Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Very Different Folks...

I know that it is probably unfair to write about individuals with contrasting styles in the same post but sometimes I can’t resist.  I ran across these two women in Hullabaloo and was struck by their fundamental differences.  The first person has contributed nothing to improving anyone’s life but her own but she is famous.  The second person is largely unknown but has indirectly helped every single person in this country.  I couldn’t resist.   
The following statement is from the first person I stumbled into, the ex-Governor of Alaska.  The occasion for her remarks was the Beck/Palin “Event” in Alaska last week-end that marked the ninth anniversary of 9/11.   Folks actually paid money to hear the two speak.  That in itself is a wonderment.  This gem of gems is pure, vintage Palin.  [Here]
This Statue of Liberty was gifted to us by foreign leaders, really as a warning to us, it was a warning to us to stay unique and to stay exceptional from other countries.  Certainly not to go down the path of other countries that adopted socialist policies.
I promise not to talk about Sarah’s grammar.  Palin gets going in one of her monologues, gets carried away with a side thought and then gallops into the darkness, casting aside logic, historical fact and common sense in her pursuit of the scent of her own, skewed ideological ideas.  
The exact opposite to the trajectory of Sarah Palin’s career from failed beauty queen to failed Vice President candidate to Quitter Governor is the long life and career of Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey, the 96-year old pharmacologist who is about to be honored by the FDA for her long service to the agency and her many contributions to us all, the most famous of which was preventing the introduction of thalidomide into this country.
Dr. Kelsey’s personal story is one of long, devoted service to others, most of whom she never met. [Here
She was born Frances Kathleen Oldham in Cobble Hill on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.  She attended McGill University, receiving a B.Sc in 1934 and a M.Sc. in pharmacology the next year.  After graduation and on the advice of a teacher, she wrote to Dr. E.M.K. Geiling, who was starting a new pharmacology department at the University of Chicago.  Dr. Geiling’s acceptance letter was addressed to Francis, not Frances, Oldham,  obviously assuming that she was a man.  Dr. Kelsey did not correct his spelling and went off to Chicago to join his staff to begin her career.  We are all healthier because of Dr. Geiling’s initial mispelling of Dr. Kelsey’s first name.
The year after she joined Dr. Geiling’s research staff, Dr. Kelsey received her Ph.D. in pharmacology. That was the same year that our Congress passed the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.  (It almost seems as if Dr. Kelsy’s career and the FDA were fated to be together.)  She later went on to receive an M.D.  In 1960, after some years teaching, she joined the FDA, one of only seven full-time doctors, reviewing the applications of new drugs.  
One of her first assignments was reviewing the application from Richardson Merrell for a new drug called Kevadon (generic name was thalidomide) prescribed to ease pregnant women’s discomfort of morning sickness.  Dr. Kelsey’s doubts and persistence in asking for more information caused delay in the agency’s granting approval for use of the drug in this country.  In the meantime, disturbing reports about horrible birth defects from the use of the drug began filtering in from Europe where it had been freely prescribed.  
Dr. Kelsy’s caution and research saved thousands of American babies from the effects of thalidomide-induced birth defects.  In 1962 Dr. Kelsy received the Presidential Award for Distinguished Civilian Service from President Kennedy for her role in blocking the use of the drug.
No one outside the agency would have noticed if it hadn’t been for a front page story in the Washington Post by a young reporter, Morton Mintz.  The story had legs. [Here]  That young journalist spent the rest of his career, tracking down corporate crime.  Sen. Hubert Humphrey opened hearings in the Senate that led to granting more power to the FDA.  Dr. Kelsy continued her distinguished career at the FDA that lasted for 45 years.  She retired a few years ago at age 90. 
The FDA has now created the Kelsey Award, which will be given annually to an outstanding member of the Agency.  The first recipient will be the splendid Dr. Frances Kelsey.
The nation thanks you, Dr. Kelsey...

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