All of us have in our mind the image of an ideal scientist…
For me, I like to picture Albert Einstein, sometime in the 1950s. I imagine a kind, older man who has seen horrible things, and yet retains a hopeful outlook on humanity. The ideal scientist I imagine is gentle, always curious, and yet humble about our place in the universe and among our fellow creatures on this Earth.
I imagine this ideal scientist would live and breathe integrity, and yet be open to challenging questions.
I’d been on the autism beat for several years when in February of 2010 I read an interview with Dr. Mikovits in which she suggested that our children might have an HIV-like retrovirus. The virus was called XMRV, had been discovered in 2006 by a team from UCSF (University of California, San Francisco) and the Cleveland Clinic, and had originally come from mice.
And their condition of autism might be the result of a vaccination overstimulating their immune system and causing that virus to replicate beyond the ability of their immune system to suppress the virus.
I thought it was a provocative idea (and since I always like to talk to people with challenging ideas), I found where she worked and gave a call. (Hint – Just about anybody will talk to you if you say you want to write a story about them.) Instead of getting routed through several people, I reached her direct the first time. I explained who I was and asked if I could interview her. I expected that she might give me another time, but we started right then and there, and I was struggling to keep up. (Yes, this would be our relationship for years to come!)