Why quality education is crucial to medical research, advancements

A columnist explains how the US teacher shortage affects those with MG

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by Mark Harrington |

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On many weekends when I was a kid, my parents would take the family to the Boston Public Garden. We loved the iconic “Make Way for Ducklings” statues, inspired by the children’s book of the same name. During good weather, the gardens would fill with color, and no child could resist the legendary Swan Boats. It was a slice of heaven.

As we grew older, we became aware of the park’s monuments dedicated to the city and its residents. I was impressed by historical figures like Charles Sumner, Wendell Phillips, and George Washington, and wanted to learn more about them. These were among the more famous honorees.

But I was most in awe of the Ether Fountain. According to Friends of the Public Garden, the monument “honors the discovery of the anesthetic qualities of ether, first used in 1846 at Massachusetts General Hospital.” Two of its inscriptions read, “In gratitude for the relief of human suffering, …” and “Neither shall there be any more pain.” When I was younger, it impressed me that grown-ups would devote their lives to relieving others’ pain.

As an adult, I’m no less impressed.

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Holding Out Hope for the Day When Pain Shall Be No More

The importance of medical research

As a trained historian, I try to see the panorama of history. I teach my students that progress is not limited to the past, but also mandated by the present. One need not look far for examples of modern medical breakthroughs as important as the discovery of ether.

I live with myasthenia gravis (MG). Not long ago, an MG diagnosis may have meant a shortened life span, or a life much limited by the disease’s symptoms. Medical research changed the prognosis.

Since I began treatment with Vyvgart (efgartigimod alfa-fcab) 10 months ago, I’ve gained firsthand knowledge of the fruits of this research. In that time, I’ve had a few conversations with family and friends about the incredible nature of this medicine. Each time, we wonder at the intelligence of the women and men who developed it.

I’m grateful that these medical professionals devoted their careers to research that helps others. I wonder how they first became interested in rare disease research. How did their education lead them to breakthroughs such as Vyvgart?

The importance of education

As a classroom teacher, I know that educators play a crucial role in the development of young people who will become the next generation of medical researchers. So I was disturbed to read in a recent CBS News Texas article that, according to the Texas Education Agency, “more than 13% of the state’s teachers — nearly 50,000 of them — left the profession last year, making it the highest number on record.”

There are many reasons why so many teachers across the country are leaving the profession. But according to Myrianne Gable, one of six Texas teachers who spoke on a panel hosted by CBS, the biggest reason is “the disrespect.”

This issue relates directly to medical research. Without well-educated professionals, research fails. When research is unsuccessful or limited, advances in the treatment of rare diseases slows or come to an end.

But lack of access to decent education impacts more than medical research. According to a 2015 article published in the International Journal of Health Services, “Wages and income are not health outcomes, but are closely linked with health outcomes because they provide access to health-related resources, such as healthy food, a safe environment, and healthcare.”

Well-educated citizens have opportunities to research and develop treatments for rare diseases like MG. Education also leads to better health outcomes for all members of society. Quality education has no downside.

When our best and brightest turn away from teaching as a career, we are in trouble. When economically disadvantaged students no longer have teachers who inspire them to pursue careers in medicine, we ought to be concerned.

Our lives are on the line. We need to become part of the movement to end the teacher shortage crisis.

Note: Myasthenia Gravis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Myasthenia Gravis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to myasthenia gravis.


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