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Scholar Retreat

September 11–14, 2008

Chaired By

 David E. Fisher, MD, PhD of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Meeting Description

The Scholar Retreat held annually, invites scholars and mentors to attend a 3-day meeting. This meeting focuses on bringing junior scientists together from various areas of cancer research. The collaborations and innovative ideas that come from this meeting have been numerous and outstanding. The mentors provide great guidance regarding science and career for these junior scientists.

At the Retreat, the Scholars share their research with the other Scholars and Mentors. Each Scholar will participate in four sequential retreats, with all expenses paid by WGFRF. The opportunity for Scholars to connect and form relationships with researchers from completely different areas of cancer research and to have a sort of peer review is one of the most valuable roles of the Retreat. Through the Mentors, the Retreat offers Scholars guidance on practical career issues such as writing grants and preparing successful scientific publications.

Each year, the Scholar Retreat coincides with the Foundation’s annual ‘Blue Jean Ball’ fundraiser. All Scholars attend this event, providing them an opportunity to meet with families whose lives have been directly affected by cancer. This experience resonates particularly with scientists who, unlike clinicians, do not have contact with patients, by putting a human face on cancer.

Meeting Summary

The 2008 Scholars’ Retreat was held in September 2008 at Lake Geneva, representing the 4th year since the birth of this program. The event was a smashing success. The Retreat is an annual meeting which is attended by the most current 4 years of Forbeck Scholars in addition to a panel of faculty mentors. The meeting follows the Forbeck Forum model of up to 5 slides maximum, with extensive scientific exchange and discussion. However, there are several important distinctions of this meeting, relative to the Forum, distinctions which significantly impact the experience for the scholars.

Scholars Retreats are attended by young cancer researchers who inherently focus on a diverse cross section of topics within the field of oncology or related disciplines within biomedical research. Since Scholars are selected on the basis of their achievements as well as the focus of the Forum which they attend, the mixing of Scholars from different years brings together unique combinations of expertise.

In addition to the diversity of scientific subject matter, the Scholars are also diverse in their stages of professional development. While some are still working within a mentor’s lab, others (on the older end of the spectrum) are likely to have started their own independent laboratories. This mix of “seniority” provides a novel opportunity for the attendees to learn the inside scoop from friends and colleagues who have recently “been there” for many of the challenges inherent in a biomedical research career. For example, extensive discussions involve faculty job searches, negotiations, compensation (start-up packages), grant writing strategies, “how to get invited to a meeting,” or “how to get invited to write a review.” Other notable topics include “how to respond to journal editors” and “is it better to publish two small stories or one large story” and “how to manage scientific collaborations without losing credit for your work.”

This year’s attendees were a particularly animated group. The quality of the science was outstanding. The very best technologies were routinely employed, and every scholar had a truly interesting story to tell. Although their discoveries are too extensive to review here, it is abundantly clear that the Retreat was housing future leaders in multiple important research areas.

Five faculty mentors also attended. Although they tried their best to keep up with their younger colleagues at the bar, not all of them succeeded (the younger generations seem to be breaking records). But mentors’ scientific presentations proceeded as among a collection of peers. I know I can speak for the other mentors in saying that the “learning” was happening with equal flux in both directions. Fortunately, there were at least a few morsels of career advice which the mentors could offer, to exploit their greater experience, if not age. The keynote speaker was Chuck Sherr from St. Jude’s Hospital, who participated together with the other mentors Anindya Dutta, Martine Roussel, Norman Sharpless, and David Fisher.

Forum Participants

Edward Attiyeh, MD
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
 Forbeck Scholar

Nabeel Bardeesy, PhD
Massachusetts General Hospital
 Forbeck Scholar

Carla F. Bender Kim, PhD
Boston Children's Hospital
 Forbeck Scholar

Kristina Cole, MD, PhD
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
 Forbeck Scholar

Anindya Dutta, MD, PhD
University of Virginia
 Retreat Mentor

Benjamin L. Ebert, MD, PhD
Harvard Medical School
 Forbeck Scholar

David E. Fisher, PhD
Massachusetts General Hospital
 Retreat Mentor

Catriona Jamieson, MD, PhD
University of California San Diego
 Forbeck Scholar

Kimberly Kelly, PhD
University of Virginia
 Forbeck Scholar

Anthony Letai, MD, PhD
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
 Forbeck Scholar

Jun Lu, PhD
Yale School of Medicine
 Forbeck Scholar

Ingo K. Mellinghoff, MD
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
 Forbeck Scholar

Carl Novina, MD, PhD
Harvard Medical School
 Forbeck Scholar

Kimryn Rathmell, MD, PhD
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
 Forbeck Scholar

Martine Roussel, PhD
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
 Retreat Mentor

Michael Safran, PhD
Sheba Cancer Research Center
 Forbeck Scholar

Norman Sharpless, MD
University of North Carolina
 Retreat Mentor

Charles Sherr, MD, PhD
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
 Retreat Mentor

Andrea Ventura, MD, PhD
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
 Forbeck Scholar

Benjamin B. Williams, PhD
Dartmouth Medical School
 Forbeck Scholar

Joseph C. Wu, MD, PhD
Stanford University
 Forbeck Scholar