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AHCJ15, Events, Research, Science, Stanford News

Live tweeting from Association of Health Care Journalists conference

Live tweeting from Association of Health Care Journalists conference

10948923353_90e2273cdc_zStarting tomorrow morning, we’ll be live tweeting from the Association of Health Care Journalists 2015 conference, which is being held in Santa Clara, Calif. and is co-hosted by Stanford Medicine.

The conference brings together hundreds of the top journalists who cover health care and, thanks to its proximity to our campus, also includes numerous top Stanford medical experts.

We’ll start our tweeting efforts on Friday morning at 9 a.m. Pacific time with “Ebola and Ebolanoia: Covering outbreaks responsibly,” a panel discussion that includes Michele Barry, MD, director of the Stanford Center for Innovation in Global Health. At 10:40 a.m., Henry Lee, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics, and Amen Ness, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, will participate in a discussion on “High-risk obstetrics: Challenges of very preterm births.”And later in the day, at 4:20 p.m., we’ll be there as Michael Snyder, PhD, chair of the Department of Genetics, discusses “How big data might revolutionize medical research and treatment.”

Early Saturday, we’ll dive into the brain with Amit Etkin, MD, PhD, and Michael Greicius, MD, MPH. Their session, “Inside the living brain: What have we learned, and what’s next?”, begins at 9 a.m. Next, at 10:40 a.m., George Sledge, Jr., MD, will discuss “Cancer as a chronic condition.” Finally, at 3 p.m., Dean Lloyd Minor, MD, will join a panel discussion on “The shifting demands in health provider education.”

We’ll be using the hashtag #AHCJ15 and tweeting from @StanfordMed. And we’ll be featuring blog posts on the conference – including one on a kickoff talk by physician-author Abraham Verghese, MD, – here on Scope.

Photo by Esther Vargas

Cancer, Events, Pediatrics, Stanford News, Videos

Pediatric nephrologist Mary Leonard discusses bone health in children with chronic diseases at Childx

Pediatric nephrologist Mary Leonard discusses bone health in children with chronic diseases at Childx

The inaugural Childx conference was held here last month video interviews featuring keynote speakers, panelists and moderators are now on the Stanford YouTube channel. To continue the discussion of driving innovation in maternal and child health, we’ll be featuring a selection of the videos this month on Scope.

Stanford pediatric nephrologist Mary Leonard, MD, initially began her career as a physician-scientist by investigating the bone complications of pediatric kidney disease. One of her earlier findings was that a number of the risk factors for poor bone development were also associated with many other childhood diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease and cancer.

In the above video, Leonard explains how advances in treating pediatric kidney failure, cancer and other diseases is creating a growing population of survivors who are entering adulthood facing other health risks, including poor bone health, insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease. Watch the full interview to understand the magnitude of the problem and learn about efforts to develop prevention methods.

Previously: Childx speaker Matthew Gillman discusses obesity prevention, Pediatric health expert Alan Guttmacher outlines key issues facing children’s health today, “It’s not just science fiction anymore”: Childx speakers talk stem cell and gene therapy and Global health and precision medicine: Highlights from day two of Stanford’s Childx conference

Big data, Events, Stanford News, Videos

Stanford bioengineer discusses mining social media and smartphone data for biomedical research

Stanford bioengineer discusses mining social media and smartphone data for biomedical research

During the 2014 Big Data in Biomedicine conference, Stanford bioengineer and geneticist Russ Altman, MD, PhD, spoke about the possibility of collecting data directly from patients, via social media or smartphones, and using it to compliment traditional methods of gathering medical information to give clinicians an unprecedented capability to assess individuals’ state of health.

“One of the most exciting things is the ability to combine data at multiple levels,” he says in the video above. “We have an amazing ability to collect molecular data, cellular data, organism data from electronic medical records and population data about what’s happening at the population and global scale. The beauty of informatics is we don’t have to be tied to one of those levels.”

At the upcoming Big Data in Biomedicine conference, Altman will moderate a discussion with Kathy Hudson, PhD, deputy director for Science, Outreach, and Policy at the National Institutes of Health. Hudson leads the science policy, legislation, and communications efforts of the NIH and serves as a senior advisor to the NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD. She is responsible for creating major new strategic and scientific initiatives and was a key architect of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences and the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative.

