The importance of mentors: The annual meeting presentations of the lifetime achievement awards are an opportunity to reflect on the successful careers of our fellow members. The nominations tend to focus on the scientific and leadership achievements of the nominee which are always impressive. Just as interesting to me are the comments from the recipients. In their talks, there is a great focus on people, people who were early mentors, people who became collaborators and finally people who were students or other mentees of the recipient. The importance, the critical contributions of these individuals, as expressed by the recipients, is really a lesson in how successful careers develop. Post graduate careers begin for some in academic or industrial settings with a critical mass of mentors/collaborators. Others, like me, started in somewhat more isolated settings where one might be the only scientist pursuing in vitrobiology. In that setting, mentors from the Tissue Culture Association (TCA)/Society for In Vitro Biology become essential to provide guidance and intellectual support. I was fortunate that there were several members who contributed guidance willingly. I would like to tell you briefly about one: George E. Moore, MD/PhD. Dr. Moore was a surgical oncologist with a strong desire to understand cancer biology and therapeutic intervention at the cellular level. He was a long standing member of the TCA. At age 32, he was appointed as the director of the Roswell Park Memorial Institute (RPMI). His early work focused on oral cancers and was one of the first to associate tobacco use (in this case chewing tobacco) with oral cancers. He also developed one of the early large scale bioreactors for growing gram quantities of lymphocytes. Many in the SIVB will not know his name but will know the medium that he developed to grow lymphocytes and tumor cells: RPMI 1640. In 1973, he moved to Denver to become the chief of surgical oncology at Denver General Hospital. He was well noted for arriving to his basement laboratory with sterile specimen containers containing various tumors to be placed into culture. I would visit him and his laboratory regularly in the early 1980s seeking technical guidance, cell culture expertise and sometimes just reassurance. They had developed ~1,000 cell lines over the years and had faced almost every problem that I could encounter. He was always candid and fair. He saved me from many potential missteps. In his 2008 obituary, the writer provided a telling quote from the current director of what is now Roswell Park Cancer Institute in speaking of Dr. Moore, “He was also very much inclined to the investment in and facilitation of the careers of young people” and I would certainly agree.
I tell this story because I believe that there are many members of the SIVB with expertise and experience that would be extremely beneficial to members beginning their careers and/or embarking on new areas of research. I would challenge all of us to seek opportunities to share that wisdom.
I look forward to seeing everyone in Tampa, FL. We have a great meeting venue situated right on the inland water way. The annual meeting is also a time to become engaged in the society through committee activities and program development. One does not need to be a longstanding member to help shape the society. All are welcome.
John W. Harbell, President, SIVB