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Cancer, Dermatology, Events, Public Health, Stanford News

Free skin cancer screening being held Saturday

Free skin cancer screening being held Saturday

sunbatherScreening for skin cancer is advised for people with many moles or atypical moles, fair skin or a history of excessive sun exposure, a personal history of skin cancer or precancerous spots, or a parent or sibling who has had skin cancer. Each year, Stanford dermatologists offer a free screening for those in the local community, and this year’s event – being held tomorrow, May 31 – will offer more than the experienced eyes of skin clinicians.

Understanding that many people have concerns about one particular spot, the organizers are debuting a form of fast-track evaluation for just such concerns. During the Spot Check service, clinicians will use and study a new Stanford-developed smartphone-based device. As Justin Ko, MD, co-chief of medical dermatology at Stanford Hospital & Clinics, explained to me, “The device allows a user to capture clinical images of a skin lesion with their smartphone previously possible only with specialized, expensive devices typically used by dermatologists. We’ll be doing some studies to validate what we believe may well ‘democratize’ ability to capture and send medical-quality images of skin lesions by making this technology accessible and easy to use.”

The screening event (.pdf) will also include information on SUNSPORT, a collaboration of the Stanford Cancer Institute, the medical school’s Department of Dermatology, Stanford Athletics, and Stanford Hospital & Clinics, which provides student-athletes with information about their heightened risks for sun-related skin damage and works with the teams’ coaches and athletic trainers to reinforce skin-protection practices on a daily basis.

For local readers: The event runs from 8-11 AM at the Stanford Medicine Outpatient Center in Redwood City. Call (650) 723-6316 for more information.

Previously: Skin cancer images help people check skin more often and effectively, Working to protect athletes from sun dangersStanford clinic addresses cancer-related skin issuesAs summer heats up take steps to protect your skin and Man’s story shows how cancer screenings saves lives
Photo by Tom Godber

Events, Mental Health, Public Health, Research, Stanford News, Women's Health

Promoting healthy eating and a positive body image on college campuses

Promoting healthy eating and a positive body image on college campuses

IMG_2764rtshEncouragement to focus on physical appearance in our culture often fuels negative body image and eating disorders. College students can be particularly susceptible to body image issues, and a past survey shows that eating disorders among college students have risen to affect 10 to 20 percent of women and four to 10 percent of men.

To create a social environment where healthy eating and a positive body image are the norm, Connie Sobczak and Elizabeth Scott established The Body Positive initiative in 1996. The program provides youth and adults with tools and strategies to overcome self-destructive eating and exercise behaviors. This past year, the women worked with a group of Stanford students and staff members to change cultural beliefs of beauty and health on campus.

In celebration of the student-led movement, The Body Positive is hosting an event at the Stanford Women’s Center this Sunday. During the event, attendees will be able to view students’ art, hear them sing and speak out in celebration of their authentic beauty and learn more about their projects to support positive body attitudes. Below Scott discusses The Body Positive model, research at Stanford to measure the effectiveness of the approach, and ways that parents, educators and others can support young adults in developing a healthy body image.

What is it about the college experience that leads students be so critical of their body image and to struggle with eating disorders?

Students report many messages in the college environment that promote a preoccupation with body image and dieting — two risk factors in the development of an eating disorder. In the student community at college, there are a plethora of messages questioning students’ ability to trust their own bodies and promoting the idea that everyone can, and should, transform the size and shape of their bodies to meet a very slender ideal. Both men and women are susceptible to these messages. Women, however, are also trained to be ashamed of their appetites and ambitions and to shrink themselves and their passions. These messages are strengthened by peers who are also afraid that they are not okay as they are, especially freshman who are separated from their family and out in the world alone for the first time feeling uncertain about how to take care of themselves.

What motivated you and Connie to launch The Body Positive?

We founded The Body Positive to prevent eating disorders by teaching youth and adults to experience self-love, inhabit their unique beauty, and listen to the voice of wisdom within to guide sustainable, joyful self-care. Ultimately, our work is about freeing all people to pursue their life purpose and passions. Connie survived an eating disorder and then lost a sister to body hatred. She was motivated to change the world so her daughter, and all children, could grow up loving themselves and seeing beauty in their unique bodies. I was overwhelmed by the suffering of the people I was seeing as a new therapist in my practice in Marin County. I was shocked (and still am) to see so many young people suffering with body hatred and eating disorders and losing years of their lives. Being a social worker and an activist, I was motivated to transform the culture so that people could let go of the fruitless pursuit of transforming their bodies.

