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On potted palms

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On potted palms
Mauricio Goihman
Dermatology Online Journal 17 (6): 14

I will write about two potted palms. One stood in my office for some time. It literally vegetated. One webbed, fringed, yellowish leaf would be replaced from time to time by a greener one. It was a sad looking specimen. I took pity and replanted it in the garden of my condo. It took root, grew, and has now reached the level of the fifth floor. It has become a majestic royal palm. The second one, belonged to my late mother-in-law. At first it was nicer-looking and greener. It had a bigger pot and stood outside where the sun could reach it. We called it “the dwarf palm.” When my mother-in-law died, the plant was put at the entrance of our building. Somebody disliked it and poured a noxious liquid into the soil of the pot. The poor thing nearly died. I transplanted it to the garden, close to the first palm. The “dwarf” also recovered. Its stem has a dark and narrower site indicating the suspended growth, the equivalent of a Beau line. However, I found that the palm is not a dwarf at all. It is growing, furiously, although it will not likely reach the size of its majestic and much younger sister.

My point in telling this tale is simple. Both trees had the genetic wherewithal to grow into strong, tall, beautiful palms. The first was nearly dying in confinement. The other had sun and was green and seemingly happy, but was unexpectedly poisoned. Neither of them would have reached its respective potential except by transplantation to a nourishing environment.

What happens with talented and gifted people in countries or civilizations that offer few incentives or are confining? Some will just wither; others will live and grow slowly and painfully. Very few will be so strong that they will burst through the confining walls of their figurative pots to find nourishment to grow maximally.

There has been a lot discussed and written about the “brain drain” in underdeveloped countries or societies (particularly as it applies to science and medicine). The United States, Britain, and other countries have been severely chastised for “luring” physicians, biologists, or other scientists toward their own institutions. These seemingly profit unfairly from the investment that economically stressed countries made in training ungrateful citizens that left them for greener pastures. Some have proposed legislation to curb even the possibility of this taking place.

Allow me to express an opposite point of view.

It is not easy to migrate and try to compete outside one’s own environment, particularly when this involves adopting a new language, new customs, and a different environment. However, individuals make these adaptations because in most cases they would stagnate or wither in the places in which they were born. The solution is not to hamper migration of talented individuals, but to come to the aid of countries that need to better nurture constructive talent and ability. Indeed, many countries that lack facilities for the development of science are not intrinsically poor. This is shown by the value of their international trading and in some instances by the foreign bank accounts enjoyed by their rulers. It is more a matter of availability and distribution.

Dermatology and other areas of medicine and science in nurturing countries benefit from those individuals who emigrate from temporarily or permanently restrictive areas. Does anybody think that Dermatology in the US and the world would be better served if Rothman, Lever, and Cañizares had remained in their native countries? Would science in general be better off if Einstein, Metchnikoff, and Dulbecco had done likewise?

© 2011 Dermatology Online Journal