This issue marks the 30th anniversary of Penn Medicine. When the magazine launched in the fall of 1987, its inaugural editor, Marshall Ledger, articulated the idea that medicine at Penn may be best described as a balance between tradition and innovation. That idea has guided the magazine ever since. Earlier this year, in my first editor’s note, I unwittingly echoed him—carrying the magazine’s own tradition forward, even as new innovations continue to appear on its pages.
This magazine has changed quite a bit over three decades. There are the obvious visual things: Photos are larger and consistently colorful (black and white is strictly for historical stories now). And, of course, the scope of the medical enterprise at Penn has grown massively larger. Looking at the covers, the few redesigns are evident.
But there is one change that seems especially striking. In the early years, most of the magazine’s covers featured a stylized portrait of one or two individual people. Later, illustrations and conceptual photos dominate. More than just a change in design trends, it symbolically captures the shift in emphasis from the individual might of the physician or principal investigator to a broader focus on the complex questions, challenges, and opportunities in medicine. More and more, medicine depends on collaboration to navigate the complexity of modern problems.
That is evident in the cover story of this issue, “Prevention at the Point of Pain .” Even without addressing all of the many dimensions of the opioid crisis in depth—such as social, criminal justice, and political factors—our take on the origins of the crisis with pain-medicine prescriptions and pain-management solutions is still complex and still requires many players in a coordinated response. From the subjectivity and variety of types of pain that require adequate treatment, to the science of pain, to the economic forces in health care that led to more frequent prescribing of opioids over the last two decades, building solutions to a comprehensive problem involves teams that cut across traditional disciplinary boundaries.
In “50 Years of the ‘How’ in Health Care,” we look at interdisciplinary collaboration as a means of handling complex challenges as its own topic, head-on. Through the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, established half a century ago, and numerous other centers and collaborations, the act of cutting across disciplinary boundaries to find complex solutions to complex problems has become second nature on the Penn campus. A consortium dealing with the complexities of the costs of precision cancer therapies is just one such example.
We’re facing huge challenges in the world today, within medicine and outside of it. May you find inspiration in these stories that smart people, working together with diverse perspectives, can find the necessary nuanced and detailed solutions to multifaceted problems, for the next 30 years and far beyond. A balance of innovation, tradition, and collaboration may be the new description we carry forward.