Little did I realise that my dabbling and curiosity, in asking simple questions as to how things worked, would lead to a career in both the world of discovery in science and the world of education of others.
Being from an insular small town, the inspiration to explore the mechanisms of physiology, biology and medicine came later, while I was in professional school earning my first doctoral degree. My teachers in the basic, pre-clinical sciences soon made me realise that most of the treatments I was being taught were quite primitive, and often addressed symptoms and not disease processes. Suffering could be relieved, but not eliminated or prevented.
By chipping away at a basic understanding the biology of cells as they behaved normally and abnormally, rather than only making a difference in the lives of my patients (however noble that task), I was fascinated and inspired by the idea that unravelling just one step in an unknown process, or revealing a simple secret of nature, I could impact upon the care and the lives of thousands of people>. Finding a truth and confirming its validity can only be achieved by the rigorous method that science offers and requires. But once a discovery is made, and answering even one question, how wonderful the feeling.
Further inspiration came from grasping the importance of the role of logical and scientific thought in the education not only of other professionals, but of the public at large. Science has not only made our species more comfortable and able to do astounding things, but has also made our lives richer, more predictable and more expansive in scope.
I, like many, took for granted as a child that flipping a switch could illuminate a room and make night into day. I never dreamed, however, that I would be sitting in my easy chair in the darkness of the early hours of the morning, composing this survey response and then communicating it to millions of people around the world and illuminating their minds. These abilities have come from science.
Spreading the news of discoveries is no more education than treating symptoms is medicine. But showing the value of science, and the role it can play in solving problems, inspires me as both a scientist and an educator. Hopefully, it will inspire future generations to become scientists and do the same.
Robert Baratz is coauthor of Consumer Health: A Guide to Intelligent Decisions (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)).