IASP eNewsletter - Aug 2014

President's Message

Fernando Cervero

In his 1974 song, “Forever Young,”Bob Dylan encouraged us to “build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung.” There is a great recording of the song made in 2012 by the late Pete Seeger and a bunch of kids. Look for it on YouTube; it is truly inspiring. The video ends with a few words spoken by one of the kids: “You are never too old to change the world.”

As I approach the end of my IASP presidency, I take comfort in the knowledge that our association has indeed built a ladder to the stars and that our members around the world are working hard to increase our scientific knowledge about pain and apply this knowledge to treat those who suffer. And of course, it is also very reassuring to know that those that follow in our path will pick up the baton and carry this mission forward.

I have said before in one of these messages that the greatest resource of our association is its human capital, our members, who supply the energy that powers IASP to accomplish its mission. Thousands of men and women throughout the world work every day with the objective of knowing more about pain and helping to reduce suffering. In their labs and in their clinics, they play an essential role in the fight against pain. And they guarantee not only the current vitality of our association but also, and more importantly, its continuity and its future.

Sadly, we have lost in the last few weeks two of our key members, and I want to dedicate this, my last newsletter message, to honor their memory. Ed Perl, one of the world’s greatest neuroscientists and honorary member of IASP, died on July 15 at the age of 87. Ed’s contributions to the science of pain are in many ways foundational. His work generated the unequivocal identification of one of the key elements of pain neurobiology: the nociceptor, a sensory receptor whose adequate stimulus is damage or potential damage and that is placed at the origin of all injury-related pain.

Ed accomplished this through careful and meticulous experimental work, giving priority to solid data over fancy theories. The quality of his scientific data is legendary, and the debates with his contemporaries were educational for those of us who had the fortune of participating in them. Ed continued to work until the very end of his life, producing high-quality data on the neurobiology of nociceptive neurons and pathways in the periphery and the spinal cord. His legacy to the world of pain research is immense, and his connection with IASP made our association a focal point for pain neuroscientists.

On August 5, exactly three weeks after Ed’s passing, the IASP Council lost one of its members. Councilor Germán Ochoa died at his home in Bogotá after a brave fight with cancer. Germán represented the other essential component of IASP, complementary to pain research: the thousands of doctors in hospitals and clinics around the world who fight suffering by treating patients in pain. He was a loyal and hard-working member of the IASP Council, very active on educational initiatives, particularly on the role of computer-based learning and its use in developing countries to increase training in pain medicine.

Germán was a champion of IASP in Latin America and one of the leaders of the Pain Management Camp taking place in late August in Brazil. He was very much looking forward to the first IASP World Congress on his own continent. Alas, he did not live long enough to enjoy either meeting, the two initiatives that he had so strongly supported.

Ed and Germán represent all that is good in IASP: the close association of scientists and clinicians working together for pain relief; the excellence of the science that IASP supports and promotes; and the dedication of Council members to their advocacy work and to IASP’s worldwide reach. And above all, the human quality of those who contribute to our association.

Thinking about the legacy of these two men, I look at our future with optimism. In a few weeks, we will all meet in Buenos Aires, where our local members have prepared a great Congress, and our Scientific Program Committee has put together an outstanding program. After the Congress, a new leadership will advance the work of IASP with renewed energy and new programs. I have no doubt that our association will be the leading focal point for pain science and pain management in the world for years to come.

It is hard to guess what IASP will be like in 10 or 20 years’ time. As Niels Bohr said: “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.” What I am sure is that IASP will always attract people like Ed and Germán who will propel the science of pain and spread the IASP message around the world. It is the work of each of you, our members, that gives strength to the association and drives its wonderful mission.

I hope to see you all in Buenos Aires in a few weeks. It will be very nice to meet in person, exchange ideas, and plan future activities. Remember to build your own ladder to the stars and aim to climb on every rung. Stay forever young. And as always, let’s all work together for pain relief throughout the world.

--Dr. Fernando Cervero

IASP President