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Up front

In Praise of Perseverance

by Jason Matthew Smith, editor

If there is a theme to this issue, it would have to be “wrestling with big ideas.” Most of the stories inside touch on the concept that the people intimately connected with the University of Utah are deeply engaged in a battle to improve the human condition—in a variety of ways. Such a noble effort is at the heart of what a university is and does, and the folks featured in these pages do not shy away from tackling the most difficult problems.

For example, one morning not too long ago, Continuum gathered together a half-dozen health care experts to hash out some of the most daunting challenges surrounding the U.S. health care system. We asked physicians and policy makers to wrangle with the questions that plague doctors and patients every day. Realistically, no one expected the six participants to solve the health care crisis in 90 minutes—quite the opposite, for as the discussion shows, this is a monster with multiple heads, tails, and appendages. But what we hoped to accomplish was to kickstart a dialogue on the topic, and to generate a few ideas for where things ought to be headed—particularly important during this election year. What you’ll probably find after reading the article is that despite the enormity of the task, fixing health care in the U.S. must occur sooner rather than later. Until then, patients and doctors are left stumbling in the dark.

Which is exactly why U of U alumna Maggi Grace found one solution to her own health care crisis when her close companion was diagnosed with a potentially fatal heart condition. She and her partner packed up and headed to India for the life-saving operation—at a fraction of what it would have cost in the U.S. Maggi relates the experience in her book, State of the Heart. “Medical tourism” isn’t for everybody, but for those hemmed in by a dysfunctional system, it’s an attractive option.

In our second feature story, writer John Blodgett presents a compelling tale about the work of Ken Golden, U of U professor of mathematics. As such, Golden had little experience with biological or environmental science. But he did have a pretty good idea about using mathematical principles to study how water flows through ice, and it turns out his brainchild has far-reaching implications for understanding the complex interactions of sea ice, water, reflected light, and—ultimately—the environmental health of polar regions (which may be the canary in the coal mine for telling us about the health of the globe). Golden—and many University researchers like him—was encouraged to venture outside of his academic comfort zone. This sort of cross-disciplinary exploration is one of the U’s hallmarks. It has permitted researchers like Golden and others—such as Nobel Prize-winner Mario R. Capecchi—an invaluable opportunity to apply ideas and concepts to widely disparate fields-and often with promising results. And that’s the smartest way to tackle enormously complex problems such as global climate change.

There is also a feature on the S.J. Quinney College of Law, recently ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the best law schools in the nation. And no discussion of the inner workings of the law school is complete without figuring Dean Hiram Chodosh as a central character. Since coming to the U a couple of years ago, Chodosh has reinvigorated the law school and clarified its purpose as an institution bent on not just educating the next generation of legal scholars, but also becoming a catalyst for positive change in the world, through a handful of innovative programs such as its efforts to train Afghan prosecutors.

Elsewhere in this issue, there are a pair of stories appropriate for the season: a look at the time-honored tradition of tailgating, and an article penned by alum Carl R. Summers on evaluating political party performance. Rounding out this issue is, appropriately, an essay from health care policy expert Robert Huefner discussing how Utah could serve as a model for finding solutions to the national crisis.


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