Chautauqua Preview: Health Care -- From Bench to Bedside

Aug 17, 2014

The Chautauqua Institution is in the midst of a three-year series that is exploring health care issues.  This week, Chautauqua examines health care from the "bench to bedside."  And as WBFO's Mark Scott reports in our last Chautauqua Preview of the year, this week will also feature a wide variety of music from classical and folk to rock and jazz.

Chautauqua is once again spending the final week of its summer season on the topic of health care.  And just like last year, the program expands beyond the morning lecture at the Amphitheater.  Small presentations will be held throughout the day at smaller venues.  Topics include medical entrepreneurship, cardio-vascular wellness and successful aging.  Chautauqua President Tom Becker said speakers will explore innovations in health care and how they make their way from the lab bench to patient care.

“How do we create new training for physicians and other health care workers?  How do we create cures and mitigation that address our understanding of disease and injury?  Having done that, how to we move all that to patients themselves?” Becker asked. 

Among the primary speakers at the Amphitheater lectures is Dr. Daniel Weinberger.  He'll be speaking Tuesday.  Weinberger is CEO of the Leiber Institute for Brain Development.  He's done groundbreaking research into schizophrenia.  Weinberger says there's been more progress the past ten years in brain research than at any other time.  In a presentation sponsored by the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation last year, Weinberger said his research has identified specific genes that are linked to mental illness.

“Genes are mechanisms of illness,” Weinberger said.  “Genes that have been discovered are pathways to understanding brain development and brain function.”

While much of the week is focused on keeping us healthy, the Interfaith series each afternoon at the Hall of Philosophy is focused on death.  This week's theme is "From Here to the Hereafter: Facing Death with Hope and Courage."  Associate Director of Religion, Maureen Rovegno, says speakers this week will tell us how to face our mortality with practicality, acceptance and perhaps joy.  Acceptance?  Most of us can understand that.  But joy?  Rovegno says yes.

“For example, at the end of each day, we may say to ourselves this has been a good day or we may look at things that we would have done differently.  Any way you look at it, we say amen and go to sleep,” Rovegno said.  “If we can look at our whole life that way, we can face that inevitability with a sense of joy and appreciation.”

Children enjoy outdoor activity at the Chautauqua Institution
Credit Photo courtesy of the Chautauqua Institution

Music takes center stage most evenings this week at Chautauqua.  The Chautauqua Symphony performs its final concert of the season Tuesday night.  Then Wednesday, it's an Evening with Livingston Taylor, Tom Chapin and the Jammin' Divas. 

2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Beatles in the United States.  So, Vice President of Programming Marty Merkley says Chautauqua couldn't let that anniversary pass without paying tribute.

“Now you hear the Beatles sung in classical voice recitals and played by orchestras, not just in Pops concerts but in regular concerts,” Merkley said.  “They have had a tremendous impact on music. 

“So, you can’t let the 50th anniversary go without celebrating the music of the Beatles.”

On Thursday night, we'll hear from a tribute group called Yesterday as its musicians re-create -- note for note -- the music of the Fab Four.

There's more rock Friday night as former members of the Electric Light Orchestra perform. 

Then Saturday, Chautauqua summer season concludes with Patti Austin singing Ella Fitzgerald with the Duke Ellington Orchestra.

“Everyone knows Duke Ellington.  This is his orchestra.  Together, they (Patti Austin and orchestra) join up to do a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald,” Merkley said.  “Again, this is the American song book.  These are songs that are iconic in our culture.”

Chautauqua is a Western New York jewel.  There is no other place like it.  Where else can you spend a morning learning about health care, an afternoon exploring your mortality and an evening with your favorite music.  Chautauqua attracts the famous -- people like Tom Brokaw, Jill Abramson and Ken Burns -- and others whose names aren't as familiar but have still made a difference in our lives. 

We hope you've enjoyed these weekly visits to Chautauqua.  My thanks to Tom Becker, Marty Merkley and the rest of the staff for sharing the Chautauqua experience with us throughout this summer season.