Who, What, Where, Now!
Expedition Inspiration’s Breast Cancer Research Annual Symposium
photography by Nils Ribi
A month ago, I wrote about Expedition Inspiration’s wonderful Twilight Snowshoe Dinner and Auction and the fight taken up by Laura Evans’ organization to cure breast cancer. Not to prevent breast cancer, not to help the families of victims, but to physically cure it. While Expedition Inspiration (EI) naturally does its best in terms of support and prevention, it is principally a fund to sponsor a very specific project: the Laura Evans Breast Cancer Research Symposium.
The symposium, which takes place annually in Sun Valley --- as it did for the 16th time this week --- is a truly unique endeavor and unlike anything else in the world of breast cancer research. To understand its significance, consider the cancer research microcosm for a second. There are thousands of trials, researchers and institutes involved in stopping the disease, not to mention the pharmaceutical companies, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and hospitals that are also deeply invested in finding a cure. With so many involved parties, communicating can be difficult. Opportunities for effective collaboration, especially when it comes to research and treatment methods, are equally hard to come by. Most of the time, industry conferences are the only means for researchers to share their work or their concerns. But the stuffy and crowded nature of such events can quickly lead to mundane information sharing, with little opportunity for direct participation by most audience members. The result is tragic fragmentation in a high stakes field where inefficiency costs lives.
This is where EI is able to fill a crucial void. The Laura Evans Research Symposium is an invitation-only conference, where a small yet highly prominent group of attendees share, discuss, question, analyze and familiarize themselves with the research of their peers. It is intimate and it is goal oriented. According to the press release, the goal of the symposium is to facilitate “a free exchange of ideas,” which alone separates it from the large scale, itinerary-driven gatherings that would generally bring a group of this caliber together.
Accordingly, EI offers an Open Forum with each symposium, in which the panel of researchers fields any and all questions from the attending public. This year’s forum took place last Thursday and was a special chance for those interested in or worried about breast cancer to hear the latest research and have questions answered. The “conversation,” which last two hours, ranged from the technical to the heartfelt. With about one in eight women being diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, the rapt attention of the audience was almost expected. What I didn’t expect was the seriousness with which the researchers responded to each question, taking no query lightly. This care, honesty and intelligence speaks to the nature of the symposium, which has become a nationally reputable yet inherently open event. Because when fighting something as malevolent as breast cancer, our only hope is to work together.