Kroll LIVE at Durham’s Intrepid Life Coffee & Spirits – Friday, May 9 – 9:00 PM

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I’m excited to announce that my 2014 spring tour of the three-county, Research Triangle region will kick off this Friday night at Intrepid Life Coffee & Spirits on Historic West Parrish Street in downtown Durham. I’ll start around 9:00 pm and play two, 75-minute sets.

I’ll be playing many of your old Dogs in the Yard classics from my band in Denver as well as some new and not-so-new original compositions. I’ve also gotten really excited about playing other great local music I’ve heard around the Triangle and on my last trip to Denver for the Association of Health Care Journalists meeting in late March (where I also had a nice night of jamming with Dan and Jay from the Dogs).

I’m particularly excited to be playing at Intrepid Life, my go-to coffee shop for business meetings in Durham. You’ve probably heard the story about the owner, Matt Victoriano, a Marine combat veteran who served two tours in Iraq.

He was first interviewed by WBUR’s Here and Now in Charlotte at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, where he had visions of opening a brewpub. Plans changed – not the least of it due to the challenges of small business loans for returning veterans – and we were fortunate that he chose Durham to open Intrepid Life Coffee & Spirits Bar.

The updated version of Matt’s story came earlier this year when Here and Now’s Robin Young caught up with him to check in. When I heard this story, I was impressed that the owner of Joe Van Gogh coffee roasters in Hillsborough loaned Matt equipment to get the place off the ground, instead of just thanking him for his service to the country.

So I emailed Matt when he opened the place and offered to play for free pretty much anytime to do my part to support his mission to advocate for veterans and progressive non-profits in his community space. Editor Lisa Sorg describes the vibe perfectly in her INDY Week piece last month.

So even if you don’t come to hear my sets, I encourage you to drop by Intrepid Life this Friday night, or anytime. If you can’t find street parking, you can try the city lot by Rue Cler and the Post Office, then just walk through Orange Street past Phoebe Lawless’s Scratch bakery.

I have a soft spot for people with the guts to volunteer their lives to serve in the military for this country. My Dad was a Marine and Heather’s been working at the VA hospital in Durham for almost two years. And my longtime Texas songwriting idol, Darden Smith, has been using his musical prowess to help veterans process their emotions through songwriting retreats – a project appropriately called SongwritingWith:Soldiers.

Matt has made an investment in our community so I hope that we can all make an investment in him – and in downtown Durham.


Congratulations to Anton Zuiker on 10 years of blogging!

Anton Zuiker, author of the mistersugar blog, posted Friday on the occasion of his 10th anniversary of blogging.

Here was my comment:

Congratulations, Anton! Your love for a good story and selfless innovative thinking about community infected me five years ago and I consider myself extremely enriched by having you in my real and online life.

This history is beautiful and heartfelt – I am certain that Frank the Beachcomber was and is proud of what you’ve done here and what you’ve become elsewhere. Not just Anton The Writer, but Anton the father, husband, friend, and community leader. Even if you simply launched ScienceOnline, your international impact would be something to be proud of for anyone’s lifetime.

Heartiest congratulations, my friend!

Anton wrote a lovely post detailing his path over the last ten years of an effort spurred by his wish to honor the lifelong writing and storytelling of his dying grandfather. Very much like his compatriot and co-founder of the science communications unconference now known as ScienceOnline, Anton had a vision that the online community can also be a vehicle to improving one’s local, IRL community.

Four months after I started blogging, I had the chance to meet Anton and Bora (and Ayse and Jackson Fox) at a BlogTogether meetup in Chapel Hill. A door had been opened to me that has brought these and other remarkable people into my life. I never blogged about it because it was at a time when I was fiercely protective of my identity and made no reference to my IRL existence. It’s been a gift to live in the same community with these fine folks.

And if you’re wondering about the origin of “mistersugar” and the pig avatar, go to Anton’s “About” page. “Mistersugar” is easy to figure out but I could never have guessed what was up with the pig.

Go on over and congratulate Anton on a decade of great things.

Support for Duke breast cancer colleagues post-Potti

I came home yesterday and looked at the mail with a shudder: the Summer 2010 issue of the biannual Duke Medicine DukeMed magazine greeted me with a cover on personal genomics in breast cancer.

