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Vital Signs

Investigator Insight

In this section, we highlight the human side of biomedical investigation, putting a few questions to a researcher at DMS-DHMC.

C. Harker Rhodes, M.D., Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Pathology

Rhodes, who studies the genetics of neurodegenerative disorders and the molecular biology of gliomas, is the medical director of the Pathology Shared Resource at Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center. He has been on the DMS faculty since 1990.

What do you consider your most important work?
I'm tempted to say something predictable about my contribution to patient care. And the neuro-oncology tumor board on Tuesday afternoons is probably the part of my work-week I enjoy the most. But my teaching activities-mentoring new residents-is, in the overall scheme of things, probably the most important thing I do.

What famous person, alive or dead, would you like to meet?
[Swiss mathematician] Leonhard Euler. There is a mathematical problem that has become central to some of the research I'm doing which I'm sure could be solved more elegantly than the way I'm approaching it. I suspect that his intuitive but often not exactly rigorous approach to mathematics is what is needed to get it right.

What place that you've never been to would you like to visit?
My next trip to somewhere that I've never been before will be this fall to Wales, where I'm co-teaching a neuroanatomy practicum at Cardiff University. I really enjoy traveling as a tourist, and Snowdonia National Park in North Wales is supposed to be absolutely beautiful. And to make up for the fact that I'm flying into the world's worst airport (Heathrow), I'm giving myself a weekend in London. But the real attraction about the trip to Wales is that I'll spend some days in Benllech Tyn-Y-Gongl-at the beach and sailing.

If I had more time I would . . .
I've always made my family my first priority, so the conventional answer-"spend more time with my wife/kids"-wouldn't be accurate. Of course, like everyone else, I've got a long list of unfinished professional projects. For example, my editor at Cambridge University Press is still waiting for the first draft of the book Genetic Polymorphisms Affecting Human Cognition, and I genuinely regret not having more time for that project. But especially now that my sons are away at college and law school, I'm spending so much time at work that to wish for more of that would be pretty silly. So I'll give a selfish answer and wish for time to learn to play the piano.

What music CD did you purchase most recently?
David Garrett by David Garrett.

What book you read this summer did you enjoy the most?
The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie, because it brought back memories of an afternoon I spent wandering around Fatehpur Sikri with my wife.

What are your favorite nonwork activities?
Skiing, scuba diving, and horseback riding.

What is the hardest lesson you ever had to learn?
To recognize the value of constructive criticism, no matter what the source.

Are there misconceptions people have about your field?
Absolutely. Americans are terrified of anything that has the word "genetics" in it. They've got to come to terms with the fact that there are important genetic differences between individual human beings, and that the philosophical principle that "all men are created equal" does not require that we pretend that they are identical. Our diversity is our greatest strength, and we need to embrace it and recognize that the elucidation of the molecular basis of that diversity is going to be one of the most scientifically productive endeavors of the 21st century.

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