Wednesday evening, I went to a book signing as a favor to the photographer/writer Judith Fox, whose personal story of love and partnership is stunningly told in her powerful new book, I Still Do: Loving and Living with Alzheimer's. The signing was at Pfizer's headquarters in Manhattan and it was a rainy, unpleasant night. I intended, by showing up, simply to add to Judith's audience and support her as a friend.
However, it became much more than that. Judith spoke--movingly, as I knew she would--about the book and how important it is for this horrendous disease to be addressed seriously, around the world, in the effort to find a cure. Listen to Judith Fox here.
I was struck that in Judith's remarks, and in those of Pfizer's executives responsible for that Pharma's efforts to find a cure for the disease, there were several references to the need for a "conversation" about this disease. A "national conversation" was called for, someone said and, at another point in the presentation, it became a "global conversation." This sparked my interest, of course. A conversation about Alzheimer's? How--beyond depressing participants--could that be of value?
Major value, as it happens. On several levels, a wide-spread conversation is exactly what is needed. At the most personal, the level at which a family is affected when a member is struck by the disease, the more people are willing to talk about it, to abandon their denial, the more quickly action can be taken that can at least slow the disease's ravages. At the civic level, it is important for communities to be aware of Alzheimer's patients among their citizens so they can take collective and intelligent action to help them as well as their caregivers. At the national level, countries can lead the charge so that their citizens enter and shape the conversation, and their corporations can show support in ways that make sense: after all, sustaining a viable, healthy workforce (the impact on family care-givers of this disease is yet to be calculated meaningfully, but it is a seriously expensive--in societal terms alone--disease) is critically important to the financial health of a nation. So every conversation can add to the pool of information, of concern.
It was noted that France's President Sarkozy has placed major importance on the disease, as have Scandinavian countries and several others. Pfizer executives talked of their intention to place Alzheimer's on the agenda for the upcoming Davos program in Switzerland, so that business and thought leaders can be brought into the conversation and determine how they can collectively do something about it.
As a friend, I know Judith to be a brilliant conversationalist. What I had not known, until I heard her speak to an audience about the disease, is how compellingly conversational she can be in describing its impact, its sadness, its challenges, as well as the opportunities it has given her to expand her repertoire both professionally and personally.
In short, Judith has sparked a conversation that most people would prefer not to have. It's clear she has approached this project like the extraordinary entrepreneur she is: as a problem that needs to be solved and for which it is necessary to marshal powerful collaborators. To that end, she has brilliantly partnered with a major pharma, Pfizer, which is dedicated to its work of finding an eventual cure. I urge you to purchase Judith's truly beautiful book. And consider listening in to the conversation Judith has initiated to help find a cure for this brain-robber disease.