Registration for the conference, which will be held May 20-22 at Stanford, is currently open. More details about the program can be found on its website.

Previously: Big data used to help identify patients at risk of deadly high-cholesterol disorder, Examining the potential of big data to transform health care and Registration for Big Data in Biomedicine conference now open

Events, Medicine and Society, otolaryngology, Science, Stanford News

A lesson in voice and anatomy from an opera singer

A lesson in voice and anatomy from an opera singer

IMG_0766This past Thursday, I watched an opera singer’s throat as he sung. Not the bulging Adam’s apple above his shirt collar, but the shiny lumps and taut cartilage of his larynx, the mucus on his vocal folds, all healthy pink and slick and breathing.

It was a curious combination, opera and anatomy, and I didn’t know what to expect from this World Voice Day event – “Anatomy of An Opera Singer” – which was offered as a collaboration between the Stanford Medicine Music Network (part of Medicine and the Muse), Stanford Live, and the Department of Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. Surrounded by community members of various ages and people in scrubs, I entered Berg Hall to the sound of Cake’s “Opera Singer”: I am an Opera Singer, I stand on painted tape; It tells me where I’m going, and where to throw my cape. 

Stanford’s C. Kwang Sung, MD, MS, who has a professional background in both singing and otolaryngology, started the evening by performing a song honoring his parents’ inspirational role in his life – after which he introduced his parents sitting in the front row! After giving us a basic introduction to throat anatomy, he introduced internationally acclaimed opera singer Eugene Brancoveanu, who performed a song from “The Rape of Lucretia,” accompanied by Stanford pianist Laura Dahl. Brancoveanu’s beautiful voice and elaborate variety of facial expressions was stirring.

What followed elicited gasps and laughter from the audience – the view from a laryngoscopic camera in Brancoveanu’s throat was projected on big screens while Sung and Elizabeth DiRenzo, PhD, vocal fold biologist and assistant professor of otolaryngology, explained what we were seeing. The video tour had been recorded prior, and throughout the evening new twists and turns were revealed. Sung and DiRenzo had recorded Brancoveanu while he sang, while he played with falsetto and passaggio and while he varied the vowel sounds, and they walked us through this intimate demonstration of living vocal anatomy.

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Events, Medicine and Literature, Stanford News

Remembering the strange vigils of war through poetry and dance

Remembering the strange vigils of war through poetry and dance

A performance of Dance and Poetry exploring war trauma and recovery Honoring the Ghosts on Saturday, April 11, 2015, at the Stanford University Dinkelspiel Auditorium. ( Norbert von der Groeben /In his Civil War-era poem, “Vigil Strange I Kept on the Field,” Walt Whitman describes watching over a soldier dying on the battlefield as a “vigil of silence, love and death.” That phrase may still ring true for soldiers fighting around the world; it may also feel familiar to medical professionals, whether imbedded in combat or in the ordinary rooms of a medical center. Yet this common experience is one that doctors and nurses reluctantly discuss and one that many soldiers and veterans feel lies beyond their powers of expression. A recent event held at StanfordHonoring the Ghosts – provided an exploration of such strange vigils through poetry and dance.

Alexander Nemerov, PhD, a Stanford art and art history professor, began the evening with a lecture, “Walt Whitman’s Moment.” During his talk he linked Whitman’s imagery of lamplight, starlight and shadow to contemporaneous art and popular depictions of the body, discussing the ways art freezes the human body and history freezes memory. Nemerov recalled the April 14 anniversary of the day Abraham Lincoln was shot in Ford’s Theatre. He quoted another Whitman poem, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” which commemorates Lincoln, and explained how poetry can simultaneously express private grief and offer public opportunities to honor and remember.

