National Conference 2008: A Bold Start with Not One but Two Historic Meetings
At 4 PM, about 14 hours after the last polls closed in Hawaii and the historic election of 2008 was concluded, 895 Society volunteers, including top Bike and Walk fundraisers, chapter trustees, expert advisors, extraordinary people who live with MS — and Society staff from every chapter — assembled in the Grand Ball Room of the Sheraton Chicago for the Society’s annual National Conference.
They were greeted by masters of ceremony Ray Heacox, president of King Broadcasting in Washington and Idaho, and Kristie Salerno Kent, a star in last year’s Fast Forward Film Festival [click here to see Kristie’s film, along with the others]. Both MC’s live with MS.
Malcolm Gladwell, staff writer for The New Yorker, opened the session with a rousing talk. Gladwell’s first book, The Tipping Point, has been a Business Week bestseller ever since it was published in 2000. Then came Blink on how people make decisions. Malcolm’s next book. Outliers: Why Some People Succeed and Some Don’t will be published later this month.
Gladwell presented the keys to change with compelling stories about the consequences of being bold, imaginative, and collaborative.
David Sarnoff, legendary founder of NBC, jumpstarted his industry 87 years ago, Gladwell said. He boldly badgered senior management of RCA, where he was a very junior employee, into allowing him to broadcast the 1921 boxing match between Jack Dempsey and Georges Carpentier. This was at a time when radio carried classical music and news, period.
When given the okay but no money or support for the project, young Sarnoff turned to others. A friend of a friend helped him steal a transmitter, another knew someone who knew boxing and was pressed into giving the first blow-by-blow fight broadcast in history. Sarnoff made sure it was widely heard by begging every radio salesmen in the RCA network to plug in sets wherever the public gathered — bars, pool halls, union offices.
The result was history: overnight there were long lines outside every RCA dealership in the nation. And, overnight, the idea of radio was reframed. The combination cannot be bettered, Gladwell told the conference. Be bold, be imaginative, be collaborative — and real change is possible.
Collaboration in action
Concomitantly, the first ever Tykeson Fellows Conference is bringing 106 MS scientists together to advance collaborations and cross fertilization in their ongoing work to create a world free of MS.
The Society currently sponsors 70 postdoctoral fellowships at an annual cost of $4 million. These fellowship funds nurture and educate the new generation of specialists and encourage the best and brightest to stay in the MS field. All fellows, past and present, funded by the Society, including those in clinical and rehabilitation fields, have been invited to this special conference — to meet and learn from leading senior scientists, to network and share information with each other, and (some for the first time) to meet people who are living with MS.
The Tykeson Fellows Conference is made possible by a generous donation from National MS Society Honorary Life Director, Donald E. Tykeson.
After a celebratory dinner Tuesday night, the Tykeson Conference opened on Wednesday with presentations exploring a basic question in MS: Which is first, inflammation or the loss of myelin? Dr. Lawrence Steinman of Stanford University gave a keynote address pointing out the need to reframe questions and beware of “group think” in the quest for better understandings. He pointed out that the molecules involved in inflammation and in the breakdown of tissues in MS are identical. Moreover, the same molecules are now known to be involved in the processes that lead to hypertension and arteriosclerosis.
The conference features 21 platform presentations and almost 50 posters, giving participants opportunities to review findings from studies ranging from basic science on MS genes and the immune response to therapy, care, and rehabilitation for people with MS.
The Tykeson Fellows Conference is set to continue through Friday [click here for more information about MS research].