Dr. Suzanne Vernon and the CFIDS Association of America by Cort Johnson
I was very excited when I heard the CFIDS Association of America was looking for a Scientific Director. While it’s seems that we’re on the cusp of something in the research field it’s also clear that the opportunities the field presents are not being matched by the work done in it – the amount of ME/CFS research being done still remains very low. It’s obvious we need someone who can effectively communicate those opportunities to the medical establishment.
Given the controversy ME/CFS raises, though, I wondered what kind of hearing the CAA’s search was getting. This is, after all, not the subject for someone who’s primarily concerned with prestige or security. It’s the kind of subject that independent people who desire to make a difference are interested in. I’d assumed we’d get a smart, young and idealistic researcher. Instead we have Dr. Suzanne Vernon, an innovative researcher with a long track record joining the fray.
Dr. Vernon has an outstanding resume. During the eleven years she worked on ME/CFS at the CDC she lead the effort to develop gene expression technology and apply to it to ME/CFS. During that time she co-authored almost 50 papers. She co-lead the most extensive attempt yet to understand ME/CFS which culminated in the publication of the 14 Pharmacogenomic’s papers. Throughout her work on ME/CFS she’s been on the cutting edge of research technology. She’s one of the top researchers in the field.
Now she’s left the prestige and security of the CDC after 17 years to join a small national support and advocacy group. Why would she make such a dramatic career change? Why embark on such an uncertain course? I really don’t know. I suspect that part of it, though, is that, as with many other professionals working in this field who could have taken easier and more lucrative paths, that she’s gotten ‘hooked’ by ME/CFS and that she sees a chance to make a real difference.
As someone who’s intensely followed ME/CFS research over the past five years I was excited (and somewhat amazed) that the CAA was able to nab someone of Dr Vernon’s caliber. The CAA deserves credit for taking on this bold new research initiative and for offering the kind of opportunity a researcher of her caliber would embrace.
Of course Dr. Vernon’s background at the CDC will give some pause. I hope, though, that those with worries can give her a chance as she takes off her old hat, ‘ME/CFS CDC researcher’, and puts on her new one, ‘ME/CFS Advocate’. (What a transition that is!) Dr. Vernon’s charge is to promote ME/CFS research but she’ll be communicating with the patient community as well. She has agreed to an interview. I don’t know what she’ll say but I’m sure it’ll be interesting.