Inspiration can come from anywhere. But back when I was trying to decide which academic path to follow, it was reading about medicines derived from nature that pushed me towards science and medicine.
Antibiotics from mould, chemotherapy from pine trees, analgesics from willow trees and treatment for heart failure from foxgloves. It all fascinated me. So why didn’t I pursue pharmacology or pharmacy?
Jeff Goldblum. That’s why.
I saw him play James Watson in a BBC adaptation of Watson’s book The Double Helix : A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA and I was hooked on DNA. I wanted to know more about the secrets held within those beautifully intertwined strands of molecular code. Code that was hidden deep within cells, code that could spell new life or certain death.
How could our DNA, when combined with another person’s DNA, result in a fully formed human being in just a mere 9 months? Everything from eyelashes to liver function was coded for. Amazing.
What about when it doesn’t go to plan though? Trisomy 21, Klinefelter’s syndrome, the philadelphia chromosome…discovering the genetics of all these situations and so many more was like finding the key to Willie Wonka’s factory. I’d found the golden ticket and could stay as long as I wanted. It was magical and all that knowledge was just waiting to be devoured.
After 4 years though, I knew lab-based research wasn’t for me. Just to make sure, I worked as a cytogeneticist for a year. But I missed the desk research of my undergraduate years. The weaving of facts into coherent arguments, the moulding of conclusions and the crafting of sentences that were both grammatically and scientifically correct.
So I turned to the world of pharmaceuticals. Writing and reporting not consuming, obviously.
12 years later, I still love it. Diabetes, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, pulmonary arterial hypertension, overactive bladder, ankylosing spondylitis, glaucoma. Every day is different and although I’ve written about most therapeutic areas over the years, the pharmaceutical industry very kindly keeps launching new drugs and publishing new data for me to discover. New facts to weave into detail aids and infographic videos. New survival rates to report on, the many facets of personalised medicine to explore, new graphs to animate.
It’s an amazing job. Thanks for inspiring me Jeff.