What advice can you offer to help parents, educators or others in establishing a social climate where healthy eating, a positive body image and excellent self-care are the norm?

Learn the Body Positive competencies! Learn to cultivate mercy for your impermanent and ever-changing body. Be a role model of self-love, especially to your children. Learn to be generous with yourself and develop peaceful, sustainable self-care behaviors so that you can gently return to balance when you are out of balance. Explore the ways your ancestors are represented in the natural size and shape of your body and celebrate those amazing survivors instead of fighting them. Trust the authority of your own body and test everyone else’s ideas about how you should take care of it against your own experience, like a true scientist. If you do all this you will be a great role model for others and that is the best way to create body positive community.

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Big data, Events, FDA, Public Health, Stanford News, Technology

Rising to the challenge of harnessing big data to benefit patients

Rising to the challenge of harnessing big data to benefit patients

FDA guyMuch has been written on Scope about the annual Big Data in Biomedicine conference, held here last week. My colleague Bruce Goldman was on the scene all three days, and he offers more highlights from the event in an online story.

Noting how Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the School of Medicine,  encouraged the audience “to rise to the challenge of harnessing computer technology, biomedical informatics and social media – collectively known as big data  – to benefit clinical practice,” Goldman goes on to describe the FDA’s work in this area:

“If you eat a salad, you’re pretty much a global citizen,” said [Taha Kass-Hout, MD, chief health informatics officer at the Food and Drug Administration], noting that the ingredients of a typical salad may travel halfway around the world to get to our table. Unfortunately, the well-traveled salad can pick up a host of microbial free-riders en route. Over the last year the FDA has assembled a publicly accessible database holding the genomic sequences of more than 5,000 food-poisoning culprits such as Salmonella and listeria, he said.

In a new initiative, the FDA has been monitoring social media to enhance its surveillance capabilities. “Maybe we’ll find that we can detect outbreaks earlier that way,” he said. It may also be possible, using these methods, to draw inferences about beneficial or adverse effects of drugs prescribed for indications other than the ones for which they’ve been specifically approved. This could expedite new uses for existing drugs.

Previously: Discussing access and transparency of big data in government, U.S. Chief Technology Officer kicks off Big Data in Biomedicine, Euan Ashley discusses harnessing big data to drive innovation for a healthier world and Big laughs at Stanford’s Big Data in Biomedicine Conference
Photo of Kass-Hout by Saul Bromberger

Big data, Events, Stanford News, Technology

Last day of Big Data in Biomedicine conference

Last day of Big Data in Biomedicine conference

Today marks the closing day of the Big Data in Biomedicine conference. With the goal of bringing together thought leaders from academia, information technology companies, venture capital firms and public health institutions, the conference has highlighted how large-scale data analysis can transform the way we diagnose, treat and prevent disease. Today’s topics of conversation include genomic medicine, and devices and technology, and the morning keynote will be given by Vinod Khosla, MBA, founder of Khosla Ventures and a co-founder of Sun Microsystems.

As a reminder, you can watch the conference via live webcast on the conference website or follow along on the @SUMedicine feed as we discuss the event. We’ll also have a wrap-up story here on Tuesday.

Previously: U.S. Chief Technology Officer kicks off Big Data in Biomedicine, Big Data in Biomedicine conference kicks off tomorrow, Big Data in Biomedicine technical showcase to feature companies’ innovations related to big data and Euan Ashley discusses harnessing big data to drive innovation for a healthier world

Events, Mental Health, Stanford News

A campus-wide call to pause and reflect

A campus-wide call to pause and reflect

contemplation by designA friend once said to me in her warm Virginia drawl, “You know Jacqueline, there is a whole other world  on the other side of STOP.” I found out how correct she was when a severe back injury forced me to stop my hectic, stress-filled schedule. It was a tough way to learn a valuable lesson, but I wouldn’t change those pain-filled days given what they taught me about the importance of getting off the merry-go-round of activities that I thought I had to do.

