Our beloved Brew.

Our beloved Brew.
R.I.P. Big guy.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The National Museum of Health and Medicine

This is my favorite museum in the world. I doubt you've ever been there. It's inconveniently located at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, DC. While it is a public museum, you are still required to show a photo ID at the guard gate to get on the base. Then, you have to wind your way through a maze of stately buildings to find the museum tucked away on the ground floor of the Armed Forces Institute for Pathology.

As part of an effort by Congress to trim military costs, and consolidate resources, Walter Reed is closing. More accurately, portions of it are moving and other portions are being what I call "decommissioned." In other words, put out of business.

A couple of years ago I was invited to assist the museum in formulating a strategy to keep it open. That was the beginning of my love affair with NMHM. First a little history . . .

NMHM was founded during the Civil War for the express purposes of collecting body parts and studying battlefield injury for military medicine. NHHM is one of only two facilities in the world that serve all the branches of the US military. They have millions and millions of relics and artifacts including the bullet that killed President Lincoln. Currently on display, you can walk through a field hospital that housed the most seriously wounded of our fighting men and women in Iraq.

NMHM is more than a museum. It's a working lab. It's had a role in the development of every prosthetic device used by the military from an old tree limb to modern day bionics. NMHM had a significant role in the development of body armor, which is saving thousands of lives on the battle field today, and it even has direct video hook-ups, to offer guidance in medical procedures to the field hospitals where some of our bravest and most seriously wounded military personnel are treated.

Working with NMHM has been a humbling and emmensely satisfying experience. Yes, I've been paid at times to provide my expertise, but I consider it a patriotic duty to stay involved, and as such, have volunteered my time, when necessary, to participate in a museum strategy session and voice my views regarding the museum.

When making the case for keeping the museum as it is, rather than breaking up the collection and distributing it to other parties, I make two points:

1. Every American should appreciate the solemn obligation we have to the valiant people who served our country and are now laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. Those heroes gave the ultimate sacrifice for their nation and our freedom. Equally as important, those people whose remains are represented in the collection of relics and artifacts at the NMHM gave the "ultimate sacrifice" twice. Not only did they die in service to their country, their remains have been given over for scientific, historic and research purposes so that others may be spared the same fate, and in other cases, so the injured are spared undo suffering and hardship.

2. We lost 54,000 Americans during 14 years of the Vietnam War. If one compares the seriousness of injuries between that conflict and what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan, the death toll would be significantly higher in the current conflicts were it not for the advances, such as body armor, developed or advanced by the people connected to NMHM. Simply put, more of our brave fighting men and women are surviving the most serious injuries because NMHM exists.

Within the next year or so decisions will be made in Washington as to where NMHM will move, who will control it, and what shape its future will take. I can only hope that the powers that be see the importance of NMHM and its immense potential.

Rather than being housed at a single, out of the way location, NMHM has the potential to expand its mission by expanding and forging alliances with a wide variety of medical and technological entities, to form satellite facilities, traveling exhibits, and forward thinking agreements to access loaned elements of the collection. It is critical that the main public facility be located in or around Washington, DC. A national treasure of the significance of NMHM deserves to be showcased in our nation's capital, and not relegated to some obscure military base without convenient public transportation, or adequate recognition. We owe the great patriots whose remains are part of the NMHM collection nothing less.

Visit the web site linked above to see for yourself.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Upheaval in the House

Please, June, hurry up and get over. You'd think the graduation of your oldest child would lend itself to a month of bliss and fond memories. This has been both the longest and most stressful month in memory. Sure, my daughter had a lovely graduation, dear family and friends came in to share the occasion with us, and all, but that event triggered a series of other events like a line of dominoes, each tumbling into the next to the point where I am numb from the weight of change.

My little girl no sooner got her diploma than she was off to DC to begin her internship. Her mom spent the first few days with her to get her settled and acclimate her to the transit system and the routes from the dorm where she is staying to the office. I arrived a few days later and combined a couple of days of work with a visit.

Then I headed back home to find my son about to leave with his cousin to visit with his aunt who owns a resort in Upstate NY. My daughter popped in for a brief visit over the weekend but spent most of her time at her boyfriend's belated graduation party. Now she's back in DC ready for work in the morning. My wife is working and away for three days.

The dynamics of the house and family have really changed with everyone coming and going. Unsettled seems to be the word of the month. July can't get here soon enough.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

LeBron James Dilutes His Brand

I admit it right up front, I am not an NBA fan and I would not consider paying to attend a game.

To this "non fan" the product offered by the NBA seems dominated by characters with whom I cannot connect. Tattoo covered bodies, "ghetto sheik" attitudes, and under-educated, over-paid man-children are not elements with which I can identify. In the end, all branding is about creating an "I see me" bond with the intended audience.

A prime example of everything I find distasteful in the NBA is personified in Cleveland Cavs star LeBron James. I admit he has become one of the biggest names in the league, and I am told, is considered by many to be the best player in the league, which no doubt has added immeasurably to his own brand advancement. Brands can sometimes be fragile things. Speaking strictly from a brand perspective, I believe he severely devalued his brand by refusing to shake hands with his opponents after losing in the league playoffs, which resulted in a firestorm of negative publicity.

Depending on which side of the argument you stand, he either advanced or detracted from the NBA brand value as well. There are those people who believe the league works hard to both embrace and control its "ghetto sheik" reputation because it draws urban crowds, and suburban "wannabes." Every "monster jam" is now followed by a demonstration of "monster" antics. The snarling, chest thumping, and primal screams by players get more and more theatrical and detract from the sport for me. I would never consider bringing my teenagers to an NBA game. There are exposed to enough ill-mannered examples in life without me appearing to endorse that kind of behavior.

Finally, Mr. James' actions reminded me of something someone else said, "Sports do not create character as much as reveal it." Perhaps Mr. James' actions will serve as reminder to all of us to examine our own behaviors and recognize examples where our own best character can come forth.