Madame Curie Would Have Been A South Dakotan

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Marie Curie was a Polish physicist who developed the theory of radioactivty. During WW1, she set up the world’s first mobile x-ray capability to help treat wounded soldiers. She was the first woman to win the Noble prize, and the only woman to win it twice. She famously wrote, “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so we can fear less.

It was with pride today that I listened to the governor of South Dakota describe how South Dakotans were going to lead the nation in the first statewide clinical trial of Chloroquine Hydrochloride. It made me think about Marie Curie and how she would have been a South Dakotan had she ever moved to America because she too embodied South Dakotan’s bold pioneer spirit and willingness to put themselves out there for the advancement of mankind. Of course things did not end well for Madame Curie as she died of over-exposure to radiation from treating soldiers.

That leads me back to my sense of pride while listening to the South Dakota Governor and why that pride quickly turned to concern. Years ago after graduating from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, I went to work at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. I was incredibly humbled to be a rural South Dakota kid working beside the 3,000 brightest minds in the world. I was soon at home however discovering that there were so many South Dakotans working at Los Alamos we had our own alumni club.

My mentor used to lecture me about the special responsibilities and obligations engineers have to society. He would insist that, “when your research leads you to understand something isn’t right, you’re obligated to speak out.” So I am.

I was on board with Govenor Noem advocating clinical trials for seriously ill COVID patents, but grew concerned when she talked about testing its use as a prophylactic on a larger population. Throughout this crisis I have been studying the impact and effectiveness of Chloroquine Hydrochloride, first from a historical perspective, then investigating the controversy surrounding its use. I am a research engineer not a medical doctor, but anecdotal evidence from France seems to question the drugs efficacy. Then there’s the issue with the U.S. Army Special Forces not allowing it’s use due to adverse side effects. Also, with the pandemic trending downward, is this the time to go statewide with a questionable clinical trial? Marie Curie may have said yes, but then again, she died advancing science.

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