Thursday, July 8, 2010

Meet Dr. Jacob Weiss and Playing by Air


I was introduced to Dr. Jacob Weiss by Cynthia Manley at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. Jacob, as he likes to be called, is a young man with more talent in one fingernail than I have seen in an entire chorus. Jacob graduated from Princeton with B.S.E. Degree in June 2003, Department of Computer Science, summa cum laude. The rest of his online resume’ reads:

Post-Doctoral Fellow July 2009-present, The Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy at Vanderbilt

Ph.D. Degree May 2009, Department of Biomedical Informatics, supported by a training grant from the National Library of Medicine

M.S. Degree December 2005, Department of Biomedical Informatics: "The Patient-Caregiver Integrated Network"


After several meetings, I was thoroughly impressed with his vast knowledge about the undeserved minority community access to information about cancer prevention, awareness, and, most importantly, survivor support. We discussed my family’s history with cancer and my desire to see more openness about minorities need for more education about a disease that if detected early, survivor rates are raised tremendously.

In my family, cancer was not a discussion until long after Daddy was diagnosed with cancer. In my small home town, the word cancer was whispered. When the word was uttered, it seemed like a death sentence and rarely was survivorship considered an option. After moving to Nashville, I have encountered the same attitudes about cancer from some women of color. As I was sharing with Dr. Weiss my experiences, he revealed that his years of research about sharing cancer information, grassroots organizations were extremely effective in distributing information to the community and helping lift the veil off a subject that many find hard to discuss. He also informed me how important it was to bring people from the field of medicine together with those that have a passion to help others to the table. This will help everyone stop whispering about cancer and actually start more public dialogues. We discussed organizations that were on fire to help stamp out cancer and we knew several of the same women who were very active in the Nashville community.

We have met several times since our initial introduction. I introduced him to the publisher of the Tribune who was impressed with his work in keeping cancer survivors informed and building a “go to” network for those seeking information. The Tribune staff marveled over his online communities that he built and maintains to keep cancer patient informed and connected; www.canconnect.org and www.catchitearly.org. What was equally remarkable about his work in the field of Biomedical Informatics is that he uses his talent as a professional juggler to keep everything working together. Did I lose you? Yes, Dr. Weiss is a professional juggler and performs across the country with "Playing by Air". Revenue from his corporate bookings funds his online community activism.

I do not know when it happen but often times I feel as if I am talking to a brother from another mother instead of a highly respected intellectual and community activist. I finally got to share all of his talents with a few others. This week, I invited my friends, Thelma and Louise, to a performance to see Dr. Weiss. Now, you already know a day with me is always a planned adventure. Thelma and Louise and guests met me downtown at the Nashville Auditorium to see "Playing by Air" perform live. I did not bother to tell them that the performance was for Moose Family Fraternity National Convention that was in town. They showed up in Black folk finery to a packed auditorium that looked a wee bit “different”. Many of the Moose Convention attendees were dressed in T-shirts and shorts. When trying to connect others to a good cause and the opportunity to meet a star before he becomes the next big thing, leaving out a few minor details was worth the odd looks we received from almost everyone as we walked to VIP waiting area. Our evening started out a little awkward but the performance was magnificent. Watching Dr. Weiss (Jacob), Ted Joblin, and Michael Karas perform a high energy 30 plus minute non-stop juggling set using everything from oval rings to violins to gigantic objects while keeping a country and western crowd thoroughly entertained with humor was something to see. The performance was truly “a symphony of action and comedy.” Seeing six Black folks sitting in middle of 2,000 White folks added to the entertainment value for me.

Do I have you intrigued about when is the next show? Good! If you want to see Dr. Weiss and "Playing by Air: in person, please join them on July 17 @ 7PM and July 18 @ 2PM at the Nashville's Children Theater. Cancer survivors' families and supporters will share a memorable evening of laughter and inspiration. Come help build community partnerships with nearly 30 organizations that have programs and workshops to help cancer survivors, families, caretakers and community.

Dr. Weiss, I mean Jacob, showed me that with a little elbow grease and creativity, we can talk about cancer, be informed, and bring joy and laughter to an audience all at once. The sponsors of the event are invested in stamping out cancer. The list includes Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Holmes Pest Control, Conner Management Group, and The Tennessee Tribune; with additional support from the Nashville Children Theater, Artistry in Motion, and Martin O’Connor Photography. Hope to see you there! For more information go to www.playingbyaircares.com

1 comment :

Cynthia Manley said...

Girl, brother from another mother is right! That's way better than feeling like his mother. Anyway, thanks for sharing the story of Dr. Weiss. He is a wonderful community partner with more talent -- and energy -- than I can fathom.