In an interesting turn of events during my lunch break yesterday, I was sent to Boston for the night to attend a dinner and reconnect with some of the brilliant minds on the medical side of the Ebola response.
Over dinner, we discussed current hospital preparation plans in case another Ebola case appears in Boston or another major city. We talked about current testing methods, one of the guests had just developed a quick and very cheap way to test for Ebola. Jim Collins spoke about his work for the Ebola tests and how his work comes at the gathering point of engineering, medical design and medical research. It was really cool to see something like this happen so quickly!
While I was listening to the rest of the conversation between a number of really fascinating and important researchers, I realized that this was something unique to Boston/Cambridge. That a number of colleagues, distinguished as they were, could come to dinner in someone’s house and converse as easily about breakthrough science in Pharmaceuticals and engineering and the study of the Ebola virus, as one might host a tea party.
Living in New York now, Boston gets knocked regularly. New friends who joke, “oh it’s cute that you grew up in Boston. It is such a cute pretend city.” I also sometimes get, “Oh… Boston? What is there?”
Through the course of the dinner, I slipped easily back into the contentedness that comes from being around brilliant people who value ideas and bravery towards exploring those ideas. They asked me about my research in informal economies. [Very refreshing compared to the black stare, followed by an estimate on my salary and a “why do you do that?” or polite nod and silence]
So, among many other reasons, this is why I love Boston.
You can appear at an event in someone’s living room, and sit next to an expert researcher from one of the premier medical centers in the country and learn about the best ways to manage an Ebola response. It is a city that makes geniuses approachable. It is a city that values the content, ideas, and creativity.
Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of things the city could do better. It is not without its problems and unpleasant quirks. But it is a magical place to be a student and researcher.
It is always wonderful to come back, even if just for a few hours.