Larry Smarr is defining the future of healthcare. As he, a world-renowned computer scientist and Michael Kurisu, the much-in-demand osteopathic physician at UC San Diego demonstrate, the balance of power between patients and doctors will change as technology gives patients the tools to know more about their own bodies. And the more informed they become, the more likely they will work with their doctors to develop treatment and prevention plans that are appropriate for them. Using Smarr as a case study, this patient and doctor show the benefits of hands-on, systems-based thinking in treating sciatica and self-diagnosing Crohn’s disease. Kurisu then takes these concepts to Project Apollo, a group of highly educated and motivated patients who call themselves “Little Larry’s” as they use the same techniques to address and treat their own health problems. All of this pointing to what theologian and physician Albert Schweitzer envisioned in the last century, “the doctor of the future will be one self.” Smarr and Kurisu are showing us how.
Eat well. Stay healthy. That’s the message that a panel of experts from UC San Diego and elsewhere made clear in this fascinating discussion on the benefits of fresh, organic foods. Hear the case studies presented by people who have overcome serious illnesses by changing their diets. It’s true! Healthy food can be powerful medicine in treating diabetes, arthritis, Lyme disease, cirrhosis and high blood pressure, among other ailments. And the stories told here are compelling. Stepheni Norton recalls her own harrowing journey that led to the founding of Dickinson Farm and “farmacy.” Zen Honeycut, founder of Moms Across America, recounts how changing to a non-GMO, organic diet resolved the symptoms of allergies and autism in two of her sons. These kinds of outcomes didn’t surprise the MD’s on the panel — Gordon Saxe of UCSD’s Center for Integrative Nutrition and Sheila Patel of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing — as they confirmed their own experiences with patients using food as medicine.
Thanks to Michelle Lerach and the Berry Good Food Foundation for convening this 7th edition of the Future Thought Leaders series exploring paths to a sustainable food supply. Now go eat some kale!
Contributed by John Menier
Listed by Time magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2012, Ann Patchett is a true woman of letters: novelist, essayist, anthologist, and co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville. Patchett is also a frequent and accomplished public speaker, noted for her anecdotes about the literary life, her insights into the creative process, and her wry wit.
One of Patchett’s favorite topics is the ever-changing relationship between readers and books. As an example she cites her own evolution reading (and re-reading) the works of John Updike, Leo Tolstoy, Pearl Buck, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and others, noting that “the books don’t change, but we do.” Put another way, the reader’s evaluation of a particular book is shaped as much by the reader’s life experience and circumstances as by the work’s innate qualities. As such our appreciation (or lack thereof) for a particular title may change over time, but the consistent commonality among the books we treasure is that they never fail to evoke a strong response. Patchett believes the writer’s primary task is to elicit that response by inviting the reader to become an active participant in their story.
Patchett’s approach to the reading public is refreshingly un-elitist. She stresses the importance of what she calls “gateway drugs,” books of dubious literary worth that may encourage readers to explore other authors and genres. She applauds the success of “trashy” pop novels such as “Fifty Shades of Gray” and “Twilight,” no matter their pedigree, for their role in re-vitalizing book sales and energizing the publishing community. What matters most to Patchett as both author and bookstore owner is that the reading habit is fostered and encouraged, and in that endeavor, there’s no place for snobbery.
It seems fitting that His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama should deliver both a public talk and the Commencement keynote address at UC San Diego. His Holiness claims a special affinity for educators and for young people, whom he characterizes as the ones who shape the future; in his view each generation has the opportunity – indeed, the responsibility – to remake the world for the better and to redefine our place in it. Throughout his public life the Dalai Lama has extolled the nexus formed by mind, body, and spirit, stressing that to nurture one is to nurture the others, and that all are essential to lead a fulfilled life. To this end His Holiness is a strong advocate for universal and well-rounded education, and in particular believes that an understanding of the sciences is essential for safeguarding our planet’s health. (He was one of the first world leaders to warn of the dangers of climate change and the need for swift action, on both individual and societal levels.)
The Dalai Lama maintains that the true goal of a fulfilled life is happiness expressed through inner peace. Many Westerners view Tibetan Buddhism as a philosophy that emphasizes asceticism, but the Dalai Lama’s message eschews an isolated, purely contemplative “sackcloth and ashes” approach in favor of one that couples active engagement with the world with a realization that true happiness is not materially based. Rather, it comes from an optimistic outlook, good deeds, and above all, love, tolerance and compassion rooted in the acceptance of our interconnectedness through our shared humanity. Achieving this inner peace is never easy, and His Holiness acknowledges the difficulties when he tells the graduates, “Now you have completed your study period, now you begin another lifestyle – work: not easy; life will not be easy. Determination, willpower, optimism are very essential.”
For more programs with His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama click here.
In the first chapter of his book, Phantoms in the Brain, premier neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran quotes Sherlock Holmes: “I know, my dear Watson, that you share my love of all that is bizarre and outside the conventions and humdrum routines of everyday life.”
It was this “Sherlock Holmes” aspect of science and medicine – of exploring the unusual and figuring out how things work – that ultimately led to Ramachandran’s successful career in neurology. When he first began to study neurology, the brain was largely unchartered territory. Why is it that some people see colors when they smell certain aromas? Why is it that some people can still feel their fingertips – even when their hands are missing? For Ramachandran, a lifetime of mysteries was waiting to be solved.
As a child growing up in India and Thailand, Ramachandran loved the beautiful simplicity of scientific experiments. Put an iron nail in a blue solution of copper sulfate, and iron becomes copper – like magic! As a neurologist, Ramachandran continued to embrace a low-tech and elegant approach to scientific study whenever possible. When one of his patients still felt the painfully-clenched fist of his severed hand, Ramachandran used a mirror to fool the patient into seeing his missing hand and the patient was then able to unclench it and feel relief.
Ramachandran explains the “grandmother test” to UC Berkeley’s Harry Kreisler: “If an elaborate theory can not predict what your grandmother knows using common sense, then it isn’t worth much.” Thus, the litmis test of a well-constructed experiment is two-fold: first, it should be simple enough to easily explain it to your grandmother so that she understands it; and second, she should say “Wow!” If it’s too complicated to explain and it doesn’t interest her, then try again.
Learn more about the incredible work of V.S. Ramachandran in our video archive of his work and lectures. New programs feature discussions on neurolology and our questions of self, along with an interview with UC Berkeley’s Harry Kreisler. From mystical sensory experiences, to phantom limbs, to art – go inside the mind with Ramachandran.