Oh no.

As a twice-yearly publication, it was probably published weeks ago and was sitting in a warehouse ready for mailing. All this while when The Cancer Letter broke the story about credentials issues surrounding Dr. Anil Potti and raised awareness of widespread criticism in the field surrounding work from him and Dr. Joe Nevins on genomic signatures and drug sensitivity of patient tumors (our post with links to reports here).

Indeed, Potti and Nevins were still quoted therein (article text here, full issue 4 MB PDF here):

“Genomics will revolutionize cancer therapy,” says cancer researcher Anil Potti, MD. “It allows us to identify a fingerprint that’s unique to every individual patient’s tumor. If you can match that fingerprint with the drug that’s most likely to work for that patient, you can make cancer treatment more effective and less toxic. It brings us closer to a cure.”

Potti and Joseph Nevins, PhD, of the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy, have led the effort to look at gene expression profiles from large groups of tumor samples and compare those profiles with treatment outcomes, searching for patterns (or genomic signatures) that indicate the “personality types” of tumors — those that are likely to metastasize or not; those with good prognosis and poor prognosis; a tumor that is resistant to a drug or one that is sensitive to a drug.

But the vast majority of the article featured several other Duke oncology physician-scientists with quotes and profile photographs on other efforts there to personalize breast cancer treatment. Several of these folks are colleagues who I respect deeply and whose scientific ethics and clinical dedication are beyond question – all are tremendous physicians who’ve relieved the suffering of thousands of women with breast cancer (perhaps a couple tens of thousands – and a couple of hundred men with breast cancer as well.)  One I recognize as a heme/onc fellow I taught in an AACR laboratory workshop over 10 years ago.

Just as many of my esteemed colleagues in the pharmaceutical industry are tarred with sweeping generalizations following high-profile but individual cases of unforgivable impropriety, I fear that some of my valued Duke colleagues may be similarly viewed by the broad public.

I recognize that the pending internal and external investigation of the Potti case may reveal some collusion of institutional leadership and culture.

However, I wish to register my personal and professional support for my other Duke colleagues quoted in this issue of DukeMed.

If my mother had a recurrence of her breast cancer or could gain access to an experimental treatment in a clinical trial outside of those based on Potti’s science, I would still send her there in a heartbeat.

Disclosure: I was co-author with one of the named physician-scientists on a 2004 Journal of Clinical Oncology case report of a breast cancer patient who experienced a delayed-hypersensitivity reaction during chemotherapy following injection of a mistletoe extract by a naturopath. Another co-author was my spouse, a former Duke physician-scientist. Since 2001, I’ve also held an adjunct faculty appointment at Duke and am a member of their NCI comprehensive cancer center. I draw no salary or other compensation from these appointments.

Wake Tech Community College stands out in national faculty workplace survey

The Chronicle of Higher Education has just published its survey results for the 2010 edition of Great Colleges to Work For (in the United States). The entire methodology is behind a paywall but here’s what I can share without violating the conditions of my personal subscription:

This year The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Great Colleges to Work For survey is based on responses from more than 43,000 people, at 275 institutions. Four-year colleges and universities accounted for 221 of the institutions, and two-year colleges for 54.

Approximately 20,000 of the people responding were faculty members, more than 14,800 were professional staff members, and 8,100 were administrators. The survey was sent to more than 100,000 people, with an overall response rate of 45 percent. The assessment was administered by ModernThink LLC, a human-resources-consulting firm based in Wilmington, Del. Its survey instrument is based on an assessment that has been used in 55 Best Places to Work programs involving more than 4,000 organizations. A panel of higher-education experts has helped to customize the survey to reflect issues unique to colleges.

In our neck of the woods, three North Carolina institutions made the list of 97: Duke University, Elon University, and Wake Technical Community College.

Wake Tech is particularly noteworthy because it was the only one of North Carolina’s 58 community colleges to rank on the Honor Roll of those institutions with the largest number of category recognitions: Collaborative Governance, Job Satisfaction, Confidence in Senior Leadership, Supervisor/Department-Chair Relationship, Respect & Appreciation.

While Elon was recognized for many of the same categories, Duke University’s recognition was restricted to facilities, workspaces, and security.

