I write to express support for the student-athletes at UNC-Chapel Hill.
For a number of years, the N.C. Jaycee Burn Center at UNC Health Care has been partnering with UNC athletics. Female and male student-athletes from a number of varsity teams have regularly visited the Burn Center, most recently the day before the Virginia Tech football game.
Included in that group were members of the womens lacrosse, cross country and track teams as well as seven members of the football team. The student-athletes poise and maturity was impressive, and their effect on the patients, family and staff was priceless.
To members of the Burn Center, it is clear that these student-athletes represent the very best that Carolina has to offer: responsibility, service, putting others first all while educating and inspiring through athletics.
Also, as a veteran of the U.S. Navy, I am concerned about how the Naval Weapons Systems course taught in 2007 has been discussed. The instructor for that class, Lt. Brian Lubitz, is an American hero. He graduated from the Naval Academy with merit. He piloted some of the first flights into Iraq in 2003 and subsequently commanded numerous combat support missions. After the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, he flew several humanitarian missions that aided in rescue and recovery efforts.
Before we draw conclusions regarding the propriety of that class, its instructor and the students who took it, we should recognize there are people who have served and sacrificed for our country who will be affected by what we say and how we say it.
On another note, as the search for the new chancellor begins, many residents may wonder why the general faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill are so supportive of Chancellor Holden Thorp. Frankly, the answer is that while many support athletics, most faculty do not define their success by what happens on a field or a court. To them success is defined by pursuing the most challenging problems of the day through research and educating the best and the brightest to do the same.
In the case of the N.C. Jaycee Burn Center, it also means providing the best possible care for the residents of our state. In supporting us and the broad mission of the university, Thorp has been a stellar leader. Suffice it to say, we believe too little has been written about that and too much has been said about the other.
I sincerely hope as we consider the future of the UNC-Chapel Hill that we all insist on a proper balance of our missions in order to best serve the citizens of North Carolina.
Bruce A. Cairns, M.D., is the John Stackhouse distinguished professor of surgery and microbiology and immunology at UNC-Chapel Hill. He has been the medical director of the N.C. Jaycee Burn Center since 2007. He can be reached at email@example.com