Monday, July 6, 2009

Lou Gehrig Continues to Give

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News wires were abuzz this weekend with updates on the MLB celebration of the 70th anniversary of Lou Gehrig's retirement speech (see below for a reaction to the speech). It was remarkable to see a nationwide endeavor dedicated to acknowledging ALS and honoring those touched by it. With a coordinated effort, ALS organizations around the country were able to bring ALS to the forefront of millions of minds.

Raising awareness about ALS was one of the greatest successes of MLB's 4ALS Awareness campaign. And Katie Couric supported that endeavor with her "Katie Couric Reports" special "Treating Lou Gehrig's Disease," which aired on Thursday night. The report, accessible here, weaves patient narrative together with expert summary of ongoing research endeavors, particularly those associated with skin cell-derived pluripotent stem cells. Doctors from Harvard and Columbia Universities shared their research plans with Couric, and to demonstrate the process of cell donation, Couric herself gave a skin sample--on camera--for stem cell research.

This weekend's news makes this Monday nothing short of exciting. Most major news sources published at least one article on Lou Gehrig, each emphasizing the tragedy of the disease that took his life and the fact that a cure has yet to be realized. And Katie Couric drove the point home with her feature on the CBS Evening News.

But the question remains: what happens now? This is the kind of nationwide event that can so easily be dropped by the wayside with the next news cycle. It is up to us, the ALS community, to perpetuate the national message about ALS and take advantage of a swell of awareness so that ALS enters the national consciousness as a significant medical concern. Lou Gehrig's legacy has lasted for seventy years, and he continues to give to us: presenting us an opportunity to promote research and raise awareness. He is on Katie Couric's mind, and through the CBS Evening News, Lou Gehrig has entered American living rooms. Now, the onus falls to us to engage the fight against ALS, recruit our friends to join us, and stand strong and together to find a cure.

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