Dr. Judah Folkman: The scientific hero

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Science isn't one success after another. It's mostly one success in a desert of failure.

Dr. Folkman was seven years old when he first realized that he wanted to be a doctor. After graduating from The Ohio State University and then Harvard Medical School, he did his surgical residency at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Folkman was a gifted surgeon and soon rose up the ladders and became the Chief Resident in Surgery.

Though he was a very reputed surgeon, he had to face a lot of setbacks in his research, thanks to the skeptics of the fellow scientists. In the late 60’s, Dr. Folkman and his team put forward the theory that tumor cells need their own private blood supply. This idea was widely ridiculed and people refused to accept it.

When he and his team eventually succeeded to prove the theory, the scientific community wrote it off as an unworthy find. ”You are studying dirt”, was the common comment that Dr. Folkman would receive from others during the initial phases of the research. A lot of people even walked out of his presentation, loudly commenting on how futile his research was.

His applications for grants were rejected and when he was finally able to prove his theory on mice, people waived it off by saying, “Well, it works with mice, but it won’t work on people”. The new post-doctoral fellows were warned not to go to Dr. Folkman’s laboratory as his studies were labeled ‘controversial’. In spite of these warning, Dr. Folkman’s theory managed to perk up the interests of few fellowmen who decided to be a part of his research. As we know now, most of them now are highly successful medical professionals.

In spite of all the discouragements and ridicule, Dr. Folkman and his team continued with their research and led to some of the major breakthroughs in the study of cancer.

Action Summary:

  • The people around us are always skeptical about new ideas.

  • Have faith in yourself.

  • Don’t get deterred by any amount of insults or ridicule.

~ Gitanjali Banerjee

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