Quotes by: Harold E. Varmus
||Harold Eliot Varmus
December 18, 1939
Oceanside, New York, US
University of California, San Francisco
National Institutes of Health
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
National Cancer Institute
Weill Cornell Medicine
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1989)
Vannevar Bush Award (2001)
||Constance Louise Casey (m. 1969)
As an undergraduate at Amherst College, I was devoted to Dickensian novels and antiestablishment journalism while marginally fulfilling premedical requirements.
Science can improve lives in ways that are elegant in design and moving in practice.
In preparation for a career in academic medicine, I worked as a medical house officer at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital from 1966 to 1968 and then joined Ira Pastan's laboratory at the National Institutes of Health as a Clinical Associate.
When high school students ask to spend their afternoons and weekends in my laboratory, I am amazed: I didn't develop that kind of enthusiasm for science until I was 28 years old.
I begin with the premise that behavior is an incredibly important element in medicine. People's habits, their willingness to quit smoking, their willingness to take steps to avoid transmission of HIV, are all behavioral questions.
I was born in the shadow of World War II, on December 18, 1939, on the South Shore of Long Island, a product of the early -wentieth-century emigration of Eastern European Jewry to New York City and its environs.
I keep encouraging the pharmaceutical companies to put more money into R&D.
Anyone graduating from medical school in 1966 had first to fulfill military service before launching a career. Fiercely opposed to the Vietnam War, I sought to avoid it through an assignment to the Public Health Service.
In general, all cancers have been traditionally characterized by the way they appear under the microscope and the organs in which they arise.
The public schools I attended were dominated by athletics and rarely inspiring intellectually, but I enjoyed a small circle of interesting friends despite my ineptitude at team sports and my preference for reading.
From some dilatory reading in the early 1960s, I knew enough about viruses and their association with tumors in animals to understand that they might provide a relatively simple entry into a problem as complex as cancer.
I had learned that science is a rewarding, active process of discovery, not the passive absorption of what others had discovered.
I'm used to being surrounded by really smart 22-year-old students who have no problem saying that something I suggested is not a very good idea.
The NCI scientific programme leaders meet regularly to ensure that we are not ignoring highly original proposals and that we are not creating an unbalanced grant portfolio.
Just after graduation in 1966, like many of my contemporaries, I applied for research training at the National Institutes of Health. Perhaps because his wife was a poet, Ira Pastan agreed to take me into his laboratory, despite my lack of scientific credentials.
A major feature of life at the NIH in late 1960s was the extraordinary offering of evening courses for physicians attempting to become scientists as they neared thirty.
Following graduation from Amherst, a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship enabled me to test the depth of my interest in literary scholarship by beginning graduate studies at Harvard University.
All basic scientists who look to the NCI for funding should know that I will tolerate no retreat on the study of model systems and the pursuit of fundamental biological principles.
Every cancer looks different. Every cancer has similarities to other cancers. And we're trying to milk those differences and similarities to do a better job of predicting how things are going to work out and making new drugs.
I had learned of Gertrude Stein's bon mot that medicine opened all doors. This prompted me, in different moods, to view my future life as literary psychiatrist, globe-trotting tropical disease specialist, or academic internist.
When I was the NIH director, I often expressed envy of institute directors: they had the money and ran the scientific programmes.
I believe that we are going to have a much deeper appreciation of what kinds of abnormalities in cancer cells and in the surrounding cells that feed and respond to cancers are vulnerabilities that will allow us to make better predictions of which kinds of drugs will work to treat these cancers.
In the 1960s and '70s, there wasn't much evidence at all. We knew vaguely the causes of cancer, but methods like genomics were very new.