This is my last Keeping in Touch column for Quest magazine. After nearly 55 years of service to MDA, I decided to retire, effective December 31, 2011.
Curing muscular dystrophy has been a labor of love for me and will continue to be a focus in my life. But, at age 82, I’ve been contemplating retirement for the past few years, and I believe now is the right time for me to step aside and let others lead this great cause.
MDA is bigger than any single person. It’s a dynamic energy fueled by knowledge, passion, perseverance and commitment. None of us who have worked in behalf of MDA will ever truly be gone from this organization. It lives in us, and vice versa.
Over the years, people have sometimes asked me, “Why does research take so long?” Believe me, I understand and share the sense of urgency underlying this question. But, as you’ll learn in the article, Why Does It Take So Long to Go from Mouse to Man?, what looks like delay and lack of progress really are steps in an exacting process designed to ensure that a therapy has a positive impact without causing toxic side effects.
In other words, progress isn’t always easy to see. It’s made up of many, many small steps that, taken separately, seem inconsequential, but added together lead to the cures and treatments we seek. Back when I started with MDA in 1957, I couldn’t have imagined the dramatic research advances that would occur, step by step, over the course of my career.
What small steps can each of us take this year to help defeat muscle disease?
Well first, we can get involved in the fight. Research — and most especially the clinical trial process — is enormously expensive. There are many ways to support neuromuscular disease research — in Getting Involved, you’ll find a description of one of them: MDA’s Shamrocks program. These little clover-shaped paper mobiles contribute mightily to MDA’s research program.
Secondly, we can speak up. Through MDA’s Advocacy program, “Take 5,” each of us can take five minutes to contact our legislators about supporting legislation that funds neuromuscular disease research and the needs of people living with disability.
And lastly, we can stay healthy and fit, both physically and mentally, so we can stay in this fight for the long run. This issue of Quest offers several ideas for doing just that. And, as former MDA Goodwill Ambassador Mattie Stepanek always encouraged us, we can remember to play after every storm.
I will miss you all, but you will always be in my heart. Never forget: Together we make it happen!
Gerald C. Weinberg
President & CEO