By Michael J. Katin, MD
It's November again and for the normal population this signals the time
for celebration of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and the PC generic Holidays
but is also the time for recognition of an annual special event. This, of
course, is the whooping
crane migration from Necedah National Wildllife Refuge in Wisconsin
to the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. This is a remarkable
accomplishment, since very few of the whooping cranes can spell "Necedah,"
much less "Chassahowitzka," not to mention the ongoing problem of the male
whooping cranes refusing to stop to ask directions. But since this column
is supposed to address issues in the field of radiation oncology, instead
we should recognize that this is also the time of year for the ASTRO annual
This year the meeting was in New Orleans, certainly a place with minimal
distractions from the intense scientific
progress being made in the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. It is
hoped that this attention to the business at hand can carry over to next
year when the 2003 Annual Meeting is held in swinging Salt Lake City, Utah.
Although every ASTRO meeting is an adventure, in terms of maneuvering with
your colleagues to determine who can go and who gets stuck with covering
the practice, and then in coordinating attendance at committee meetings
and didactic sessions and still have the opportunity to seek out the appropriate
vendors and feign interest convincingly enough to be invited to dinner.
It's a challenge even when one has been doing this for a few years.
It's never fair to discuss a problem without offering a solution, and it
became obvious in New Orleans. Immediately prior to the Annual Meeting there
was the threat that Hurricane Lili was about to destroy Louisiana, calling
into question the wisdom of hauling millions of dollars of equipment and
displays to the Convention Center rather than saving time and effort and
just dumping them directly into the Gulf of Mexico and eliminating the suspense.
It turned out nothing happened but eventually blizzards, volcanos, or locusts
may lead to cancellatin of the Annual Meeting, and this would be a tremendous
setback to medical advancement. Ironically, right there in New Orleans were
the remnants of the 1984 World's Fair, which, coincidentally, was held under
the mayoralty of the very same Ernest N. Morial for whom the Convention
Center is named. Whether is be New Orleans, Montreal, St. Louis, Osaka,
Brussels, or Lisbon, relatively little is left in each city from the tremendous
amount of work put into an exposition that lasted only a few months. It
was after the 1964-65 New York World's Fair (not a World's Fair, strictly
speaking, since it was denied the official franchise by the Bureau of International
Expositions for coming too soon after the 1962 Seattle World's Fair and
also having the audacity to try to keep the buildings together for two years
instead of one summer) that Walt Disney came up with the idea to recycle
the pavilions his organization had designed for General Electric, General
Motors, and others, and put them into a permanent home as a tribute to the
power of the multinational corporations, sorry, of the human spirit. This
was called EPCOT, for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Mr.
Disney died in 1966, 16 years before EPCOT opened, although the passage
of time is probably difficult to appreciate when one is frozen at 320
degrees below zero.
Walt Disney was never wrong, and we need to learn from his example. Instead
of worrying about getting a place to stay in Denver in 2005 before the big
companies snarf up all the hotel rooms within walking distance, and whether
your flight back will be postponed because of bankruptcy (yours or the airline's),
and why you can't get to the session on treatment of desmoid tumors because
you have to interview someone who has to get back to his University that
afternoon, wouldn't it make more sense to have a permanent haven for our
specialty in which the vendors' displays are always present, posters are
always hanging, and, possibly, some of the top experts in our field are
giving the same Meet the Professor sessions continuously. There would be
no need to worry if you can't get there between October 20 and 25 since
it's going on all year.
The logical name would be AstroWorld, but that could be a problem since
Flags AstroWorld already exists in Houston. The solution would be to
accept this as serendipity and locate our AstroWorld on the grounds of this
already-existing theme park.*
*The suggestion for the name, "Big
C World," has already been rejected by the ASTRO board.