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Precision health: a special report from Stanford Medicine magazine

In the new issue of Stanford Medicine magazine, you’ll read how Stanford researchers and clinicians are pursuing a vision they call precision health.

What is precision health? As the magazine's editor, my first task was to assign a story explaining this to our readers. Here's an excerpt, taken from the resulting article by Jennie Dusheck, "Target: health," which kicks off the special report on precision health:

At Stanford Medicine, the vision of precision health is to anticipate and prevent disease in the healthy and to precisely diagnose and treat disease in the ill. It’s a vision of a future where traditional medicine and population health work hand in hand. And it’s a future where the practice of medicine itself becomes grist for the research mill — where data from the sick and the well together inform traditional medicine — and where one-size-fits-all health-care guidelines are refined to fit the needs of groups of people and even of individuals.

The winter 2016 issue of the magazine also includes an excerpt from the best-selling memoir When Breath Becomes Air, by the late Paul Kalanithi, MD, in which the author reflects on life in light of his impending demise. At 35, the Stanford neurosurgeon faced terminal cancer.

Highlights of the special report include:

  • "Target: health": An article describing the aims of precision health and the tools being used to carry it out.
  • "Brain waves": A feature on how insights from neuroscience could customize care for people with anxiety, depression and other psychiatric conditions.
  • "Patient 2/6/40": A Q&A with news icon Tom Brokaw about dealing with cancer and what it taught him about the U.S. health-care system. The online version includes audio of the complete conversation.
  • "Ahead of time": A story about a family coping with the risk of premature birth and about research uncovering how to predict and prevent it.
  • "Small wonder": An article describing ways nanotechnology is being used to see, monitor and destroy cancer cells.
  • "On the button": A feature about revolutionizing the practice of medicine by drawing on massive pools of data hidden in electronic medical records to individualize treatments.
  • "Final wishes": A piece on Stanford’s Letter Project, which helps you specify to doctors and family how you’d like to live your last days.

An additional feature explains how new laboratory techniques for growing drugs originally derived from plants could reduce shortages and lead to more effective compounds.

Previously: Aim higher: Dean Lloyd Minor calls for widespread embrace of precision healthHow Stanford Medicine will “develop, define and lead the field of precision health” and Stanford Medicine magazine tells why a healthy childhood matters
Illustration on the cover of the winter 2016 issue of Stanford Medicine by Harry Campbell

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