A performance of Dance and Poetry exploring war trauma and recovery Honoring the Ghosts on Saturday, April 11, 2015, at the Stanford University Dinkelspiel Auditorium. ( Norbert von der Groeben /The longer portion of the evening consisted of dance performances by U.S. Marine Veteran Roman Baca’s Exit 12 Dance Company. The program notes explained that after serving as a Marine in the Iraq war, Baca felt “angry, depressed and aggressive.” With his wife and fellow ballet dancer Lisa Fitzgerald, Baca formed Exit 12 as a way to help him, and other veterans, tell their stories. Sunday’s performance at Stanford (the company’s West Coast debut) included seven dances that communicated a wide range of war experiences: a mother’s love and anxiety as her sons enlist; a soldier’s confusion as the demands of battle conflicted with fears for his family in Egypt. Two pieces, performed by solo dancers, were set to music and texts created by a veteran who teaches other vets to write poetry about their experiences; the impression of mental disintegration was terrifying.

My favorite piece was a solo in which the dancer stepped out of a camouflage uniform and performed an extended parting from the pile of clothes on the floor – the dance intimated for me both a soldier’s ambivalence about leaving the military and a human soul vacating a dead body on the battlefield.

A performance of Dance and Poetry exploring war trauma and recovery Honoring the Ghosts on Saturday, April 11, 2015, at the Stanford University Dinkelspiel Auditorium. ( Norbert von der Groeben /The evening ended with the company dancing in front of a large video screen which depicted Iraqi teenagers from different sects performing a dance they created under Baca’s guidance. The teens met in Arbil, Iraq, where Baca returned to share the gift of healing he had found in dance. The live dancers on the Dinkelspiel Auditorium stage repeated the movements of the Iraqi kids dancing on the screen, creating an effect of simultaneous action and memory, both in time and place, a performance both intensely personal and socially connected. The aspects of witness and healing shared between the performers and audience both honored the ghosts of the dead and acknowledged hopeful possibilities.

The event was sponsored by the Stanford Arts Institute, Stanford’s Medicine & the Muse Program in Medical Humanities and the Arts, and Stanford’s Department of Art & Art History.

Jennifer Swanton Brown, RN, MLA (’12) is manager of regulatory services and education, in Spectrum, the Stanford Center for Clinical & Translational Research & Education. She published her first poem in the Palo Alto Times when she was a fifth grader at Escondido Elementary School. Having served as a poet-teacher with California Poets in the Schools since 2001, she is currently serving as the second poet laureate for the City of Cupertino.

Previously: Prescribing a story? Medicine meets literature in “narrative medicine” and “Deconstructed Pain:” Medicine meets fine arts
Photos by by Norbert von der Groeben

Events, Medicine and Society, Stanford News

“You just get lifted away from the earth”: Film spotlights dance program for Parkinson’s patients

“You just get lifted away from the earth": Film spotlights dance program for Parkinson’s patients

capturing grace still

Tomorrow and Saturday, “Capturing Grace,” a documentary film following participants of a dance program for people with Parkinson’s disease generated by New York’s Mark Morris Dance Group (MMDG), will be screened at Stanford. Filmmaker and former KQED Forum host Dave Iverson, and David Leventhal, previously a leading dancer of MMDG and now the director of Dance for PD, will also be on campus holding workshops and discussions.

A Stanford News piece today describes the film as “the centerpiece of a two-day exploration of the intersection of dance and medicine” and offers these details:

Since his Parkinson’s diagnosis in 2004, Stanford alumnus Iverson has been an education champion for the progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. He wrote, reported, directed and co-produced the 2009 PBS Frontline documentary My Father, My Brother and Me, using his family’s saga with the disease as a starting point to explore the larger issues of scientific research, the quest for a cure and the political controversies surrounding stem cell transplants. He also works as a contributing editor for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

[Said Iverson:] “One thing I’ve come to believe about Parkinson’s is that it’s a disease of subtraction. It takes things from you one by one. And one of the many things I learned from the people in the class is that if you are confronted with a disease of subtraction, you better believe in addition. You better start adding things back into your life. For the people we profiled in Capturing Grace, I think dance helped get them back on the plus side of the ledger.”

