. "Conference Summary." The National Academies Keck Futures Initiative: The Future of Human Healthspan: Demography, Evolution, Medicine, and Bioengineering, Task Group Summaries. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2008.
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The Future of Human Healthspan: Demography, Evolution, Medicine, and Bioengineering - Task Group Summaries
MEETING IN THE MIDDLE
The prospect of interdisciplinary collaboration drove much of the enthusiasm and excitement of participants at the conference, but a lot of work had to be done before arriving in sunny southern California. Because researchers and experts came from a multitude of disciplines, it was important to bridge any gaps in understanding in order to provide the most productive conference possible. Webcast tutorials were broadcasted online in late September, eight in total, designed to help attendees understand terminology used by researchers in different fields.
Kicking off the first of the webcasts was Dr. Ken Wachter, professor and chair of demography and statistics at the University of California, Berkeley. He presented a tutorial on the demography of aging and the process of extending life expectancy. This was important in painting a picture for an overall understanding of trends in aging, not only in the United States but also around the world. Teresa Seeman, Ph.D., professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of California, Los Angeles, followed with a presentation on stress and lifestyle and how those factors may influence the decline of health at older ages.
Other webcasts included the integration of technology in the quality of life, gerontology, regenerative medicine, animal models in research, and life expectancy with regard to social and behavioral traits.
The chair of this year’s conference, Dr. Jack Rowe, professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University, summed up the nature of the conference in his opening remarks.
“I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s not sure what’s going to happen,” he said, in reference to the cross-collaborating that would ensue for a greater part of the conference. Before splitting up into assigned task groups though, participants participated in panel discussions and were attentive in listening to speakers. Quick to jump into question-and-answer mode, participants established an in-depth dialogue of topics early on. While considering serious issues in aging and healthspan with regard to scientific research and methods, there was a lot of laughter among participants, which created an environment of ease while promoting a place of intuitive, unrestricted thinking.
The conference keynote address was given by Michael Merzenich,