On Friday, those in the Stanford community will be given a glimpse of that world on the other side of STOP without injury, by participating in the Carillon Concert and Quiet Contemplation. Everyone on campus is invited to gather at 11:30 AM for a Carillion Bell concert, a chance to relax, do some tai chai, win some raffle prizes, and most of all STOP and contemplate. Attendees are encouraged to bring a mat and a desire to “take a chill pill” as my children would say.

And for our far-away readers: You, too, are encouraged to, in the words of the event organizers, “pause, reflect and take time to unwind.”

Jacqueline Genovese is assistant director of the Arts, Humanities, and Medicine Program within the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics.

Big data, Events, FDA, NIH, Stanford News, Technology

Discussing access and transparency of big data in government

Discussing access and transparency of big data in government

Bourne

The Big Data in Biomedicine conference of 2014 continued today with discussion around how troves of information are being stored, organized, accessed and applied in a way that’s useful to stakeholders across health care.

Yesterday afternoon, Stanford bioengineer Russ Altman, PhD, introduced keynote speaker Philip Bourne, PhD, who earlier this year began his post as the first permanent associate director for data science at the National Institutes of Health. Altman was part of the search committee that selected Bourne as part of an initiative of NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, to make use of biomedical research datasets and lead the way in coordinating effective use of Big Data.

Bourne discussed some of the factors motivating thinking on big data at the NIH, including open access to information, which was also a focus of U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park‘s conference presentation. Bourne noted that currently 70 percent of research that’s funded cannot be reproduced – a statistic “of great concern to the NIH” that’s driving ongoing reproducibility studies there. But what worried him most, he said, is sustainability: How can growing databases be accommodated within the NIH’s flat budget? (“We can’t go on like this,” he said.) How can labs retain talent when competing with industry’s larger salaries offered to top scientists? (“It’s a loss to the field if you spend money making a biomedical scientist and they leave the field.”) Bourne also seeks to address “broken” areas of scholarship – a paper with “16,000 citations” that no one reads – and the reward system.

Among his solutions are applying business models to promote sustainability of research, introducing policies to ensure funding is allocated where it is most needed, sharing infrastructure where possible and treating biomedical scientists more like tenured academics. Bourne also described an NIH data commons to provide Dropbox-type storage and a collaborative compute environment for scientists.

Co-operating and data-sharing were key this morning as the conference audience heard from Taha Kass-Hout, MD, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration‘s first chief health informatics officer. He described the importance of big data to the regulatory agency’s mission “to protect and promote the public health” and in promoting information-sharing with transparency and protection of privacy. The new, scalable search and big-data analytics platform openFDA comprises more than 100 public access data sets within the FDA and  allows users to access data and run queries through APIs. ”It’s not just about the data,” Kass-Hout told the audience. Ask rather, “How can you build a community around that data?

Previously: U.S. Chief Technology Officer kicks off Big Data in BiomedicineBig Data in Biomedicine conference kicks off tomorrowBig Data in Biomedicine technical showcase to feature companies’ innovations related to big data and Euan Ashley discusses harnessing big data to drive innovation for a healthier world
Photo of Bourne by Saul Bromberger

Big data, Events, Stanford News, Technology

U.S. Chief Technology Officer kicks off Big Data in Biomedicine

U.S. Chief Technology Officer kicks off Big Data in Biomedicine

Dean - smallThis morning, the 2014 Big Data in Biomedicine conference kicked off at the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge. The School of Medicine’s dean, Lloyd Minor, MD, welcomed the nearly 500 in-person attendees and many more joining via the free live stream of sessions over the course of three days. Minor emphasized collaboration – with conference sponsor Li Ka Shing and between co-hosts Stanford Medicine and the University of Oxford, and within the scientific community – to harness “the vast potential of technology, data and biomedicine to transform human health for the 21st century.”

Oxford’s Martin Landray, PhD, FCRP, and Stanford University President John Hennessy, PhD, spoke before yielding the floor to keynote speaker Todd Park, chief technology officer of the United States. An enthusiastic Park shared, “No topic excites me more than the incredible power data has to fuel innovation.” He referenced the 2010 paper “Where Are the Health Care Entrepreneurs? The Failure of Organizational Innovation in Health Care” to preface comments noting how, over the last few years and with the help of government programs, innovators have begun to increase efficiency, lower costs and improve outcomes in health care.

