The Changed Podcast

Real Stories from Moments of Change with Aden Nepom

Science! Dr. Gerald T. Nepom M.D., Ph.D. Director of the Immune Tolerance Network

In this episode of the Changed Podcast, it’s Gerald T. Nepom M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Immune Tolerance Network, and former director of Benaroya Research Institute!

As part of the direct COVID response efforts, Jerry has plenty of thoughts to share on curiosity, change, flexibility, and science!

We are living through a time where science is referred to at the dinner table, possibly more than any other period in history (according to me).

With COVID 19 top of mind for everyone, we are looking to the scientific community to tell us how to be safe, to tell us they’ll find a cure, to tell us ANYTHING that will make us feel less shaky and more secure in these particularly “turbulent times” (as I have heard every corporate entity refer to 2020, in the massive number of sales-related emails I receive every week).

So I thought, why not invite a prominent immunologist onto the show to talk about the broad concept of change! The sciences are built on the idea that our understanding of the world is ever-changing, and I just so happen to have a scientist-in-law to ask about the role of flexibility in scientific research!

Gerald T. Nepom, M.D., Ph.D., who goes by ‘Jerry’ to just about everyone is Director of the Immune Tolerance Network, a National Institutes of Health initiative for immune therapies of disease, and founder and former Director of the Benaroya Research Institute, in Seattle WA, USA. 

He’s also my uncle-in-law, a native Oregonian, a professor at the University of Washington, and a scientist credited with numerous discoveries over decades of work, with a career he describes as devoted to Change. 

His scientific achievements are well recognized and respected. He is past president of the Federation of Clinical Immunology Societies and has published over 350 scientific papers on discoveries ranging from basic science to clinical medicine.  Jerry also serves as an advisor for many academic and nonprofit organizations involved in biomedical research, and received recognition through several awards, including the University of Washington School of Medicine Distinguished Alumni Award. 

And talking with him was remarkably reassuring, fascinating, encouraging, and inspiring!

Takeaways from this conversation

If the incredibly resource-intensive (time, money, people, etc.) projects that scientists conduct benefit from flexibility and a willingness to be changed… SO CAN THE REST OF US!

Something else (and this reminds me of improv!) that scientists benefit from, is the reality that scientific work is about building on the discoveries, trials, errors, and understandings of the people who came before you, and will continue to be built on further from the people who come after you.

The answers to the BIG questions evolve. What was true a few months ago is different now because of continued scientific discovery. Some things remain constant and some things change. A lot changes actually.

But ‘eureka moments’ are few and far between, so our understanding often changes slowly.

As always, if the audio version of this podcast ain’t your thang, you’ll find the video for this episode is available here!

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