The Great Minds in Science Series brought two highly accomplished medical professionals to speak at Browning on February 24. This marks the second installment of this speakers series which is given in memory of John W. Hadden, M.D., P ’87, ’93, GP ’24, ’26. Science Department Chair Sam Keany, who moderated the presentation, offers the following report:
Dr. David Levine is emeritus professor of clinical orthopaedic surgery at Weill Cornell Medical Center. Dr. Levine was director of surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) and authored the history of HSS from its inception in 1863. Part of that history touched upon the early days of Browning, when John D. Rockefeller Jr. (Class of 1893), as a 17-year-old student at the School, lost a close friend, Elizabeth Dashiell, to cancer. Rockefeller became increasingly devoted to supporting cancer research, prompting his father, John D. Rockefeller, to establish the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (now Rockefeller University) and New York Cancer Hospital (now Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center). The medical researchers supported by the Rockefellers began to explore the very early stages of what we now know as cancer immunotherapy treatments.
Building on this foundation, the second speaker in the series, Dr. Jedd Wolchok, outlined the present state of the science of immunotherapy. Dr. Wolchok is chief of the Melanoma and Immunotherapy Service and associate director of the Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Browning Upper School and Form II boys learned that immunotherapy essentially involves using drugs that amplify the activity of the body’s own immune system to specifically target cancer cells. Certain types of cancer are responding to immunotherapy very well, extending the lives of many people. Dr. Wolchok outlined the future potential for researchers and clinicians to develop new therapies in this important area of medicine. A number of boys asked thoughtful questions about specific kinds of cancer.
Both speakers emphasized the importance of gaining experience in labs during high school or college to acquire the in-depth understanding that a scientist needs to make advances. Last year, Nobel Laureate Dr. Ferid Murad spoke at the inaugural presentation of this series.