Saturday, September 1, 2007

Oliver Sacks - Columbia University

New York Times:
The new appointment will allow Dr. Sacks, the author of 10 books and a frequent contributor to The New Yorker, to range freely across Columbia’s departments, teaching, giving public lectures, conducting seminars, seeing patients and collaborating with other faculty members. Many of the details of his appointment have yet to be worked out, but among other things, he will be teaching in the university’s creative writing department as well as at the medical school. “My first year at Columbia is going to be, to some extent, a year of experiment and exploration,” Dr. Sacks said. “I very much look forward to meeting students and faculty and doing classes that could be about almost anything, from music to psychiatry to whatever.”...

Dr. Sacks’s appointment is “a commitment both to having one of the great clinical neuroscientists in our midst and one of the great writers about this subject, but also a commitment to try to take that and reach out to other fields and human activities,” Mr. Bollinger said.

The university has committed $20 million to expanding the study of neuroscience to include an interdisciplinary approach, and last year it received a donation worth more than $200 million from Dawn M. Greene and the Jerome L. Greene Foundation to build a new center to house the university’s Mind, Brain and Behavior Initiative, which will help apply neuroscience to multiple areas of scholarship.

For his part, Dr. Sacks said he was looking forward to returning to the classroom. At Albert Einstein, he said, he had not taught formally since 1973. “I’ve actually missed it,” he said. He added: “In a way, for me, this is a real entrance into university life such as I’ve never had, rather than a part-time medical appointment. I’m excited, because, in a way, I’ve been a sort of an outsider or freelancer or maverick for the last 40 years, and here I think it will be quite an intense sort of full relationship with Columbia.”

Dr. Sacks said that although he was looking forward to exploring disciplines outside medicine, his clinical work would remain a focus, not least because it inspires so much of his writing.

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