When you get to a fork in the road, stay there

PUBLISHED ON  May 5, 2014

WRITTEN BY  Roni Zeiger

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  • Roni Zeiger2/ and her heart: "if I turn w/ gentle curiosity toward that fear, I find enormous wealth within myself and others" ,
  • Roni Zeiger1/ Inspired by @sharonfterry's caution on medical research: "ecosystem was designed to reward competition rather than alleviate suffering",
  • Roni Zeiger Won! Holy too long indeed. Great stuff, thanks for sharing.,
  • Roni Zeiger"When you meet people all generalizations fly out the window" - hack for health, product design, and civility - via @onbeing,

Career advice often includes mention of forks in the road or intersections that represent key decision points. Our future depends on which way we go, which job we choose, which school. I’m starting to think it’s exactly the opposite.

When you get to a fork in the road, stay there

All the exciting things in my career have happened precisely at those intersections. Maybe better advice is to hurry up along the road you’re on until you get to an interesting intersection, then stay right there. I first thought I’d live at the intersection of molecular biology and medicine, initially planning to do an MD-PhD in order to solve the mysteries of cancer in a lab. I then changed course to pursue full time clinical medicine… until I saw how much impact I could have at the intersection of medicine and computer science. My focus here was first on building software for doctors until I learned what was happening at the intersection of the suddenly ubiquitous Google search box and the unmet health information needs of millions of people.

I worked at Google until I started seeing that so many of the complex questions people have about their health aren’t well answered in a document yet — but those same questions are often discussed in online communities, where a network of microexperts often provides useful feedback. So now, building Smart Patients, I sit at the intersection of stories and science.

Innovation seems to happen at intersections of ideas or fields that haven’t really been mixed together before. At what intersection are you uniquely suited to innovate?

I have the problem in my grasp

PUBLISHED ON  April 4, 2014

WRITTEN BY  Roni Zeiger

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I didn’t expect to be so taken by Larry Smarr’s 10 years worth of clinical data he’s collected on himself — perhaps more than anyone before him — even though I knew it led to an important diagnosis and provides a view of the future patient.

I have the problem in my grasp

During the above demo at yesterday’s Quantified Self Public Health Symposium, he tells the story of how he has determined the relative amounts of various bacteria that live in the colons of healthy people, versus those with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. His own “micriobiome” is on the left in red, and matches the blue pattern of Crohn’s disease, and not the green of ulcerative colitis or purple of normals. He, not his initial doctors, figured this out.

Few people have the resources to do what he’s done, but this takes nothing away from the power of the story and that’s the part I can’t stop thinking about. He has also 3D printed the segment of his colon affected by disease, held here by Susannah Fox:

larry-smarr-3d-colon-in-my-grasp

The picture directly above shows him holding the replica of his disease. “I have the problem in my grasp,” he says. This reminds me of the unstoppable passion we often see in parents of children with rare or undiagnosed diseases, and that one shouldn’t get between a mama bear and her cub. We have a tremendous opportunity in health care to tap into the motivation and innovation of patients and caregivers everywhere. Thank you, Larry, for the inspiration.

 

 

 

 

Listening at bedtime

PUBLISHED ON  March 20, 2014

WRITTEN BY  Roni Zeiger

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At bedtime, my daughter and I sometimes play word or number games instead of reading. The other night, she suggested we play a variant of Pictionary, where one of us thinks of a word and tries to get the other to guess it by drawing it. She also suggested we make it harder by having the drawer keep her eyes closed. I jokingly responded, what if we have the guesser keep his eyes closed? That led us to invent a game where the guesser indeed keeps his or her eyes closed, and the drawer limits what they can draw — first we did single digit numbers. It was fascinating and tons of fun to learn to LISTEN to what each number sounds like when written in pencil. (Pencils make much better sounds than pens.) Numbers consistently vary by how many strokes and the cadence of how the strokes are combined — each has a personality. Since I cross my sevens, four and seven sound almost the same, but the final line in seven is crisper and shorter than the final line in four.

Listening at bedtime

We then had the nerve to guess which animal the other was drawing, limiting the options to a list of five. That was harder, but we learned to listen for a cat’s whiskers and a pig’s curly tail.

Here’s to being a better listener!