Documents of controversial times

I’m speaking today at Stanford Medicine X about what I’ve learned exploring the intersection between the Maker movement and health care (tune in at 4:25pm Pacific).

I posted a short version of my remarks on Medium, but I thought I’d post an image I was very happy to find to illustrate one theme: revolutions happen when people are connected not only to information, but also to each other. And that happens when people gain access to the means of production and distribution, as we saw in 1776, when Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, Common Sense, helped spark the American revolt against British rule.

Common Sense, a pamphlet by Thomas Paine (1776)

Common Sense, a pamphlet by Thomas Paine (1776)

Pamphlets can be printed cheaply, quickly, and in huge numbers. They can be transported in bulk and distributed to a wide audience. My favorite description of pamphlets is that they are “documents of controversial times.”

Here’s my question: What is the equivalent today? What are the means of production and distribution that are connecting people with information and with each other? Twitter, blogs — what else?

Champions of Change

Secretary Burwell and 9 White House Champions of Change

From left to right: Howard Look, Anish Sebastian, Amy Gleason, Hugo Campos, HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell, Amanda Haddock, Emily Kramer-Golinkoff, Marcia Boyle, Dorothy Reed, Elizabeth Gross Cohn.

 

Nine Precision Medicine “Champions of Change” were honored at a White House event on Wednesday, July 8. I count everyone in that picture as a community colleague — and some as dear friends.

My role at the event was to moderate a discussion with four of the Champions: Amy Gleason, Anish Sebastian, Hugo Campos, and Howard Look.

In my introduction to the panel, I talked about how this was a panel about data liberation. These four Champions demonstrate how essential it is for individuals to have access to their data, to lift the false boundary between home and clinical care, and to allow patient autonomy to flourish. Continue reading

The Power of Connection

Portraits of past HHS secretaries above Post-its

Portraits of past HHS secretaries overlooking an IDEA Lab design session

Technology enables the mission of U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). It widens access to information and tools and pushes power out to all parts of the network, from our colleagues in the federal workforce to our fellow citizens. At HHS, we seek to create a learning system that recognizes the potential of every stakeholder in the network to contribute, from patients and caregivers to clinicians, researchers and policymakers.

The CTO of HHS serves the Secretary and the agency by bringing new approaches to the problems faced by those on the front lines of medicine, public health, and social services.

I see the role as a spotlight and a beacon, highlighting the innovative work being done inside and outside the federal government and inspiring people to reach higher, in service to citizens. Continue reading

What health care can learn from Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel

Google is upgrading health search…again.

In 2010, I was inspired by Animal Farm to write that Google saw some health sites as more equal than others. This time I turned to Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, by Virginia Lee Burton.

Cover of children's book: Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel, by Virginia Lee Burton

Continue reading

Snow day

I’m taking advantage of the “snow day” to share what I have been reading, watching, listening to, thinking about — and I invite you to join me, even if you don’t have a snow day. (Truth be told, DC only got a couple of inches and a 2-hour delay, but humor me.)

Snow day in New York City, captured by Anna Dorfman on Instagram

Anna Dorfman (doorsixteen on Instagram) posted this lovely shot of Columbus Park in NYC. I thought umbrellas-in-a-snowstorm was just a DC thing. Curator credit: New York Times.

Legitimacy through public service: The New York Times lifted their pay wall so non-subscribers could follow their storm coverage. I love when legacy media companies are aware of the responsibility — and opportunity — embedded in moments of public need. How might we infect medical and scientific journals with the same sense of responsibility and opportunity? Continue reading

What I’m reading, listening to, admiring…

Susannah at the library

I hunkered down at the library this week, working on a couple of long-term projects.

I kept one eye on Twitter, though, as I always do, and wanted to share what distracted — and inspired — me this week:

Radiolab: Worth — what would you pay for another month of life? How about a year? They get into the debate about Solvadi, which I find fascinating, and wind up talking to patients, “the people who aren’t at medical conferences.” Thanks to Mike Evans, MD, for tweeting the link.

Pew Internet: Social Media Site Usage 2014 — 81% of U.S. adults use the internet and, of those, 71% use Facebook, which is really pretty astounding (and is an opportunity for health intervention and support). Continue reading

Public Q&A: How do you know when you are heading in the right – or wrong – direction?

Here’s a question I received recently: What kinds of indicators tell you if you are going in the right — or wrong — direction in your work?

I decided to answer it here, as a public Q&A, because it merits crowd-sourcing. Continue reading

The Teal Pumpkin Project

I live (mostly) by Michael Pollan’s advice to “eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.” But Halloween is an exception. We live in a Sesame Street-like townhouse neighborhood in Washington, DC, so my kids can easily hit 100 houses while trick-or-treating. The candy haul is epic.

My food-allergic son has always been great about sorting out the candy he can’t eat, but the night can still be stressful, knowing that peanut butter and almond confections are in his bag.

Teal Pumpkin ProjectSo we, along with many other food-allergy families, embraced a new idea this year: the Teal Pumpkin Project. Started by a food-allergy mom in Tennessee, the idea is that you paint a pumpkin teal (the theme color of FARE, the largest U.S. food-allergy advocacy group) and place it on your porch to let people know that non-food treats are offered at your house. Continue reading