The last week I had a very good lesson I’d like to share. It is a bit of a contradiction with what I tried to do recently in the last two years, writing some thoughts and giving voice to some ideas and dreams, using social media like twitter etc…
A few days ago I went to a scientific meeting and I met an old colleague of mine, who was working -like me- in laboratory as a molecular geneticist many years ago. I was very glad to discover that he hadn’t changed so much, as he was one of the best creative and productive persons I had met during my scientific career. He had the same fine way to move, the calm tone of voice and the ensuring intelligent way to look into my eyes when we were talking. Listening.
He is now a professor but with a limited visibility in academia environment and we cannot find him in social media or other networking tools. Surprisily, and happily I can say, he didn’t only go on to study genes and discovered new mutations, helping in this way to elucidate mechanisms at the basis of genetic disorders, but in this new era of talking about patients’ role, patients’ organisations, patients’ voices etc… he is really working for them… and not only talking!!
I discovered he had been working since a while to empower patients and trying to give them other no-invasive ways to detect cancer. He was “working in the dark” and giving his great contribution for a better healthcare, spending time and energy to listen to patients, trying new methods and thinking, elaborating new diagnostic devices that can avoid pain and suffering for people.
What I learned from him was a good lesson: what we can miss during the temptative to find new ways to reshape healthcare and medical research now. Namely: the participatory leadership of “introverts people” who are not willing to be on stage, but, nevertheless, who are also real promoters of big changes and practical solutions.
Coming back home, I realised that nothing “new” lasted in my mind of all the speakers and the “leaders” I listened to at the congress. All of them recalled the need to involve patients but nothing was for me eye-opening news. On the contrary: I received the email of this colleague today saying this:
“Regarding working in the dark: I took a corresponding test: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/quiz/2012/mar/13/quiz-are-you-an-introvert. Guess what: I scored 20/20 – Terrible, isn’t it…….”
I have to say I was not surprised. I would like to say now through this blog to him : “thank you for being the scientist who works in the dark, avoiding the big public spaces and concentrating on what can make a difference for a patient, a new device or a new diagnostic tool!” Thank you my dear “introvert” friend! We need leaders like you, too, even you don’t call yourselves so!
“But occasionally, just occasionally, I hope you will open the suitcase up.. because the world needs you and what you carry.”
Video: TEDxTalk Long Beach 2012: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking