What impacts your life, either personally or professionally? What external factors influence what we learn and how we practice?
This commentary was composed over the Atlantic Ocean, returning from a cruise sponsored by the Alabama Dermatology Society. For anyone who has toured Europe, it is easy to relate to the “If it’s Tuesday, it’s Belgium” effect – What was the name of the cathedral we explored in Bordeaux? (St. Andre). Which explorer was buried in the monastery of St Jerome in Lisbon? (da Gama). What was the surname of the family that owned Kenwood House in Hampstead Heath, where Belle (as portrayed in the movie “Belle”) was raised? (Murray). Yet there are impressions that will remain indelibly ingrained in my memory, notably the impeccable alignment and vastness of the 9387 monuments of US military who lost their lives on D-Day, June 6th, 1944 (that number represents 39% of those who died in Normandy – 61% of families requested that the remains of their loved ones be buried at home); learning of the planning, execution, and expanse of Port Winston at Arromanches; appreciating the enormity and isolation of Mount St. Michele, a world heritage site of Christian pilgrims; and of course, the natural beauty of infinite clusters of red and white grapes in the Bordeaux vineyards before harvest.
My recollections from this cruise will of course include some specific details of the excellent lectures delivered by Jim Del Rosso (acne and rosacea), Boni Elewski (psoriasis, nails), Ronnie Schnur (new genetics and dermatology), Billy Baum (new therapies), or even myself (DRESS syndrome, new medical dermatology literature), What will be remembered most was the camaraderie of the faculty as we mostly lectured to each other and just a few other dermatologists. (An added perk was that Ronnie and I were able to spend time with Carol and Scott Burg – I had not seen Carol since medical school graduation in 1979).
Ronnie and I have been most fortunate to have taken many cruises, starting initially with our honeymoon cruise to Alaska in 1982. What was different about this journey, however, was that the ship seemed quiet. Indeed, just a month ago, it was sold out (900 passengers) but only 550 were aboard. Fifty people had originally registered for the dermatology conference, but only 20 attended. No doubt, the recent ISIS terrorist events (including the murder of an 86 year-old priest in Normandy) caused many tourists and dermatologists to alter their plans.
We live in a world where terrorism knows no bounds, and it is affecting our behavior. I don’t blame anyone for having second thoughts about travel, being concerned about random terrorist strikes, and deciding to change plans. As I was writing this commentary, I very much looked forward to a safe landing 90 minutes from being home. An offshoot of the terrorist threat is that several dermatologists who would have attended this conference chose not to – a lost opportunity for them and their patients. The repercussions of ISIS are far reaching. Visiting Normandy allowed us to pay respects to those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom in WWII. My father (Horace Heymann) served in the Navy as a “sea bee’ (construction battalion) in the Pacific theater and Ronnie’s father (Louis Schnur) fought in Northern Africa and Europe, including the Battle of the Bulge. I hope that our current and future leaders have the wisdom and resolve to assure that those freedoms, secured by so many who sacrificed their lives, can be restored for the benefit of all.