Failing to see opportunities for serendipitous success in people
who are different from you because you do not understand that
your success is connected to their success.
Being in the wrong place at the wrong time to just by chance
suffer a loss because of someone else’s failure
Into the mid 1990s, gastroenterologists believed that stress, spicy foods, and too much acid led to ulcers. Treatments included diet, antacids, antidepressants, and surgery.
In 1981, Australian internist Barry Marshall began working with Robin Warren, a pathologist at the Royal Perth Hospital. Warren had discovered that a spiral bacteria named Helicobacter pylori or H. pylori could overrun and infect the gut. He found the bacteria in biopsies of both ulcers and stomach cancer. Marshall traced H. pylori as the cause of both peptic ulcers and stomach cancers. He also discovered that gastritis (inflammation of the inside surface of the stomach) precedes both ulcers and stomach cancer.
When presented with the information, gastroenterologists foolishly decided bacteria could not cause ulcers or stomach cancer. Gastroenterologists ignored Warren and Marshall’s scientific evidence at least in part because the evidence meant losing patients. Patients cured of ulcers with antibiotics would not come back for repeated treatments. Every time Marshall and Warren presented their findings to gastroenterologists, they faced a “campaign of negativism”. Medical journals made getting the word out difficult by rejecting their scientific paper.
Microbiologists – researchers who study infectious diseases – considered the research on H. pylori important. Unfortunately, scientific papers on ulcers and acid drowned out anything microbiologists wrote about H. pylori.
To prove his research, Marshall infected himself with H. pylori, developed gastritis, then cured himself with antibiotics. He published a synthesis of the research in The Medical Journal of Australia in 1985. Gastroenterologists still refused to use antibiotics. Marshall moved to the United States in 1986. Articles in Reader’s Digest, National Enquirer, and other publications about his work brought attention to his research. In the mid 1990s, the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided to push the issue. Patients with ulcers and stomach cancer finally got the treatment that had been available for a decade or more.
During that decade, people continued to lose their health and their lives to ulcers and stomach cancer. With each loss of health and life, everyone who rejected Robin Warren and Barry Marshall’s research lost all possibilities for any serendipitous success those patients might have created for them.
Barry Marshall now shows the rejection letters for his scientific paper during lectures.
Gastroenterologists failed to see opportunities for
serendipitous success in stomach ulcer and stomach cancer patients
because they did not understand that
their success was connected to their patients’ success.
Stomach cancer and stomach ulcer patients
were in the wrong place at the wrong time
to just by chance suffer the loss of their lives and health
because of gastroenterologists’ foolish failures.
“The Dr. Who Drank Infectious Broth, Gave Himself an Ulcer, and Solved a Medical Mystery”
Paula M. Kramer
© 2015 to the present
All rights reserved.
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