Knockin’ on Science’s door


The iMed congresses are actually a very good place to make the acquaintance of two most dear friends: knowledge and ignorance.

Of course, if one starts attending the conferences early in the Medicine course, he or she will most probably come into the presence of his or her lack of knowledge first. I wouldn’t call it a bad thing, though. Ignorance is, after all, enlightening in its own peculiar way: your awareness of it creates a need to fill a void you realized existed. If you would prefer to call this curiosity rather than a feeling of necessity or requirement, please: be my guest. However, and be that as it may, ignorance does forge a craving for understanding, for comprehension, for information, facts and data. It leads to questions, research, reading and discussion. My unawareness or my nescience (if one wishes to be more literary) was what brought me to these medical conferences in the first place. And, even though I did not manage to take in every matter discussed the first time I attended an iMed meeting, I did grasp some bits and pieces of knowledge; in any case, enough to make me want to come back for iMed 4.0. Needless to say, it is also very exciting to watch such a young project sprout, grow and bloom, especially as it is the work of fellow students. If both iMed 3.0 and 4.0 were interesting, iMed 5.0 was a great and (I dare say) unexpected surprise. Naturally, the possibility to see in the flesh and to talk to very important scientists and physicians was extremely luring. One actually values ribosomes in a different way after meeting Ada Yonath, who spent years of her life attempting to study the structure of this small but vital organelle. The pages and text of Schwartz’s Principles of Surgery simply have a different color after encountering F. Charles Brunicardi. These medical conferences remind us students that Science is a very living thing, that it surpasses the inanimate books. The younger students will approach inflammation, allergy and thrombosis more enthusiastically after contacting with Nobel prize laureate Bengt Samuelsson, just as other students more eagerly studied cervical cancer after coming across Harald zur Hausen, last year. And, of course, with a most admirable career and biography, let us not forget the ever dynamic hypothalamus decipherer Andrew Schally. It is undeniably exciting to welcome individuals such as Anna Karolina Palucka, Andres Lozano and Alexander Levitzki, scientists working on novel and very promising therapies in areas as distant from one another as oncology and Parkinson’s disease or depression. Infectious diseases will also be a main theme this year, with the leading virologist Albert Osterhaus and the Portuguese investigator Miguel Prudêncio. In short: many names and much hard work, gathered around four captivating, four absorbing subjects: Neuro-psychiatry, Immuno-oncology, Infectious Diseases and Man & Machine. Man’s natural competitive spirit will be awaken with the usual Innovate and Clinical Mind competitions. Finally, last but not least, the need for something different and unconventional also led to the establishment of the new iMed sessions, which will certainly make us think out of the box and dive a little bit deeper in the worlds of Economy, Cinema and Music.

Seeing and hearing so many investigators helps us students remember that Science is in a constant need for novelty, for corrections, for change. Science is not merely about what we already know, what is already written: it is about what we don’t understand yet, what we want to comprehend. Science is past, present and future.

But it doesn’t stop here, obviously. Scientific knowledge is not just someone else’s fabrication. We, medical students, are expected to take part in this quest for truth and change. We are supposed to push Science forward and not to wait to be pulled. As Robert Allen Zimmerman (or Bob Dylan) used to sing:

Then you better start swimmin’

Or you’ll sink like a stone

For the times they are a-changin’.


This year’s iMed 6.0 has thus arisen many expectations. Let us hope it exceeds them.