express an opinion about health-related topics.
The stories in the 2002 issues illustrate the dazzling array of intellectual activities at Columbia Health Sciences. Subjects have included the manufacture of motor neurons from mouse embryonic stem cells, anxiety circuitry in the developing mouse, a revitalized epidemiology course in the Mailman School of Public Health, the hormone leptin's role in people regaining lost weight, our role in providing clinical care and research in the post 9/11 world, the new emergency medicine residency, the lead industry poisoning America, and nursing students working in the community.
Feedback about In Vivo has been excellent: In Vivo already has received an award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Students say they feel a sense of pride when they see a commentary written by another student. Featured investigators say they enjoy the opportunity to share their science with their Columbia family and feel the publication provides an opportunity to develop new local collaborations. The news media and development office also rely on the publication for background material. And its circulation has grown to 16,000, including faculty, students, donors, alumni, and members of the media.
But like the living processes its name implies, In Vivo has to evolve and grow to remain relevant. It takes money, lots of money, to publish every two weeks during the academic year and once a month during the summer but In Vivo serves a critical internal and external communication function and I feel it is worth the cost. In fact, I feel In Vivo offers some of the best science journalism today. Please feel free to contact me or Robin Eisner, the editor, with any ideas to improve its content. Its continued success will depend on the staff of the publication, In Vivo's 26-member advisory board, but most importantly on the spectacular work in the Columbia University Health Sciences community.
Dr. Gerald D. Fischbach is Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, and Dean of the Faculty of Medicine.