Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Dr. Jonas Salk :: Biographies Medicine Papers

Dr. Jonas Salk An American hero once said, "Many wise individuals have had no formal education.... They possess a powerful intuitive faculty and are able to learn from experience, from what they observe" (Pamplin, Jr. and Eisler 127). Although not entirely indicative of his own past, this American hero was Dr. Jonas Salk and he believed that education was not always the key to success. The great innovator believed that the answers to life are often found in an individual's experiences rather than buried among the pages of a textbook. Indeed, the ideas that formed the foundation of Salk's greatest accomplishment–the first effective polio vaccine–were not found in any fancy college textbook, but came to light because he did not believe that some established scientific theories were the only way that problems could be solved. More specifically, as a young medical student in 1936 sitting in a lecture for a course entitled Bacteriology and Immunology, Salk recalls an experience that altere d the course of his life (Sherrow 31): I remember very vividly all the details about where I was sitting and what was happening, almost as if the light was turned on and everything became clear....We were told that one could immunize against diphtheria and tetanus. In the next lecture, we were told it was not possible to immunize with a chemically treated or noninfectious (killed) virus vaccine, so that struck me as rather odd. How could both statements be true? And I remember the answer we were given was that the cells of the inoculated individual that were involved in a virus infection had to go through the experience of the infection itself. Why should that be, when the cells going through that experience were thus destroyed? How could that immunize cells that did not experience infection? Something's wrong here, I thought. For me, what came together was the question: Is it true you need a live virus for a safe, effective vaccine? And if it's not true, then what can be done with viruses, as can be done with a toxin, to render them harmless while retaining their effectiveness for immunization? This encounter stayed with Salk throughout his life and helped to determine the path along which he would conduct his life's work. As stated in the opening quote, this intuitive ability that he possessed did not come from spending hours learning from his textbooks, but simply came from the ordinary experience of attending a lecture for class.

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