Letter From the President
Happy New Year! On New Year’s Day, it is customary for people to reflect on the past year and think about things that they liked, so that they can keep those behaviors, and improve behaviors that didn’t work so well. I was inspired when I read an article this week; I thought about the New Year’s custom. The article was about the Copenhagen chef of one of the world’s best fine dining restaurants who said that he is closing his restaurant for “regular service” because of the “grueling hours and intense workplace culture” which has “hit the breaking point” and is unsustainable. The waitstaff are also overworked, are paid poorly, or not paid at all in order to intern there. To maintain top rated status for many years the staff needed to seek perfection in everything they did.
This story resonated with me because I have worked long and grueling hours and am sure my direct reports have felt that we had an intense workplace culture as we met the next grant, report, or publication deadline. I also solicit interns who volunteer their time for community service credits. These interns help fill gaps and help us get a perfect score on our next grant submission or publish the next paper with little to no critiques. I also feel my staff and trainees, like other staff and trainees around the world, are not fairly compensated for the work they do because of institutional policies. Maintaining a successful lab for many decades has sometimes felt unsustainable; but I always surrounded myself with terrific people who helped keep me going and helped make the lab a success.
So I guess I am saying there is no difference between a chef who seeks perfection in the science of art and a translational scientist who seeks perfection in the art of science. But what is the toll on them? We all want the best for our field, want to give people opportunities to learn and want to excel. However, we also need for the whole team to feel appreciated and refreshed.
Once the restaurant closes, the chef will become a consultant and transform his facility into a living lab where he and his staff will take the time to create new dishes and products for online distribution. It seems that the scientist could also transform the lab similarly.
As a New Year’s resolution, I hope both the chef and the scientist find ways to balance work and pleasure and bring some fun into their labs. Only then might they realize that success will certainly involve accepting imperfections!
Linda B. Cottler, PhD, MPH, FACE
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