Meeting Notes for 2/21/18: Jr. Rotarians, Rob Northrup, and pop-up eye clinics

President John rang the Rotary bell, and the assembly rose to sing “My Country, Tis of Thee.” Richard Carlisle delivered a fascinating Inspiration about former U.S. presidents as fathers: “I can recommend Joshua Kendall’s book, First Dads. It’s not about presidential indiscretions, about which we have heard a lot, but about presidents as First Fathers.” He described the tenderness of Ulysses S. Grant toward his children – “Some have accused him of being a butcher during the Civil War, but as a father he was loving.” Richard also placed Barack Obama in that category, but mentioned that “John Adams was authoritarian and FDR, aloof. Under Jimmy Carter, daughter Amy became an object lesson.” Quoting Woodrow Wilson’s daughter, Eleanor, in 1912, the year her father won the presidency, Richard said, “He was no longer my father.”

Song leader Dave Keosaian confessed, “I had a perfect song for last week [when Ed Wier spoke about Tiny Houses]: ‘I Dwelt n Marble Halls’…and ‘Be It Ever So Humble, There’s No Place Like Home,’ but instead, today we’ll sing ‘America, The Beautiful.’” And a beautiful rendition it was. Your reporter clearly heard one member express immediately after, “America’s real national anthem.” Well done!

After greeting members and guests warmly, John announced that the next Rotary happy hour will take place next Wednesday at 5:30 p.m., at Weber’s. “It will be a nice dry run for our move there in May,” he pointed out.

Mary Jean Raab then honored our Junior Rotarians from Greenhills School. Students Liz Schonfeld, Jacob Berger, and Richard Scher each addressed the packed Anderson Room. Miss Schonfeld is interested in pursuing a career in public health; Mr. Berger, an accomplished singer, is studying opera at the U-M; and Mr. Scher will pursue urban planning. John presented each with a Rotary certificate.

Upon regaining the podium, John announced Walt Hancock’s birthday to hearty applause.

He then continued: “Today is also a special day because we have created a new award – ‘The Robert S. Northrup Humanitarian Award,’” Past President Len Stenger came forward to highlight Rob’s life and distinguished career in medicine, public health, and philanthropy. “Rob learned the Rotary songs early. His father, a physician, would often treat patients without pay,” Len began.

Rob Northrup, with his Quincy, accepting the first Rob Northrup Humanitarian Award.

Clearly, his father’s example set Rob on a life-long course of ameliorating the effects of disease and poverty all over the world. Members who had known Rob for years inside and outside of Rotary sat bolt upright as Len read an abbreviated roster of Rob’s humanitarian achievements. “Rob is an expert in parasitic diseases, and has practiced in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Okinawa, Indonesia…at the University of Alabama, Rob enhanced the skills of granny midwives.” [This is a very shortened list of what Len read.] “Another thing about Rob, he has had a lifelong love of music.” John then declared, “I’d like to read the award: The Robert S. Northrup Humanitarian Award – Service Above Self, February, 2018.” Spontaneously, a roomful of fellow-Rotarians, friends, colleagues, and loving family rose to honor Rob, giving him a deafening ovation. It was an unforgettable outpouring of admiration, gratitude, and awe. And what did Rob say, when the decibel level returned to normal? “I was just doing what I needed to be doing. I am glad to have reached the point of receiving an award of this nature. Thank you.”

A geneticist talks about eye care

Dr. Tim Johnson came to the podium to introduce our speaker: “Professor David Burke, of the U-M Department of Human Genetics – the first such department in the U.S. – has devoted his professional life to the study of human chromosomes. Dr. Burke is going to talk about his work providing low cost medical technology to people in need around the world.”

“Dr. Joe Myers and I have been long-time collaborators. Joe is an optometrist,” Dr, Burke began. He then titled his speech ‘Container to Clinic,’ and described it within the context of the U-M’s humanitarian project, Global Challenge for the Third Century, “Because the U-M is entering its third century.” The goal – “to actually make an impact on people’s lives around the world.”

“When you’re a human geneticist, you realize how similar we are…Squirrels in the Quad possess more genetic diversity than anyone in this room,” Burke observed. “What is needed is a system that can be applied to all human beings. Chronic diseases are increasing around the world; the rate is increasing, not just the number of cases. There is a real need for monitoring.” One initiative of the Global Challenge and of Dr. Burke’s department is to sponsor the training of semi-professionals at the local level: “People can be trained” to make a difference, he insists.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the speech was Dr. Burke’s conversion of intermodal shipping containers to on-site clinics. This has been developed with Dr. Myers, who took over that part of the presentation. “Shipping containers are very good devices to deliver low-cost physician-tested technologies; by emulating what has happened with cell phone technology,” Myers explained. “Some countries have only cell phone infrastructure.” This became the model for the clinics.

Jamaica was the first test country. Dr. Myers showed a series of slides of the design, building, and local acceptance of the container clinics. “This is a part of the Eye Health Institute Mandate,” he noted. Looking at a container prior to conversion, Myers shared his first impression: “Wow, I could make a whole clinic out of this.”

In conclusion Dr. Burke noted, “If we can emulate Dr. Northrup’s work, we will make this global community healthier. The U-M’s like a table; everyone gets a chance to sit at the table” to make a difference.

Heart applause resounded through the room as John thanked our speakers and reminded us of JET: “It means Join leaders, Exchange ideas; Take action. The meeting is adjourned.”

Weekly Meeting Statistics
It appeared that the snowbird season is in full swing as a total of only 74 Rotarians attended our meeting on February 21 to hear about eye care in Haiti. On the other hand, we did have four Members-elect (Toni Gupta, Lauren Heinonen, Heather Kendrick and Karen Wasco), two visiting Rotarians (Manish Mehta and B. Yawson of Ann Arbor North), three Junior Rotarians and four guests. In conjunction with the luncheon, there were meetings of the Interact, Program, Rotaract and Peace Conference Committees (a total of 33 Rotarians). Earlier in the day, the Board of Directors met (ten members). Also reported was the meeting at Glacier Hills (ten club members out of a total of 26 attendees). Ed Wier reprised his presentation on Tiny Houses. The Public Image Committee met on February 13. Six Rotarians participated.

Makeup Cards for Roving Rotarians
None this week but we should be expecting some from visits in FL and AZ (hint, hint).