I graduated high school in 1962 and spent my youth in mid-century America in the 1950s. I went to the Catholic grammar school in a neighborhood on the southside of Chicago, a middle-class neighborhood that saw generations of the same families raising their families, something akin to a small town in the larger city of Chicago.    

The historical event that had the most significant influence on my education and choice of career was not the election of our Camelot President Kennedy, nor the advent of rock ‘n’ roll. Rather, it was the launching of Sputnik by the Soviet Union. This unthinkable accomplishment by a hostile foreign power shook the pastor of our church to his core.

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“MMR causes autism.” “Gardasil makes girls promiscuous.” Today’s highly publicized debates about vaccines are often compared (unfavorably) to the heyday of vaccine development in the mid-twentieth century, when smallpox was eradicated and schoolchildren lined up by the millions to be protected against polio. At a time when presidential candidates are asked about their stance on vaccines and when famous comedians make internet videos about how their benefits outweigh their risks, it may be mete to recall that those campaigns were no less political or fraught with uncertainty.

 Across the street from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and its Oakland hospital complex is a sand-colored building with many windows: Salk Hall.

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