30,000 feet

It’s the end of the “fly over” season for me. Many of the academic societies seem to have their major national meetings in the fall. These are important for a variety of reasons. We need to understand how we are faring in relationship to our colleagues in other academic centers in other parts of the country. Many of us are invited participants and presenters. They teach us, and we teach them. Inevitably, we are making and rekindling connections related to our recruitment needs. We also need to make sure that the reputation of our school and university is properly understood and supported.

Living here in Greenville offers the opportunity to see much of Gate E38 at the Charlotte airport and beyond that location fly over much of the country. Quite frankly, I am glad that the important traveling is completed for this season! Much of the work on behalf of the school is accomplished right up close and personal, here at home in Pirate Country and within the state of North Carolina. I could substitute 30,000 feet measured in altitude with the number of human feet that are coming and going to our meetings here, each two at a time!

The view from 30,000 feet in the air can be quite useful. On one of the recent trips, we could see the eye of Hurricane Sandy off the starboard side of the plane. It may have been a hundred miles away, but the eye wall was clearly visible.

Just as fascinating, here at work, it sometimes is useful to see the issues from a different perspective – from high altitude. It provides a view that erases boundaries and creates otherwise unappreciated opportunities.

Photo by Scott Birge/treknature.com

It’s still crucial to come down to earth. While at height, the eye of an eagle would be the most appropriate animal comparison, the corresponding view at ground level is closer to that of possessing the eye acuity of Musca domestica – the common housefly.

Flies have compound eyes with many lenses that offer high-resolution imaging. They allow an almost complete 360 degrees of vision. Just try to swat a fly! They can react from almost any angle of attack!

Many of our issues today present levels of complexity that need sharpened focus and, at the same time, 360 degrees of vision. We face great challenges and wonderful opportunities that will be evident in the next several months and the upcoming years. The ability for us to go from wide angle to laser-like focus is an indispensable capability.

I am glad then to be down to earth with all of the brightest humans here at the Brody School of Medicine and at East Carolina University. It is wonderful to know that, in aggregate, we have compound eyes capable of creating possibilities that could not be achieved “up there, somewhere.” That’s even with the eyes of one eagle.

All the best,


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