As regular readers know, I’ve been a big fan of community colleges and their lower cost makes many of these programs accessible to a wider range of students.  Most impressive to me is that Wake Tech was only one of nine, two-year colleges in the US to make this list, and only one of three with more than 10,000 students.

I’ve had the opportunity to work with graduates of Wake Tech’s biopharmaceutical technology program and have been uniformly impressed by their excellence in both the classroom and the laboratory. So, heartiest congratulations to my colleagues at Wake Tech!

Happy, valued faculty seem to make for outstanding students.

What a revolutionary idea.

The Buzz of Bora – The community shows its benevolence

Click the button below to donate to The “I Owe Bora” Benevolence Fund.

Details are at the end of this post. If you have any questions, Gmail me to abelpharmboy.

With all of the ScienceBlogs bashing that has come out the the Pepsigate/SbFAIL episode and subsequent blogger diaspora (renamed “The DiasBora” by Ed Yong at Discover’s Not Exactly Rocket Science), I have to say that it has been an honorable gesture for the network to feature the departure of Bora Zivkovic on the frontpage “buzz” for two consecutive days.

Bora’s manifesto on the history and future of science blogging, networks, and the legacy media is truly a classic piece. View it here at his relocated blog and be sure to bookmark him while you are there. Although it may already be considered “published,” I would strongly recommend that he consider sending it to a scholarly journal. Of course, he may think that it already has a wider audience now than it could in a staid, old format – hey Bora, how ’bout one of them newfangled open access journals?

Nevertheless, all of the associated posts on that frontpage and elsewhere acknowledge the far-reaching influence of Bora in cultivating community, online and in real-life, pay tribute to someone that we all hold dear, literally, world-wide.

I wrote in a tweet a couple of days ago that Bora’s example holds a great lesson for my friends who make a living in personal branding and marketing. Bora is a connector who cares more about other people than, I think, himself. Bora also doesn’t care who gets credit for innovations in communication, only that the innovations happen and benefit us all. For that, he is widely loved and respected, even when people disagree with his arguments. As his wife Catharine noted elsewhere, we just need to find a way to get him a working wage for the  his invaluable skills.

If you aren’t on Twitter or hadn’t realized it, Ed Yong suggested that all of us having tributes to Bora post our tweets with the #IOweBora hashtag. You can read the growing thread here.

Although Bora is culturally Jewish but a practicing atheist, I can’t help but remembering a church response from my days learning calculus from Sister Agnes Mary in the Jersey Meadowlands:

It is right to give him thanks and praise.

But let’s take “I Owe Bora” to a new and literal level. Lots of you know that he has been in a bit of financial difficulty and I know that he’s too proud to ask for help. In standing for his principles, he’s giving up over $100/month from ScienceBlogs and the network is still two months behind on their payments. Several people have asked me how they might help out The Blogfather.

So, I’d like to put up a PayPal donation button for all of us to show our appreciation to Bora and put our money where our mouths are (and tweets and posts are). This is an authentic request and you can hold me trustworthy – I live 10 mi/16 km from Bora and this is the same PayPal account I used to accept banquet payments for the ScienceOnline2010 meeting. When you donate, you will get a confirmatory e-mail from my personal, real-name account. Bora knows where I live so he will hunt me down if I do not hand over every penny to him, minus whatever PayPal charges are incurred based on how you pay.

Click the button below to donate to The “I Owe Bora” Benevolence Fund.

You can use credit, debit, or your own PayPal account.

As an incentive I will keep a donor acknowledgment roll on a separate page and will link to your blog, Twitter account, professional site, business site – whatever – just send me the URL in an e-mail or if the comment box is big enough. However, I won’t list the amounts because the point is to thank Bora within the confines of your own financial means. If you don’t wish for your name or blog to appear, let me know in the comment box on the donation page. Of course, these contributions are not tax-deductible but you will have the satisfaction of knowing you have helped out the man who has helped all of us.

