“It has a lot to do with luck,” Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee said in response to a question from a Chief Sealth student during his talk about cancer research, “but you have to be listening.”
It was luck, perhaps, that saw the warming of the air, the melting of the snow, and allowed Dr. Mukherjee to arrive successfully on a flight from Los Angeles and head to Chief Sealth International High School, where he spoke to a group of 100 students from chemistry, history, and language arts classes.
The students prepared for Mukherjee's talk by reading the first two chapters of his book, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. The result? A highly intellectual, scientific talk on cancer--how cancer genes look, the history of its development in study, and what kind of treatments we can expect for the future.
Dean of Students Lori Douglas remarked that Mukherjee was “able to speak to students on a level that made sense to them yet at the same time made them feel smart by helping them understand something as complicated as cancer.” The students posed questions about the history of the disease, the current state of research, and one student asked if it were “really plausible to find a drug that targets all the different mutations?"
“Fabulous important question,” Mukherjee said in response, and then proceeded to explain how researchers learn about cancer from other kinds of cancer, as they all share similar properties, like a human face.
“Words matter,” Dr. Mukherjee said, because how this disease is spoken of can change the course of research and treatment. Indeed, words matter: in medicine, in our community, and in our schools. Mukherjee’s talk was a collaborative effort born of intelligent questions from students and insightful knowledge from one of the world's leading cancer researchers--all in the pursuit of developing strong voices. "It falls on you," Dr. Mukherjee said, referring to the future of cancer research. "Your generation is next."