Good­bye and thank you

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - YOUR DAILY BREAK - An­thony Ko­maroff AskDr.K

El­ton John sang that “Sorry Seems to Be the Hard­est Word,” but for me the hard­est word is “Good­bye.”

Ev­ery good­bye is an end­ing. Long be­fore life ends, in­di­vid­ual pieces of that life end. Many of those lit­tle end­ings are the close of some­thing you cher­ish — some­thing that brought mean­ing or plea­sure to your life.

To­day’s col­umn will be my last. I’ve been writ­ing this col­umn for over five years. At age 75, I’ve de­cided to slow down. The time re­quired to write a col­umn six days a week, 52 weeks a year, makes that hard.

Even though this is the right de­ci­sion for me, I re­gret hav­ing to make it. Your ques­tions have been in­ter­est­ing and re­mark­ably wide-rang­ing: “Is it safe to swad­dle a baby?” “How does Alzheimer’s wreak so much havoc in the brain?” “When we lose mem­o­ries, do we lose them for­ever?”

I doubt you as­sumed I was an or­a­cle who could just write the an­swer to ev­ery ques­tion off the top of my head. In­deed, I leaned heav­ily on the knowl­edge of many col­leagues at Har­vard Med­i­cal School, and I did my home­work. I learned a lot, and I hope I was help­ful to you.

Above all, I love the process of try­ing to clearly ex­plain things that can be pretty com­pli­cated. I tried to do that for the more than 1,500 col­umns I wrote. Each one gave me plea­sure. And your let­ters and emails thank­ing me for my ef­forts added greatly to that plea­sure.

Were there any themes that ran through my col­umns? There were at least two. The first is that, through the life­style we choose, we can do more to im­prove our health than any­thing our doc­tor can do for us. For ex­am­ple, through life­style we can re­duce our risk of get­ting Type 2 di­a­betes (the most com­mon kind) by nearly 70 per­cent. No medicine yet in­vented can do that.

The sec­ond theme is that we need to do more to sup­port bio­med­i­cal re­search. Most of that sup­port comes from our fed­eral tax dol­lars. Bio­med­i­cal sci­ence has pro­gressed so rapidly in the past 50 years that we have the power to make ma­jor ad­vances. Yet there is not enough money in the bud­get to fund many wor­thy projects, slow­ing progress. Who de­cides how much money is spent on med­i­cal re­search in our democ­racy? We, the peo­ple.

Although to­day’s col­umn is my last, I’m pleased that three mem­bers of the fac­ulty at the UCLA School of Medicine will be start­ing a new col­umn, “Ask the Doc­tors,” which will ap­pear in the many pa­pers where my col­umn ap­pears. This closes a cir­cle for me, since I grew up prac­ti­cally next door to that pres­ti­gious in­sti­tu­tion.

I want, in par­tic­u­lar, to thank Ur­mila Par­likar, who has helped me to gather and or­ga­nize in­for­ma­tion for this col­umn with re­mark­able skill and ded­i­ca­tion. In ad­di­tion, Alan Mc­Der­mott and Shena Wolf, the col­umn’s ed­i­tors, have added el­e­gance and clar­ity to ev­ery col­umn.

I will miss you, and miss writ­ing for you. Thank you again for all of your kind words over the years. And good­bye.

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