Review of Times Right Now by smokin’ Piedmont acoustic singer-songwriter, Jon Shain

Jon Shain and his Trio will be performing this evening (Saturday, July 17) at The Soul Cafe in Durham, NC, together with Washington, DC’s The Grandsons and Pat Wictor. The Soul Cafe is an alcohol-free venue near Durham’s Brightleaf Square. Sadly, I’m out of town and can’t attend – but you should. Click here for more information on tonight’s show from Jon’s Facebook page.
Times Right Now cover.jpgTimes Right Now is the 6th album by Piedmont Blues guitarist Jon Shain since he went solo in 1998 after a decade with his folk-rock group, Flyin’ Mice, and their spinoff, WAKE.
Shain’s album covers as much diverse ground as you might expect from a Jewish boy from a Massachusetts milltown who came to Duke to major in American history and seek the mentorship of legends in the Piedmont blues style (biography here). There’s something for everyone on this album regardless of one’s musical preferences.
Perhaps the greatest departure for Jon is the partnership with The Grandsons from DC who add a layer of vintage horns not normally seen on previous albums. Hailing largely from DC, The Grandson bring a self-described “pawn shop of instruments” to the effort. Together with members of his time-tested trio, FJ Ventre on bass, Bill Newton on harmonica, and John Currie on dobro, Times Right Now is a work of finesse and strong songwriting and musicianship while also serving up a few earbugs for even the casual listener.
Self produced with Scottsburg Jonze and Jackson Hall, it’s the fresh mixing of Chris Stamey that comes to the forefront from the first note. Stamey, a long ago member of the dBs and outstanding guitarist in his own right most recently partnering with his old mate, Peter Holsapple, has made a consistent name for himself with his recording and production skills. Stamey brings the clarity and authenticity of each instrument to the overall mix and Holsapple even shows up for a guest appearance. After listening to Auto-Tune-worked songs and sampling loops out the wazoo elsewhere, it’s truly refreshing to hear exquisite playing that doesn’t skimp on melody and hooks.

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Jason Dorsette: Maximizing collegiate success for African-American men

pic2.jpgIn the 18 years from my first faculty appointment, one of the most satisfying parts of the journey has been watching students come through my life who you can tell – you just “know” – are going to make a huge difference in the world. (I previously wrote of one of these here, Arizona clinical pharmacist, Sandra Leal, PharmD.)

Well, two years ago, I was at the kickoff of a Juneteenth celebration at my new institution and was immediately drawn to this striking young man who, after speaking with him for a spell, convinced me that he was going to be one of these kinds of students.

It’s not just that he stands out from a crowd because he’s taller than me. Anyone who has met Jason Dorsette will tell you that the man just simply exudes warmth and elegance. And not just because he is literally tall, dark, and handsome. He makes you feel welcomed, listened to, and valued. You see him making an impact in everything he touches, from leading the NCCU Graduate Student Association to building through Habitat for Humanity to leading a new university initiative to cultivate young African-American men for collegiate success.

I view Mr. Dorsette as a role model. And I’m just a professor from a completely different discipline.

In our continuing series reviewing issues raised at the Centennial HBCU Symposium in Research Triangle Park, NC on June 3-4, 2010, I want you to know more about Jason Dorsette. I have no doubt that you will hear much more about him in the years to come.

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Brian Kennedy on the continued relevance of HBCUs

As launched with yesterday’s post, we’ll be spending this week presenting my impressions of a symposium held on June 3-4, 2010, entitled, “Setting the Agenda for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.” Sponsored by North Carolina Central University, one of five HBCUs in the University of North Carolina system, this gathering of national education leaders culminated a year long celebration of the centennial of the 1910 founding of the institution by businessman, teacher, and pharmacist, Dr. James E. Shepard.
A native of Raleigh, Shepard earned a Ph.G. in pharmacy (the original pharmacy degree) in 1894 from the Leonard Medical School at Shaw University. After establishing the first pharmacy in Durham that served African-American clientele, Shepard was central to the founding of two institutions that established the Bull City as a beacon of Black business activity in the South: the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company (1898) and Mechanics & Farmers Bank (1907).
HBCUs have tended to focus on their rich history of struggle and accomplishment but the symposium focused on moving forward as an institution in today’s highly-competitive higher education landscape and global economy. Scholars far more qualified than I have held forth on the continued relevance of the HBCU.
But as a white professor from the North at a HBCU, what I find most refreshing is learning from students about how the HBCU experience is relevant to them – today. I want to share one example with you in this post.
Brian Kennedy is a native of the Charlottesville, Virginia area and is a rising junior in political science at NCCU. He was recently elected vice-president of the NCCU Student Government Association. Brian qualifications could have easily gotten him into UVa, or any university for that matter, but he chose only to apply to Howard University and NCCU. (This reminds me of a Temple University commercial on Philadelphia television stations in the early 1980s featuring Bill Cosby speaking about specific students and their qualification with his tagline, “She could’ve gone anywhere. She chose Temple.”)
On day one of the HBCU Symposium, Brian gave the lunch address in a session entitled, Student Matters: Manifestations of the HBCU Experience. Brian was swamped with attention following the session but he took time later in the day to share with Terra Sigillata readers the highlights of his talk. Toward the end we also shared a few laughs as to whether students want blogging professors in their social media affairs.

