“In the Middle Ages, a lord wandered through the land of his estate and visited a construction site to see how work was progressing. There he found two stonemasons carving. He approached the first mason and asked him what he was doing. ‘I’m cutting a block of stone!’ he replied. The lord asked the second worker what he was doing, and he replied, ‘I am building a cathedral!’ ”
I think this parable is illustrative of our work in health. The specialized functions that we carry out in clinical studies should not make us forget the ultimate goal: to improve the well-being of humanity. Serious crises remind us how essential our role is.
I see dozens of protocols a month to treat diseases that are often very serious but that no one around me suffers from.
Cancer or a rare disease? When the cause is unknown to me, I research to fully understand the procedures and tests I will need in my GrantPlan. I scour Google Images to get an idea of the symptoms and sometimes I cannot help but exclaim “poor person!” My empathy convinces me that we need even more testing when it comes to rare and pediatric diseases!
However, once the budget is set up, the grid reviewed and corrected by the CTOM, I shut down my computer and I move on to the next project. For Covid, it was different. The subject of my work followed me beyond my laptop. It continued in the news: television coverage devoted a historic amount of airtime to the Covid crisis (the French audiovisual institute – INA – estimated 8,000 hours of programming were dedicated to the crisis). You could not escape it. The illness for which I had submitted three studies had interrupted my soap operas!
This continued in my home since my children were no longer going to school. The illness, which I was building my education budgets on, had caused their classes to stop.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, my wife, a nurse and hygienist, had a surplus of activity, as one can imagine. The illness for which Leticia Kouame, my colleague, and I had regular calls was exhausting my own wife!
We held our breath for a month and a half and thought COVID all the time. All tasks related to the other protocols, like the rest of France, were suspended.
In the morning, it started with conference calls with our team leader to take stock of the previous day, discuss the changes to be made to the GrantPlans and the news from other countries during the night.
In the afternoon, we came together for project conference calls. And the next day, the cycle would start all over again.
For the first time in my life, the subject of my work was what was changing all our lives. And I suddenly felt invested with a great role, even if only within my function. I was cutting the stone but, more than that, I was helping to build the cathedral to fight against the crisis.
I was and am so proud to have played my part!
I tried to explain this to my children, but they had trouble picturing my involvement. Thankfully, my wife understood much more easily. And I could check off, on my life’s to do list, “working for a global health crisis”.