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Sitting on both human rights and medical organisations' boards


Setting up programs with the help of benefactors
Howard Hiatt Physician
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Throughout the years that I've been at Harvard Medical School, I've had the privilege of working outside the school in a range of activities. I spoke earlier about my involvement in the effort to apprise people of the implications of a nuclear exchange.

I was earlier approached by a family in New York, a member of which, a child in this family, had epilepsy and I was asked what they might do, since they have considerable means, to address the problem. I told them that in my view, this was in the late 60s, the field of neurobiology was opening up and that if they would... were willing to provide Fellowship support for young people going into the field, they might thereby move our understanding of the basis for epilepsy considerably. They... and I offered to support my position about this by introducing them to two young colleagues who had just come to Harvard - Torsten Wiesel and David Hubel.

Torsten and David and I had lunch with the Klingenstein brothers and a year later, or two years later, when they won the Nobel Prize, my stock soared with them and, but even in advance of that they had agreed to set up a Fellowship program in neurobiology, and it remains one of the programs in the country that provides support for young people going into the field. It has been an extremely important program in that sense.

A short time later, I was approached by another family, wife of the man involved had died of breast cancer, and he wanted to do something in that field. I offered to him the same prescription that I offered to the Klingensteins, that is to bet on young people, to help them train, and they... he agreed. In this instance, I used as a colleague, Jim Watson, and we set up a program called the Rita Allen Program which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, and it provides support for young people who are going into research careers in not only cancer, but into multiple sclerosis that also a problem that existed in his family.

And, even more recently, now 15 years ago, I was approached by the John Merck Fund to offer advice concerning a way of addressing a problem that confronted John Merck. John Merck was the son of the person who started the Merck drug company, George Merck, and Mrs Merck was eager to do something on behalf of the problem that confronted John Merck. He had severe... he had an early age - age two or three - had severe encephalitis, as I was told, which left him with both a terrible learning disability and a severe personality problem. The John Merck Scholars program which we set up 15 years ago, has attracted young... brilliant young people who have... many of whom have made a mark; the first of our selections won a Nobel Prize last year.

Each of these programs is fashioned in a way that almost cannot fail, that is to say, instead of opening the option of applying to the program to all comers, we go to the universities to where there are strong programs in these areas and tell them that there are scholarships, fellowships available, but that each university can nominate only one person, or perhaps two. And, as a result, Harvard finds itself, or its people, in competition with young faculty from Yale and Stanford and the University of Chicago, and eager to get support for these people, obviously puts forward very strong people. So, the committees in each instance are able to pick from individuals who are almost destined to do creditable work and to become, in many instances, leaders in the field. Those activities have been ones that I've welcomed an opportunity to take part in.

Born in 1925, American Howard Hiatt set up one of the first medical oncology research and training units in the US and has headed up some of America's most prestigious medical institutions. Hiatt attended Harvard College and received his MD from the Harvard Medical School in 1948. He was a member of the team at the Pasteur Institute, Paris, that first identified and described mRNA, and he was among the first to demonstrate mRNA in mammalian cells. From 1991 to 1997, he was Secretary of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, where he began and directs the Academy's Initiatives For Children program. He is also committed to helping disadvantaged people access decent health care.

Listeners: Milton C. Weinstein

Milton C. Weinstein, Ph.D., is the Henry J. Kaiser Professor of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard School of Public Health and Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School. At the Harvard School of Public Health he is Academic Director of the Program in Health Decision Science, and Director of the Program on Economic Evaluation of Medical Technology . He is best known for his research on cost-effectiveness of medical practices and for developing methods of economic evaluation and decision analysis in health care. He is a co-developer of the CEPAC (Cost-Effectiveness of Preventing AIDS Complications) computer simulation model, and has conducted studies on prevention and treatment of HIV infections. He is the co-developer of the Coronary Heart Disease Policy Model, which has been used to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of cardiovascular prevention and treatment. He is an author of four books: Decision Making in Health and Medicine: Integrating Evidence and Values; Cost-Effectiveness in Health and Medicine,the report of the Panel of Cost Effectiveness in Health and Medicine; Clinical Decision Analysis; and Hypertension: A Policy Perspective.He has also published more than 200 papers in peer-reviewed medical, public health, and economics journals. He is an elected member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, and a recipient of the Award for Career Achievement from the Society for Medical Decision Making. Dr. Weinstein received his A.B. and A.M. in Applied Mathematics (1970), his M.P.P. (1972), and his Ph.D. in Public Policy (1973) from Harvard University.

Tags: Harvard Medical School, Nobel Prize, Rita Allen Program, John Merck Scholars Program, Torsten Wiesel, David Hubel, James Watson

Duration: 6 minutes, 50 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2006

Date story went live: 24 January 2008