Many thanks to Mr. Kennedy for talking with us about his talk and his own influences and motivations for choosing to attend a HBCU.

NCCU Centennial HBCU Symposium – Setting the Agenda for Historically Black Colleges and Universities

HBCU Symposium.jpg
On June 3rd and 4th, I had the pleasure of attending a fabulous program on the modern role and future sustainability of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the United States. The HBCU Symposium: Setting the Agenda for Historically Black Colleges and Universities was the culmination of the 100th anniversary of the founding of North Carolina Central University (NCCU).
NCCU is one of five HBCUs in the University of North Carolina system and among 11 such institutions of higher learning in the state (list and links here). I currently serve on the faculty of this institution.
For those unfamiliar, HBCUs were classified by President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Higher Education Act of 1965 as institutions established prior to 1964 with the intention of providing higher education to the Black community. There remain 105 such institutions today, primarily in established former slave states following the Civil War.
However, the original HBCUs were founded in the North prior to the Civil War by the generosity of Quaker, Episcopalian, and other abolitionist supporters of the day: what is now Cheyney University (1837) and Lincoln University (1854) in Pennsylvania and Wilberforce University (1856) in Ohio.
Our September 2008 post for National HBCU Week provides more introductory background on these institutions as well as a round-up of commentary around the blogosphere on the continued relevance of these institutions.
It is important to note that the special federal classifications of these institutions was not meant for any preferential treatment of Black students but rather simple parity with historically White institutions. But among public HBCUs, state higher education funding per student averages about 3/5ths that of historically White institutions, a fraction whose irony is not lost on me.

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Catherine Clabby covers Frank Stasio (WUNC-FM’s The State of Things) for Durham Magazine

Homer alert.
The title pretty much covers three of some of my favorite things about living in Durham, NC. From the Pharmboy mailbox and Durham Magazine website:

Catherine Clabby – former reporter extraordinaire for The News & Observer, current editor extraordinaire for American Scientist magazine and a long-time Durhamite extraordinaire – spent hours finding out why The State of Things host Frank Stasio has fallen head-over-heels for Durham. Sometimes it takes an outsider to help us all appreciate how good we have it. Frank’s doing that in a big way, both through his work at NPR and in his day-to-day life. Good on you, Frank and Catherine.

stasio2.jpgThe focus of the article in the magazine extraordinaire, Durham Magazine, is Frank Stasio, host and interviewer extraordinaire of his noontime show, The State of Things, on our NPR affiliate, WUNC-FM, and the statewide North Carolina Public Radio network. Like many of us, Frank is a transplant (from DC in the case of his family) but has seized upon his new home with all the gusto of a Chamber of Commerce booster. I have learned more from Frank about music, writers, community, health, recycling, and hog farms than from any other venue in the state. The description of his show is:

The State of Things is a live program hosted by Frank Stasio devoted to bringing the issues, personalities, and places of North Carolina to our listeners. We present the Tar Heel experience through sound, story, discussion, commentary and listener participation through calls.

I should also mention Frank’s unsung hero, producer Katy Barron, with whom I had the pleasure of working during last year’s U2 academic conference and a recent book author tour. Garnering a photo from a studio glass reflection in the article, Katy is the ethereal presence of The State of Things, scheduling talent, listening to their music or reading their books in advance, and helping Frank stay on top of everything. Katy is the head of the production staff to which Frank deflects any compliment.
They run a civilized operation from one of the most comfortable radio stations I’ve ever sat in, offering glasses of hot tea to guests from their central location in the American Tobacco Campus, Durham’s example of warehouse revitalization.

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