Todd ParkProvisions of the Affordable Care Act, for example, have helped to innovate care and payment models, Park said, noting a shift of payment away from volume and towards value of care. He said that “democratizing data,” evidenced by the Open Data Initiative of 2009 and a May 2013 executive order by President Obama to make open and affordable access to government information the norm, and financial incentives to use electronic health records have contributed to an acceleration of change in the field.

Through the Blue Button Movement, patients have gained access to their own health information online. “This has everything to do with big data,” Park said. And while privacy remains the chief concern of some, he noted many are eager to donate their data for research to improve health outcomes for themselves and others.

Park insisted that “there has never been a better time to be a health-care innovator” than the present, offering these departing words: “May the force be with you.”

Previously: Big Data in Biomedicine conference kicks off tomorrowChief technology officer of the United States to speak at Big Data in Biomedicine conferenceBig Data in Biomedicine technical showcase to feature companies’ innovations related to big data and U.S. Chief Technology Officer discusses health-care reform’s effects on innovation
Photo of Lloyd Minor (top) by Saul Bromberger; photo of Todd Park from @cdbustamante

Big data, Events, Stanford News

Big Data in Biomedicine conference kicks off tomorrow

Big Data in Biomedicine conference kicks off tomorrow

big_data_051514Thought leaders and innovators from academia, information technology companies, venture capital firms and public health institutions will gather tomorrow on the Stanford campus for the annual Big Data in Biomedicine conference.

The three-day event, which is cosponsored by Stanford and Oxford University, will explore ways to capitalize on the rapidly growing amount of biomedical data to improve the practice of medicine and human health. Keynote speakers include Todd Park, chief technology officer of the United States; Philip Bourne, PhD, associate director for data science at the National Institutes of Health; David Glazer, director of engineering at Google; Taha Kass-Hout, MD, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s first chief health informatics officer; and Vinod Khosla, MBA, founder of Khosla Ventures and a co-founder of Sun Microsystems.

Those unable to attend in person can tune in to the live webcast via the conference website. Additionally, we’ll be live tweeting the keynote talks, as well as other proceedings from the conference; you can follow the coverage on the @SUMedicine feed or by using the hashtag #bigdatamed.

Previously: Professor Margot Gerritsen discusses how “algebra is not just useful, it’s also inherently beautiful”, Chief technology officer of the United States to speak at Big Data in Biomedicine conference, Big Data in Biomedicine technical showcase to feature companies’ innovations related to big data and Euan Ashley discusses harnessing big data to drive innovation for a healthier world
Photo by Saul Bromberger

Applied Biotechnology, Events, Infectious Disease, Research, Stanford News, Videos

Stanford microbiologist’s secret sauce for disease detection

Stanford microbiologist's secret sauce for disease detection

Last week, John Boothroyd, PhD, kicked off Stanford’s first Disease Detective lecture series with a fascinating tale about how his lab invented a simple biochemical “secret sauce” that revolutionized the detection of viral and bacterial infections like HIV, Hepatitis C and gonorrhea.

“It mostly started as a sketch on a piece of paper, then later became Gen-Probe’s core technology, which won them the 2004 National Medal of Technology,” explained Boothroyd, a Stanford professor of microbiology and immunology.

What Boothroyd invented, in collaboration with postdoctoral researchers James Burg and Philippe Pouletty, is called Transcription-Mediated Amplification.

Before this discovery, detecting a snippet of disease-specific DNA in a sample of cells was like finding a needle in a haystack. To increase a test’s accuracy, a lab technician would try to coax the target DNA into replicating itself through hours of tedious time-and- temperature-sensitive steps.

Boothroyd and his team’s new process consisted of a simple recipe of primers and enzymes that, after optimization by Gen-Probe, tricked a target snippet of DNA into automatically creating 10 billion copies of itself in less than an hour. This ultimately enabled the development of cheaper and faster disease tests.

