Blossom Ball 2010 - Linda G. Griffith

Blossom Ball 2010 - Linda G. Griffith

Endometriosis Foundation of America:  Blossom Ball - 2010

Padma Lakshmi - Linda Griffith from MIT
The Endometriosis Foundation of America is pleased to present Dr. Griffith for her lifetime commitment to the science and treatment of endometriosis.  Thank you very much.
Linda G. Griffith
Thank you so much, Padma. I only have a little bit to say. I cannot resist, it is finals week at MIT, and do not drink that next sip of wine, there is a little quiz. Who was here last year? Okay, supporting this foundation; pat yourself on the back because now there is a center at MIT that has about $20 million of funding; begged, borrowed, and stolen from other NIH programs.
We called program directors and said: “Hey, we have this project. The focus is on chronic inflammation”. Endometriosis is chronic inflammation, right? I pulled in about ten of my close colleagues from MIT, people who have huge labs. They study cancer, they study stem cells, and said. “Let’s get together and focus on this incredibly difficult problem”.
And I am very, very thrilled and honored to hear Padma laud me the way she did, but I think it is actually way more simple. I am not so much of a genius, as good at basic math: about 25% of young women suffer from very serious problems with their menstrual cycles.
Hello! This is an impairment to having them succeed in science and engineering. I live in an environment at MIT where there is a lot of emphasis on what can we do to get more women involved in science and engineering? It is like, hello, get rid of their menstrual problems, cure their endometriosis, and make them focus on their math problems.
I am incredibly grateful to all of you who supported this foundation because truly, reading the article in Newsweek…you know…I am busy, I have a huge lab, I have lots of things I do at NIH and everywhere else, and I was always too busy to do anything substantial for endometriosis.
But I read this article and I immediately e-mailed my lab and said, okay, I do not watch TV, I said, “Who is Padma Lakshmi”? People wrote me back instantly.  I said, “We have her up here to help launch this center”, and there is like: “Oh my god! You are going to have Padma Lakshmi come to MIT”?  
There was this amazing response from students. I was actually kind of nervous, I have never had a celebrity; and Padma came, and she was incredibly down to earth. All my nervousness melted away because she gave a talk that just hit it out of the park. I got incredible response from alumni, from students, from everyone who had seen both her beautiful, eloquent way of describing the struggles with this disease, but also – again – we are living in an environment with a lot of men, very well meaning, but they had never heard of this, even with me lying crawled in a fetal position at faculty meetings. They had no idea what it was. So now we have had an incredible out pouring from alumni at MIT who have been giving money to our center. You know, not enough yet.
But we are very, very grateful for the support of everyone in the room, especially again as others mentioned, of men who do take the time to realize this is not in our heads. We would really rather be doing statistical thermal dynamics than lying curled in a fetal position on the floor.
We hope that within next year we will have a lot of advances in this disease thanks to the research that you guys have stimulated by coming out, and especially to Padma and Dr. Seckin for going public with their story to make the rest of us say: “Hey I can’t possibly be busier than these people are, I need to get up off my butt and actually do something”. And, together with Keith Isaacson, who is actually my endometriosis surgeon, who spent his nights and weekends coming into MIT to help us figure out how we can really take patient samples, and do some of these incredible new technologies to figure out why this is a problem that we have not yet been able to solve.
So, thanks very much for coming out on a school night, and thanks to all of you. It is a really huge, huge honor and pleasure to be here.