College Hosts Fifth Annual Fink Bioscience Symposium
Issue   |   Wed, 02/06/2013 - 01:13

After a record number of registrations, the College recently held the fifth annual Gerald R. Fink ’62 Bioscience Symposium last Thursday. Held in the Cole Assembly Room, the symposium discussed “Current Issues Facing Science and Health Care,” which ranged from talks on genetically personalized medicine to how environmental factors affect the health of disadvantaged populations. The event is sponsored by the class of 1962 as part of their 50th reunion gift to the College.

“When putting together this event we wanted to create an opportunity for alumni distinguished in their fields to return to the College and speak to students about their interests,” said George Carmany ’62, who along with Gerald R. Fink ’62, is one of the founders and organizers of the event.

Dr. Fink, a professor of genetics at MIT and founding member of the Whitehead Institute, agreed.

“The Class of ’62 decided to support this because they wanted to give back something to Amherst. Many in my class felt their success was due in a large part to the educations they received here,” Fink said. “What better way to give back than to come back and talk to students about how their careers unfolded?”

After opening remarks by Mr. Carmany, an investor in health care in Boston, the former chairman of the Tufts Medical Center and a member of the Advisory Committee on Education at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Fink began his talk. During the talk entitled “The Genome and Health Care,” Dr. Fink discussed developments in the field of “personalized medicine,” which proposes the customization of healthcare being tailored to in individual patient by the use of genetic information. He also offered advice for students interested in science as a career.

“Passion along with curiosity drives science. Without passion for what you’re doing you won’t be able to tolerate the large amount of hard work and struggles that science entails,” Fink said.

The second speaker was Dr. Paula Rauch ’77, a college trustee and child psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, who discussed treating and counseling children in military families and families with seriously medically ill parents.

The third speaker was Dr. Rajiv Desai ’84, director of the Neuroscience Institute at the Maine Medical Center, who discussed the development of his career and the evolving relationship between patients in physicians and the effect the increasing role technology is having on that relationship. He encouraged students to explore their options and not get too set on one view of their future.

“Don’t feel like you have to be on one track,” Desai said. “You don’t have to be at a big name university to do research.”

The final speaker before dinner was Dr. Kimberlee Wyche-Etheridge ’87, the medical services director for Family, Youth and Infant Care for the City of Nashville, who discussed public health and the way in which environmental factors influence the long-term health and well-being of disadvantaged populations. She encouraged students to consider pursuing public health.

“Terras Irradient, let them give light to the world. That is your charge,” Wyche-Etheridge said. “It is a privilege to go here, so go out and help others benefit from it.”

After a forum in which Dr. Fink and Dr. George Daley, a nationally distinguished stem cell research scientist, investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Harvard professor, discussed the relative merits of the M.D. track versus the M.D./Ph. D. track, dinner was served in Lewis Sebring. There, students dined with the speakers, allowing them to ask questions, listen to anecdotes and get to know the speakers more intimately.

After dinner, the final talk of the night was given by Dr. Daley, who discussed the current state of stem cell research.
Overall, the night was viewed as a success by the speakers and students.

“It is so heartening so many of you have come to this event,” Carmany said. “This is the most people we’ve had in these five years, and it has been the best.”