In 2012 Boothroyd was ushered into the Stanford Inventor’s Hall of Fame because of this patent, which is among the top-ten revenue-generating inventions Stanford. He has six other patented inventions, including one that makes antigen production for the testing of toxoplasmosis infections far more efficient. Another detects toxoplasmosis in the amniotic fluid of pregnant women. He describes this research in the video above.

Looking back on his career choices, one thing that Boothroyd is grateful for is being able to combine his two loves at Stanford — basic research and teaching — while leaving the business of running a company to his patent licensees.

To the lecture hall filled with student researchers worried about the “postdocalypse,” the shortage of tenure-track research positions in academia, he gave this advice:

“I think the [postdocalypse] negativity is overstated. You have to have faith in yourself. You have to do what you want to do. If you’re enjoying your work and it’s a stepping stone to where you’re going, relax and see what happens.”

The next Disease Detective lecture will be held during fall quarter 2014. Watch for details on the Stanford Predictives and Diagnostics Accelerator webpage.

Previously: Patrick House discusses Toxoplasma gondii, parasitic mind control and zombies, Cat guts, car crashes, and warp-speed Toxoplasma infections, and NIH study supports screening pregnant women for toxoplasmosis

Events, Medicine and Society, Stanford News

Stanford Medicine community gathers for Health Matters event

Stanford Medicine community gathers for Health Matters event

Health Matters attendeeWhere else can you spend a Saturday morning learning from an NFL Hall of Famer what to look for when you suspect a concussion in your child, getting unique perspectives from a Pulitzer Prize-winning author about the biography of cancer or listening to tips on maintaining your cognitive health from an expert in the field?

On Saturday, Stanford Medicine hosted a free community day at the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge. Members of the communities surrounding the Stanford campus came to interact with School of Medicine faculty leaders, hear about the latest discoveries in medicine and explore an interactive pavilion that highlighted advances in medical technology, disease prevention and treatment. This year’s Health Matters, which also featured a Med School Morning program for teens, attracted more than 500 guests to the Stanford campus for a day of learning, fun and exploration.

The event featured keynote speaker Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, PhD, Pulitzer Prize winning author of the New York Times bestseller The Emperor of All Maladies. Mukherjee, who attended Stanford as an undergrad, shared his view of cancer being one of humanity’s greatest challenges and discussed the long-recorded history of the disease. Mukherjee, speaking from a stage in the Berg auditorium – named after his mentor, the Nobel Prize-winning chemist Paul Berg, PhD – eloquently described cancer as “a disease in which normalcy and illness are intertwined.” But also remarked that, “There is hope as we enter the age of targeted therapy.”

Young and SteinbergOther Stanford Medicine faculty gave presentations on topics ranging from sleep health and dementia prevention to big data for biomedicine and mental health and well-being. One highly attended session included neurosurgeon Gary Steinberg, MD, PhD, and former San Francisco 49er Steve Young. The two, who discussed sports-related concussions and brain injuries, also introduced the new Stanford Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury Center. Set to open in the coming year, the center will provide a national center for the treatment of athletes, veterans and the community with state-of-the art diagnostic technology and availability 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Young said of the new center, “The fact that local parents will now have a resource,24/7 to bring their child and get some real help – that’s a really good thing.”

girl with FoldscopeIn addition to attending sessions, many explored the Health Pavilion exhibits featuring interactive displays from throughout Stanford Medicine. Guests were excited to see up-close the work of Manu Prakash, MD, PhD, to get hands-on with his revolutionary “Foldscope” and learn more about it’s potential applications. The Stanford Clinical Anatomy division’s virtual and 3D imaging technologies were a hit among kids and adults alike.  But the favorite of the day seemed to be Stanford Life Flight and their crew who, in celebration of the program’s 30-year anniversary, gave tours of the helicopter to many lucky guests.

To learn more about the program and speakers and view recordings of some of the sessions, visit the event website. For information on future community events and to hear more about wellness topics and medical innovations at Stanford Medicine, follow @StanfordHealth on Twitter.

Eileen DiFranco is director of communications and media in the Office of Medical Center Development at Stanford.

Previously: Stanford Life Flight celebrates 30 years, Stanford Medicine to open its doors to community during Health Matters event, Stanford bioengineer develops a 50-cent paper microscope and Cancer’s Pulitzer Prize winner: Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD
Photos by Alex Johnson

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