While the stay-at-home orders brought by COVID-19 led to countless canceled events and an end to in-person meetings, there has been one silver lining for members of CIM’s International Advisory Board and other CIM affiliates.
“Our CIM seminars, which used to be held in my office and attract at most 25 or 30 participants, moved to a Zoom format and our attendance has skyrocketed,” says CIM Director David Hellmann. “We routinely draw 50 or 75 people, and attendance at one seminar about COVID-19 surpassed 170 participants.”
Among those is board member Susan Immelt, a retired nurse, who says she has blocked out Tuesday afternoons at 4 p.m. on her calendar in anticipation of the Zoom seminars, which are scheduled about twice a month. “In this past year with so little structure, the CIM seminars have been a very welcome event to look forward to. They are phenomenally well done,” says Immelt, who together with her husband funds pulmonologist Brian Garibaldi as the Douglas Carroll, MD, CIM Scholar, in honor of her father.
The format of the seminars is straightforward. At each session, a keynote researcher whose Johns Hopkins work is supported by the Center for Innovative Medicine takes 30 to 40 minutes to share the scope and progress of that work in an accessible way, which some liken to a TED Talk. Subjects range widely: from the latest advances in detection of pancreatic cancer, to housing policy and health equity, to the importance of addressing isolation in the nation’s aging population. Then the floor is open for questions, and a lively back-and-forth ensues.
“I’ve been in a self-imposed lockdown here at my home in Danville, Kentucky, and when the CIM seminars moved to Zoom, I was just elated,” says board member Dana Case, also a retired nurse. “The presentations really expand my knowledge base and it makes my heart sing to see Johns Hopkins and the Center for Innovative Medicine doing so much good to benefit the world.”
Case adds, “As I learn new things I pass them along, and I’ve found the seminars to be a great way to connect with others.” For example, she invited her granddaughter, Kennedy, a law student in Rhode Island, to attend several meetings. “It’s given us a lot to discuss and she has taken information we learned during a seminar about COVID-19 to her legal internship in Nashville. She designed a database to help employees throughout the United States discern when they would be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.”
The seminars have also provided an outlet for Case to connect with her sister, fellow CIM International Advisory Board member Mary Ousley, also a registered nurse. (Both were integral to the inclusion of nurses in CIM’s Good Doctor Initiative, which is part of the Aliki Project.) “We usually text back and forth during the meetings or call once the session is over to talk through the material in more detail,” says Case. “It really elevates my thinking.”
Immelt concurs. “Most of the talks hit me right at the edge of my knowledge base — I know enough to understand what they’re covering but I am also learning something new.”
“The presentations really expand my knowledge base and it makes my heart sing to see Johns Hopkins and the Center for Innovative Medicine doing so much good to benefit the world.” – Dana Case
CIM International Advisory Board member Mark Rubenstein, who earned both his B.S. and M.S. from the engineering school at Johns Hopkins, says he was particularly struck by a presentation about the new Engineering Aging Alliance, which is part of Hopkins’ Human Aging Project, an initiative launched and supported by the CIM.
“I’m an engineer, so I was very interested to learn about what they’ve got planned,” says Rubenstein. The Aging Alliance is bringing together teams of clinicians, trainees and students — in engineering, medicine, nursing and business — in “innovation incubators” to come up with technological solutions to promote healthy aging.
Though he’s been officially retired from his career in commercial real estate now for 18 years, Rubenstein has remained very busy with a full schedule of daily business meetings, even during the pandemic. “Fortunately, however, my late afternoons on Tuesday are free, so I log on to the CIM seminars whenever I can,” he says. “There’s just so much great information.”