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Fernando Polack, the pediatrician in sneakers who brought the only vaccine that the country will test against coronavirus


Father of two children. Consecrated in the United States. Director of the Infant Foundation. River fan. It was already prominent in the past. But the pandemic made it popular.

Gonzalo Sánchez

08/06/2020 - 7:01

  • Clarí
  • Society

Steve Jobs air, but in practice related to Bill Gates. It is not an exaggeration to put Fernando Polack at the height of two tanks. The Argentine pediatrician and researcher is on that line: it is the line of the men who illuminate . It was a highlight before the pandemic. But the coronavirus made it popular. His name sounds in the common talks. People are saying: "How will the Polack issue go with the vaccines" or "Did you see this Polack with the plasma issue" . Thus, like the Covid-19, it was its irruption into everyone's universe.

It was March. Alberto Fernández launched the longest quarantine in the world. The voice thin Polack it was strong in parallel. At the time when more ghosts were flying over Argentina, when more responses were required, Polack, a scientist in slippers and a kangaroo diver, a neighbor of Belgrano, appealed to his metaphors about elephants and stampedes to talk about the behavior of the virus. There was no panic. It made the complex flat. He promised that the pandemic would finally pass.

It is still fascinating to hear. YouTube is riddled with interviews and talks from now and before, statements from a younger Polack who talks about the protective importance of breastfeeding in a Chaco hospital, or how environments determine the virulence of respiratory diseases, or about bronchiolitis, which sends more children to intensive care each year than the coronavirus.

Fernando Polack, training in a laboratory.

But everything turned vertigo and Polack made news twice more . In mid-May, he launched the most ambitious plasma research project to treat coronavirus patients so far. Plasma works. Then he knocked on the doors of the Olivos estate. When the president's aides opened, there were Polack and representatives from the North American Pfizer lab. They brought magnificent news: that the country would integrate the select batch of nations where one of the most advanced vaccine projects that exist against the disease will be tested. Next week, the first Argentine volunteers begin phase 3 trials.

Fernando Polack. in 2010, when he received the award for Best Pediatrician in the United States.

But Polack did not want to be Polack , needless to say. If it had been for him, he would have headed for the humanistics. The court marked him, as it happens in any family, the origin . Medical father. Mother dentist. They threw him literature, sociology, philosophy, history, something related to the narrative, something that is detected in his way of expressing himself, possibly inherited from his Russian grandmother, who told stories about pogroms and czars, based in Entre Rivers in the late nineteenth century. Of his mother, he remembers that he used to say to her: "All material can be taken from you, the only thing you can protect is what you have in your head ." There was no escape: knowing, whatever it was, was emerging as a destination.

Fernando Polack, during his forays into the interior of the country with the Infant Foundation.

Adolescence in the '80s. Democratic spring. Raúl Alfonsín. Soccer and tennis summers at the nautical Hacoaj. Holydays in Brazil. Stroll through Barrio Norte. Like an antiviral cocktail , that's Polack's youth cocktail. There are, of course, the Colegio Nacional Buenos Aires and, finally, the UBA. His friends say that seeing him today and thinking about what he was yesterday is not surprising at all: in the young Polack, studious, good guy, dedicated, fan of River, lover of Brazilian music, there is the germ of today's Polack.

Today he is 53 years old. He is the father of Leandro, a jazz musician, almost a philosopher, 24 years old, and Julia, 22 years old, fascinated by everything related to gastronomy. Both born in the United States. Leandro in Michigan. Julia in Baltimore. But there is no need to get ahead. Before that, in Polack's life is Mariana, his ex-wife and mother of his children. They met at UBA. They were married in 1993. He was 25. She was 27. Because of these circularities in life, there is one color fact, which, more than color data, speaks of a link: Mariana is a dentist. Polack's mom was her teacher at the university.

Fernando Polack, advising during the Government of Mauricio Macri

They went to live in the United States. They built a family. Research grants and medical projects mark the Polack's path through the empire. Argentina is strange, but it is time for planting. There are the doctors who make prescriptions and there are those who keep on going, calibrating the internal GPS to detect which is the next scale. It is useful for life, for any career in general. Polack was and still is a finder of next stops.

Fernando Polack with his team.

In North America, he is established as a pediatric investigator. Study and work at Johns Hopkins University. He receives the best young researcher in pediatrics award in the United States and the recognition of excellence in pediatric research by the American Pediatric Research Society. He is currently still a professor of Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University. There where he occupies the chair named after the Argentine Nobel laureate César Milstein .

But turn around. It turns around when young scientists and doctors in Argentina are leaving the country, when it is still tearing the crisis out of convertibility. Time of brain drain. In 2003, the Polacks return to the country. Times of settlement, times of separation, of a new life.

Polack and his team on the plasma use project at the Central Military Hospital.

Also of re-foundation. In 2003 he created the Infant Foundation. Based in Flores, in addition to researching, training local students, and receiving students from Georgetown and Vanderbilt universities, Infant created a research network made up of pediatricians in 26 hospitals in Argentina, which covered more than 2 million of boys and their parents. It is known that Infant has received support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation , among others from the global frontline, and that his work on respiratory diseases in children has become a reference for the international pediatric scientific community.

Polack has the ability to tell his work experiences during the Influenza A pandemic as a film. He remembers the suburban hospitals, the wards, the "diving suits", a doctor "dressed as an astronaut" who accompanies them to difficult places, with patients that are piled up and workers that are not enough. Polack can talk about a picnic that makes the coronavirus when there are no antibodies that recognize it. Or a vaccine capable of "stunning the virus" so you don't know what to do. She has a didactic and creative capacity rarely seen in an expert of her stature.

Will it be so much to contemplate your favorite painting? Swans that are reflected on elephants , by Salvador Dalí. He confessed it years ago to the newspaper of La Nación. He said that was the metaphor for what scientists have to do for him: look for the elephants that are the reflection of swans in the water. If we look at the swans ...

Fernando Polack with his children, Julia and Lenadro.

By now Polack is already Polack, but the pandemic and popularity are still missing. Spiral life is still missing. And fight a little so that the demand for work does not threaten something that Polack does not negotiate: time with his children. And also with his friends. He often tells Leandro and Julia, them, that they really have seen him work hard, that work cannot be ahead of family time . The family cannot be at the service of work, but the other way around. Or in this order: the work behind the timeshare. Of travel. Of dinners. From the talks. From the River field on Sundays, in pre-pandemic times. Times of champion River and crowded stands. Times Polack promises they will return.


Source: clarin

All life articles on 2020-08-06

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