Report on Women’s Health Institute Lecture, “Female Athlete and Concussion” AND My Observations on The Birthing of Medical Research. Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) October 1, 2018 by Calvin Schwartz
What motivated this reporter to want to attend a clinical lecture (Wednesday September 26th 2018) on concussions in the clinical setting of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH)? A plethora of inducements. A month ago, I was appointed to the Advisory Committee of the Women’s Health Institute at Rutgers RWJ (a long story) so I need to expand horizons, grasps, cerebral focus. I love college sports, both genders, and my alma mater, Rutgers, but I worry about athletes, concussions and long-term health concerns. Today there is a significant reduction in youth playing football; worries of health concerns, concussions. High schools are giving up football for lack of interest. Beginnings of grass roots disinterest? Then, there was the researcher, scientist, recent Princeton neuro-science graduate, AND Olympic Athlete (2016), TEAM USA Fencing Team, anticipating 2020 Olympics, Katherine Holmes, who was conducting the lecture along with her Princeton University mentor, Dr. Annegret Dettwiler. Indeed, the best of all worlds for me to be there.
I took ten pages of notes. I’m not about to plunge into the world of neuro-science, the female athlete and concussion and why females respond differently (less severity, a built-
in protection?) to concussion. Perhaps hormonal and I’ll leave it at that.
Cut to the beginning when Katherine Holmes talked fencing with John Gantner, President and Chief Executive Officer of Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) in New Brunswick. Katherine (Kat) trains eight hours a day for the Olympics where fencing was one of the first sports to be included. Gantner asked if she had a sword with her. Moments later, a complete demonstration with equipment, including the helmet which is actually bullet proof. Kat competes in Eppe fencing, where you can hit the opponent anywhere on the body. Gantner delighted me, when he asked practical considerations like travelling on airplanes with equipment (swords). Things you don’t ponder.
The lecture was organized by Dr. Gloria Bachmann, Director of Women’s Health Institute and attended by a few dozen physicians, scientists, professors, Middlesex County Arts & History, Diversity and Inclusion Leader, Rutgers Targum reporter, and NJ Discover(me). The scope, depth, breadth of the research undertaken by Kat Holmes is overwhelming for me (with a six-year Rutgers Pharmacy education), but I hung in there, understanding the critical nature of concussions and impact on society, including all sports, our culture, sociology and general well-being.
Hours end, most physicians had patients, rounds and an operation. A small group with Dr. Bachmann, Katherine and Dr. Dettwiler and several pre-eminent physician/researchers re-convened to talk about advancing the concussion research that was presented. I hung around, fascinated, privileged, intrigued, inspired and hugely silent, just absorbing. The bright bulb (epiphany) went off. I was witnessing the ‘Birth of a Research Project on Concussions’. The scientists at this Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School could work together with Kat and Dr. Dettwiler.
For me this was all thrilling. To be at the beginning, a conception, implementation, practical applications; all aspects of rounding up the troops to undertake such integral research. Questions floated that I understood; subject pool, trauma registry, starting points, data available, queries, time frames, feasibility, prospective, data base. I loved listening to the input, construction, thought processes. The incredible minds and experience sitting at the table. For me, at the end point, results down the road; a better understanding, treatment, prevention of concussions for women and men athletes, general populations. And way down the road, so I day dreamed a bit, when perhaps the NY Giants Football team beginning at training camp, in August, would roll up their sleeves for some preventive medicine, so concussions would not be as relevant. Research is a wonderful thing.
Why I was there? To dream, understand, to get out of the house, away from the TV and computer and absorb just a piece of the world. In summation, today, a three-letter word; WOW!