Originally, I was thinking to title this, “A Final Thought,” as this will be my last blog as chief editor of Life Science Leader. But with yesterday’s news of the annual J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference (#JPM22 #JPM2022) going virtual, I found the notion, “How will it end?” rolling around my noggin. I’m sure some of us have been asking that, or “When will it end,” or “Will it ever end,” or “Why won’t everyone just get the damn shot already?” Since late 2019 for some, early 2020 for others, the pandemic has proven quite a pain. It is responsible for killing so many people, events, and things. Heck, it even played a part in killing this blog. Let me explain.
A Blog’s Life
My first blog, published Jan. 3, 2011, was about mentoring. January is national mentoring month, and it seemed worthwhile to remind folks to be sure to thank those important mentors. (Psst - don’t let those relationships end with words left unspoken). Resisting the urge to count how many blogs in total followed, I can tell you there were five that month alone. I had just started, wasn’t yet writing features, and blogs seemed a good way to hone my writing, once I figured out what the heck a blog was supposed to be.
My blog, like so many, began with lots of enthusiasm, and wouldn’t it be great if I could write one a week. But then I started travelling — extensively. And those travels, and the interesting people I’d meet, the stories I’d hear, the ideas I’d get, and the photos I’d take, soon proved a nice fit for my blog. So too were the books about leadership, often read at an airport, or while hunkered over a dimly lit tray table. One blog, on the importance of human touch, was inspired by a tooth rattling plane ride, and one truly terrified passenger. Another was about a chance meeting on an aircraft that led to a motivational moment. Try as I might, it proved difficult to keep up a once-a-week pace, and the blog soon tapered to a couple times a month, sometimes more, just depends on what all was going on. Scrolling through titles published over a decade, you can quickly see that my blog became mostly about what I was doing on the road, along with a few other things. And then COVID-19 happened — impacting everyone — and everything. My blog was not immune.
Looking back on blogs penned in 2020 provide insight into how my focus would soon change. For example, the first three were about three different shows attended in person. There was the Leadership Meeting (pictured with George Golumbeski), JPM (photographed with David Chang), and BIO CEO (pictured with Carol Lynch while moderating a fireside chat). These proved extremely productive (thank goodness), as the networking experienced would need to sustain me for the next two years. Because the next blog was about one of my favorite and more intimate shows (The R&D Leadership Summit) having to make the painful decision to postpone. Thanks, COVID-19! In total, only 13 blogs were penned in 2020. Factor out what was written before the lockdowns, and of the remaining 10 for last year, only one did not include the word pandemic or COVID-19. Interestingly enough, it was inspired by a kid, and the opportunity to mentor, a bit of a full circle moment don’t you think? It seemed the light at the end of the tunnel was finally getting brighter.
No Travel, Ever Less Inspiration
I kicked off 2021 with a blog striving to be positive and upbeat. We’d been through so much the year previous, it seemed fitting to try to turn the page. “What Went Right in 2020? My Top 5 List,” was posted the day before everything went so wrong at our nation’s capital. Talk about a kick in the pants. This was followed by a glowing review of my virtual attendance of JPM 2021, which was executed far better than the other various virtual events I had to force my way through. Only eight blogs were written in 2021, and subjects included my pondering on biopharma’s reputation being back, mental wellness, and getting back to the office. It was clear the blog was slowly dying, and from my perspective, it was because I could no longer travel to find inspiration and ideas.
My original plan had been to retire at the end of 2023. But the thought of spending yet one more year feeling tied to my desk, attending virtual events, and then trying to excitedly write about, well, I just didn’t think I could bear it. Combined with other factors, I decided to retire at the end of this year, which was declared in the August 2021 issue. So, when it was first announced that JPM would be held in person, and that Life Science Leader had been granted an in-person pass, I wondered, “Did I make a mistake?” Yesterday’s news affirmed I had not.
So, let me tell you the answer to how it will end, or at least how my final blog will end, and that’s by advocating for companies (and leaders) to not get too comfortable thinking your people no longer need to travel to get the educational content they need. Because for those really great conferences that have grown into amazing communities (i.e., CNS Summit), it’s not just about the content. It’s about networking, listening, friendship, having a little fun, and the humanity attained when engaging with people (in person) we’ve come to care about on stuff that actually matters. Thanks for listening, watching, reading, and most importantly, contributing to making our world a better place.