Challenges to Modern Medicine: A GAHF Summer Fellow Perspective

by Erica Grignaschi

It would have been difficult to choose a better place and fairly impossible to pick a more pleasant day to meet together again. It was exactly two months since I had come back from Boston and I was thrilled to see the other Summer Fellows together with some members of the Armenise-Harvard Foundation Board.

Since 2001, the Giovanni Armenise Foundation awards young scientists, Career Development Awardees (CDAs), who decide to settle down a Laboratory in Italy with grant meant to finance the early stages of their research as principal investigators. Once every two years a conference is organised in order to gather all the CDAs together, and to let them share their research with the intent to create collaborations, stimulate discussions and connections.

Starting from this year also the Summer Fellow were invited, with the final purpose of establishing an alive network between students about to enter academic research, young scientists who just started their laboratories and well established Professors.

CDA event_summer fellows2Challeges to Modern Medicine, the 2015 edition of the meeting, was held at Palazzo Giustiniani, in the very center of Rome. Sala Zuccari, with its 16th century wall-painted cycle of the Stories of King Salomon, from the Ancient Testament, was the astonishing framework of the talks. The day was divided in four thematic areas, ranging from personalized medicine to stem cells, from cancer to neuromedicine.

After every CDA briefly presented his/her research, each section was followed by an open discussion. One of the most touching moment of the event, was when Senatrix Elena Cattaneo shared with us some words for her colleague and friend Paolo Bianco, Professor of Anatomical Pathology and director of the Stem Cells Laboratory at Sapienza University, who recently passed away. Paolo Bianco publicly sided up against Davide Vannoni’s Stamina method, emphasizing the importance of increased communication between scientific and legislative institutions, in particular when dealing with health care (but environment would be another substantial case in point).

As Summer Fellows in Boston, we all worked on drastically different topic, which confirms the multidisciplinary orientation of the Foundation, and of the Summer Fellowship as well. I believe it is extremely valuable to catch glimpses of other research fields, especially at the beginning of a career, since it helps widening our own perspectives and leads to more aware career choices.

During our Summer Fellowship, by weekly attending the Career Development Course organized by the Foundation, we had the intriguing opportunity to talk with scientists at different stages of their career. Participating to the event in Rome, we were also given the chance to directly speak and ask questions to researchers who already have managed to came back to Italy after a beginning of career spent abroad. Besides, some of them openly encouraged us to apply for open positions in their Laboratory!

I am glad that my experience with the Armenise Foundation did not end the day I left Boston. Instead, it seems to me that it is going to last for a long time, thanks to the inspiring network of people the Foundation can weave around itself. I can’t help but be grateful with the Foundation, which aims to follow up our next steps by involving us in its activities and strengthening the connections we created during our summer experience. Ever since, taking part in such events has been both personally and professionally enriching, and I hope I will be able one day to give my own contribution to this extraordinary community.