My personal hero for the day, the week, and possibly the year: Dr. Paul Greengard

I interrupt my blogging hiatus to bring to your attention something that I totally missed- for like 8 years.

A story in the Huffington Post today by Nell Scovell entitled “The man who loves women who love science”  caught my eye. I started reading thinking- ho hum- gee this will be kinda interesting- Paul Greengard– my first job as a tech in a research lab was for one of his former postdocs, plus he won the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 2004- so the name rings a bell…. wonder what this will be about….

When I finished reading, I had tears in my eyes. Actually, I didn’t even get through the second paragraph:

“I’ve seen many terrible examples of prejudice against women,” Dr. Greengard said on the phone recently. “It’s built-in and people don’t even realize it. When I first announced the prize, there was an article saying I was giving money to help women in the sciences. I got 500 emails from women, each of which would make you cry. It made me realize the enormous amount of discrimination that still occurs. A lot of women are suffering more than we realize.” (This quote is from the HuffPo article)

before I started to cry. Maybe they were tears of relief. Relief at having a very distinguished male scientist openly and publicly acknowledge the difficulties and discrimination that women in general, and women in the sciences face. You see, after winning the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine, Dr. Greengard and his wife established the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize, awarded annually to honor outstanding women in the Biosciences. Dr. Greengard and his wife named this award in honor of Dr. Greengard’s mother, who died in childbirth- and whose career was limited to secretarial work. Dr. Greengard- today you are my hero, not just for recognizing systematic and sometimes subtle discrimination against women, for doing something about it, and for being a role model for us all.

I can’t say anything more appropriate or eloquent than about this subject than Dr. Greengard and the folks who award this prize have already said in their own words- somehow I stumbled upon a set of youtube videos of the 2010 Pearl Meister Greengard awards ceremony. I watched them all, and I urge you to watch them as well: 2010 Pearl Meister Greengard Award Ceremony videos (Part 1 (Sir Paul Nurse does the honors), Part 2, Part 3 (Andrea Mitchell is inspiring), Part 4 (the description of the contributions of  recipients of 2010- Drs. Janet Davidson Rowley and Mary-Claire King), Part 5 (Sir Paul has a conversation with the winners), Part 6 (conversation Pt 2)). Previous recipients of the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize can be found here.

Later today there will probably be a whole new set of videos on youtube- because the the 2011 Pearl Meister Greengard Prize will be awarded to Dr. Brenda Milner, now in her 90s, for her groundbreaking work on human memory which has ” revolutionized the way we understand the human brain.”

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