Montagna Symposium Blog
Skamania Lodge, Stevenson, WA
Saturday, October 12, 2013
By Guest Blogger Sancy Leachman, MD, PhD
Good morning from Skamania Lodge as we start day two of the Montagna Symposium on the Biology of the Skin 2013. I want to share a “quintessential Montagna” experience I had last night at the faculty dinner at Nora’s in Hood River (where only local food and wine are served!). I sat directly across from Rox Anderson and we returned to a conversation we had started about 4 years ago. I had explained my frustration with performing autologous pigment cell transfers for vitiligo and the need for a device to simply and easily transfer non-scarring epidermal grafts to a prepped affected surface. Last night, I found out that he (and his wonderful team) created such a device and that it became commercially available about 6 months ago!! Not only that, the story behind it is inspiring. Rox gave this project to an engineering student that came to him through a program for developing countries. Once the device was created (Momelan, derived from “more melanin”), it was licensed to KCI with the stipulation that a portion of the product be supplied to developing countries at a substantially discounted rate. Wow – from a problem, to an idea, to a mentorship, to a product, to a venture-based solution – this is the way it is supposed to work! I will be purchasing one of these devices next week.
The hike on Eagle Creek Trail was strategically scheduled after a very exciting, but sophisticated session on imaging and microscopy led by Steve Jacques. Again, this session was “quintessential Montagna,” but in a completely different way. Biomedical optics, photonics, and technical details of non-invasive imaging devices are “over my head” scientifically, but I have always loved science fiction. When I was a kid, I read every Jules Verne book I could find – I loved the idea that dreaming about using a technology that didn’t exist could inspire someone to create that technology (think “Nautilus” in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea). For me, that’s the way this Montagna session felt, like I was living in the development phase of a science fiction novel. The technology presented in this session will undoubtedly revolutionize the way that we practice dermatology, and I feel lucky to be here to learn about it at the ground-level, directly from the inventors and developers. In today’s world of super-sub-specialization and information overload, cross-fertilization between diverse specialties is priceless because it is the foundation of team science. Team science will be mandatory as we choose to solve increasingly difficult problems requiring diverse expertise. This session is a jump-start to that process. As a concluding thought for the day, I would also add that this marriage between medicine and technology is likely our best strategy for reducing health care costs in the long-term. Only by doing it “better, cheaper and faster” can we hope to simultaneously improve health care and reduce costs.