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March 4, 2010


Let’s bust some silos!

To the editor:

I am a professor of epidemiology. Most of my friends are epidemiologists, all of my students are epidemiologists, most of what I read is epidemiology. I even married an epidemiologist.I am in an epidemiology silo. I suspect that many other professors and retired professors are in history silos, physics silos, English silos and surgery silos, etc. It is time to break out and to learn from each other.

This weekend I went to a Chinese New Year luncheon and met an 80-year-old former professor of Chinese history. It was delightful and made me want to learn from you, and other professors.

I started to talk with other professors at the University and there is considerable interest in sharing knowledge.

The approach we are taking is that of the TED (technology, entertainment, design) meetings ( I presented at this meeting six years ago, and it was most fascinating. After I presented there was a 300-pound torch singer belting out the blues. The TED meetings have some of the best presentations I have seen.

We were thinking of having three 20-minute presentations by Pitt Professors in the TED style from different disciplines in our school. The first talk may be in science/research, and the second in the humanities/history, e.g. The final talk would be professors presenting their favorite hobbies, e.g. singing, stamp collecting, woodworking, guitar playing, cooking or teaching people how to drive Porsches, etc.

We plan to start in September with a small group. We will continue until December and if it is not working, we stop. This will be free.

If you listen to NPR, you will like this.

It is time to be silo busters!

I would appreciate any suggestions you may have at

Ronald LaPorte


Disease Monitoring and Telecommunications

WHO Collaborating Centre


Professor of Epidemiology

Graduate School of Public Health


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