Research into new vaccine brings prestige to SLU

It’s hard to regain your confidence after being named the most dangerous city in America. This year, however, St. Louis, led by the Saint Louis University School of Medicine, is redeeming its national image by being the one of the leading institutions for research into an H1N1, formerly known as swine flu, vaccine.

It is expected that as soon as this fall there could be a heavy outbreak of the flu virus. The virus has already reached pandemic status and typically hits hard among high school and university-aged crowd, as well as those traditionally susceptible: the very young and very elderly. We should be proud that SLU is one of only eight institutions in the country that has dedicated rigorous research to the vaccine; such research not only brings prestige to SLU but also incorporates and helps the general St. Louis community.

In essence, such interaction and outreach is the heart of large, academic institutions, especially those with proclaimed Jesuit missions such as ours.

For most students’ practical purposes, SLU is a self-contained unit. The campus is well-manicured and draws distinct boundaries between itself and the adjacent neighborhoods; transactions and academics and activities all take place within the limits of Compton and Vandeventer.

In reality, though, SLU is a fundamental part of what St. Louis is, and functions symbiotically within it. Its campus dominates a large section of midtown, and it employs a large section of the St. Louis population. Money and ideas are in constant flux between the University and the world surrounding it, so that it is actually less a separate entity and more an organ inside the greater metropolitan system.

By testing the vaccine on applicants from the Greater St. Louis area rather than confining the research to the realm of the ivory tower, and be receiving copious amounts of media attention for its efforts, students and faculty can see how their institution functions as a place of research in its larger environment, and the entire St. Louis community can see SLU bring something to the table other than basketball, priests and pop stars.