The “Impatient Patient” is Geopolitics, and it “Will See You Now”

In Memoriam Jean-Christophe Victor. Chronicling Bioethics

An open letter to US health care activist Regina Holliday — The Walking Gallery — , med science rock-star Dr Eric Topol, author of best-seller “The Patient Will See You Now” and French geopolitician Prof. Emmanuel Lincot, “Geopolitics of Contemporary China” (French), platform: Fun MOOC.

Dear all,

As i am not sure if you know each other, let me do the intro.

Regina is a US-based health care activist, painting business jackets with world-wide patients and doctors stories. Stunning…

Prof. Emmanuel Lincot is a Parisian professor in geopolitics; fluent in Chinese, Russian, Uyghur and half a dozen other languages… He is the author of Carnets ouïghours de Chine, Paris, Koutoubia, 2009.

Dr Eric Topol is a cardiologist and a medical science rock star in the US, author of best-seller “The Patient Will See You Now”.

I am saddened by the loss of a professor I’ve known since I was 20 years old. He died because of a sudden heart attack. He was only 69 years old and last time I saw him was something like 20 days before he died (Dec. 28, 2016). Jean-Christophe Victor, the son of Paul-Emile Victor, was a geopolitician with a passion for Asia. He was the Eric Topol of geopolitics, producing a never-ending wealth of highly documented data. Public dissemination of geopolitics was his middle name.

The “Impatient Patient” is Geopolitics, and it “Will See You Now”

When I was 20 I was studying german literature, philosophy and linguistics at La Sorbonne & Nanterre University in France, having nothing to do with geopolitics. But once we heard of Arte TV show rock star Victor, as he was looking for a couple of volunteering students to attend his geopolitics classes (cross-pollination). He did not ask the students directly (mostly girls, whispering to each other: “oooooh look, it’s that cute guy from Arte TV show “Le dessous des cartes!!!”), instead he asked our prof. in linguistics, who smiled like he was taking a personal revenge on something, and picked two students (including me). I guess this was due to the fact that during the oral examination in linguistics a couple of months earlier, I told him “Linguistics sucks. Sorry I did not work for this exam, instead I’ve been busy reading French writer Paul Valéry and all the books by Alexandra-David Néel (a French opera singer writing about her trips to Tibet and India) because I want to take my father to Tibet.” So he gave me half an hour to speak about the books I’d read. I passed the exam successfully. None of this could have happened today. There are procedures, norms, guidelines, leaving little if any room for human interactions in a “creative” way… This professor in linguistics knew me well, I had been doing my best to attend all of his classes and ask questions. Returning the favour is an act of human kindness; not one of compliance with standard norms.

For a few years I attended Victor’s lectures at Nanterre’s BDIC (Bibliothèque de Documentation Inter Contemporaine), on and off, mostly based on the fact I found him cute; not (unfortunately) on my understanding, expertise or passion for geopolitics. Whenever he asked if I had any questions, I would usually giggle and go bright red, then I would come up with a question involving culture, and even if the question had nothing to do with the materials he was teaching about, he would build bridges. Once I had written a collection of short essays about Theo Angelopoulos’s film “Ulysses’ Gaze” (this Greek filmmaker was a Cannes Palme d’Or award winner). He read them and sent them to Angelopoulos who answered me (fax) he loved them, so just after that when I met with Victor, I came running to him and shouted out “He loved the essays!! He loved the essays!!” Harvey Keitel was such a cute Ulysses…

When years later I was confronted to highly unethical stuff involving surgeons and organ trafficking in China, Victor was the second person I turned to…

The first one actually reached out to me, again because of what I had written and sent him: a review of his book: “Le Coffre aux Ames” (French)

This book was a brilliant fiction about ethical problems linked to “post-mortem” organ transplants, written by a French oncologist I knew quite well, Prof. David Khayat, as I was then interacting with him, being in charge of Marketing at “Intuitive Surgical Europe”, implementing minimally invasive surgical device da Vinci TM.

Later on, I met with yet another specialist in geopolitics, Prof. Emmanuel Lincot, with the Catholic Institute Paris, and his stunning MOOC “Geopolitics of contemporary China”, French version. Platform: FUN MOOC. Second edition of this MOOC is starting in just a few days (Feb. 20, 2017).

Health care activist Regina Holliday is building bridges too, like Jean-Christophe Victor did, and when I told him about those Regina jackets (500 painted already, including mine), Victor laughed and said: “Can she add a touch of geopolitics to medicine?” Prof. Eric Lander (geneticist, MIT) said illness knows no borders

First lesson China taught me: Gene editing tool CRISPR-cas9 is becoming a geopolitics editing tool.

Two silos are about to merge: terrorism (Daesh) and organ trafficking. More than any country in the world, China needs to implement the future of organ transplants, as fast as possible. I would not be surprised if CRISPR (that cool genome editing tool, right?) breakthroughs in clinic came from China in the near future… Real science should get rid of geopolitical bigotry, right? This is the meaning of Lander’s “illness knows no borders.” Second lesson China taught me: in the United States of America, science has to be religion-compliant and middle-class is shrinking, whereas in China religion has to be science-compliant and middle-class is expanding. Hence, a massive rise of middle-class in Asia might trigger the biggest breakthroughs in health care world wide.

Early 2018, the Institute for Higher National Defence Studies in Paris will organize a meeting gathering French experts, discussing the latest in genomics, A.I. and armies in the future. Genomics and I.T have merged. Time to learn about it…

Working with (or against?) numerous medical silos, I’ve learned there are bridges not everybody is willing to build, so we need all the people we can get, as even a handful of people can make a difference — third lesson China taught me. More than ever, bridges are important. I wanted to share what my first-hand experience as a geopolitics student with Jean-Christophe Victor has taught me. And also, express my gratitude to MITx pedagogic dream team in charge of MOOC series in genomics MITxBio, platform EdX.

Best regards,

Catherine Coste


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