“A single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years mere study of books.”
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
What the 17th-Century English poet said about people in general, that “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main,” is especially true for doctors and all the other people in all the medical professions. And on that “continent” called Medicine, the single most crucial medical tool is: conversations.
Spoken words are like oxygen, so common as to be ignored but essential for life. A recent study found that, on average, people speak about 16,000 words per day But speaking is not at all the same as having a conversation. Professional organizations meetings often feature speakers—one person talking, multiple people listening. Conversations, in contrast, are interactive, everyone having the opportunity both to speak and to listen. In Medicine, the best meetings and conferences are conversation-based, not speaker-based.
It is for precisely that reason that the Grover Conference is today the world's most influential scientific meeting focusing on the pulmonary circulation, gas exchange, and pulmonary vascular diseases (PVD). As E. Kenneth Weir, W. Wagner Wiltz Jr. and Stephen L. Archer point out in this issue of Pulmonary Circulation, in their historical review of the 15 Grover Conferences held in Colorado since the first one in 1984, the Conference is named for a man who was, and remains, not only a pioneer and innovator in the profession, but also a master of the art of conversation: a mentor. Robert F. Grover “was also an inspirational mentor and the Conference celebrates both his scientific interests and his tradition of mentorship.” Significantly, the attendees at each Grover Conference include both leaders and beginners, both the “big names” of today and the young, promising investigators who, thanks in large part to conversations like those at such conferences, will be the big names of tomorrow.