I recently talked with Iverson, who told me that, despite his Frontline documentary’s title, “Capturing Grace” has proved more personally involving. “It’s more about what happens to people when they have to respond to something that’s unwelcome in their lives,” he said. The participants featured in the film gather at the MMDG studios in Brooklyn to take classes given by professional dancers of one of the world’s leading modern dance troupes, and they learn repertory to perform, including dances by Mark Morris.

“It isn’t a miracle and it’s not a treatment,” Morris says in the film. Different from art therapy, the program provides instruction in movement and an opportunity to share what professional dancers experience daily – the heightened sense of awareness found by coordinating one’s body and mind to move freely and deliberately through space, guided by music, in communion with others – with a deadline of a performance offering additional motivation to show up, practice, and stay focused on a goal.

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Big data, Events, Genetics, Stanford News, Videos

Using genetics to answer fundamental questions in biology, medicine and anthropology

Using genetics to answer fundamental questions in biology, medicine and anthropology

At last year’s Big Data in Biomedicine conference, Stanford geneticist Carlos Bustamante, PhD, spoke about the potential of using genetic information to answer fundamental questions in biology, medicine and anthropology. In this video from the 2014 event, Bustamante explains his lab’s efforts to better understand the structure of human genome, how genetic variations are portioned among different human populations and the significance of this information for designing medical genetic studies.

Bustamante will return to the Big Data in Biomedicine conference in May to moderate the genomics session. Speakers for the session are Christina Curtis, PhD, assistant professor of medicine and genetics at Stanford; Yaniv Erlich, PhD, assistant professor of computer science at Columbia University and a core member at the New York Genome Center; David Glazer, director of Engineering at Google and founder of the Google Genomics team; and Heidi Rehm, PhD, director of the Partners Laboratory for Molecular Medicine and associate professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School.

The conference will be held May 20-22 at the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge at Stanford; registration details can be found on the event website.

Previously: Big data used to help identify patients at risk of deadly high-cholesterol disorder, Examining the potential of big data to transform health care and Registration for Big Data in Biomedicine conference now open

Events, Obesity, Pediatrics, Stanford News, Videos

Childx speaker Matthew Gillman discusses obesity prevention

Childx speaker Matthew Gillman discusses obesity prevention

The inaugural Childx conference was held here last month, and video interviews featuring keynote speakers, panelists and moderators are now on the Stanford YouTube channel. To continue the discussion of driving innovation in maternal and child health, we’ll be featuring a selection of the videos this month on Scope.

The prevalence of childhood obesity in the United States has not changed significantly since 2004 and remains at about 17 percent. However, the rate of obesity among preschool children, ages 2 to 5, has dropped from nearly 14 percent to 8.4 percent, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Matthew Gillman, MD, a professor in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Medical School, is among the group of researchers working to understand why rates of obesity among younger children have decreased.

In the above video interview from the Childx conference, Gillman discusses two possible reasons why fewer children under the age of five are obese and how this statistic points to potential prenatal underpinnings that influence a child’s risk of obesity. He goes on to explain how researchers previously believed that our health habits in adulthood gave rise to chronic disease, but that studies have shown the risk for these conditions may be determined early in life, even before birth. Watch his full interview to learn more about how fetal development influences our overall health.

Previously: “It’s not just science fiction anymore”: Childx speakers talk stem cell and gene therapy, Global health and precision medicine: Highlights from day two of Stanford’s Childx conference, Innovating for kids’ health: More from first day of Stanford’s Childx and “What we’re really talking about is changing the arc of children’s lives:” Stanford’s Childx kicks off

Addiction, Events, Pain, Patient Care, Public Health, Stanford News

The problem of prescription opioids: “An extraordinarily timely topic”

The problem of prescription opioids: "An extraordinarily timely topic"

photo (2) 2Suffer from pain? Or become an addict? Bemoan the epidemic of pain? Or decry the epidemic of opioid addiction?

At first glance, pain and addiction appear to conflict, to occupy distinct never-overlapping planes. But in reality, pain and addiction anchor two ends of a spectrum, with a lot of gray area in between, said Anna Lembke, MD, director of the Stanford Addiction Medicine Program.

Lembke and Sean Mackey, MD, PhD, chief of pain medicine, squared off in a good-natured debate of sorts moderated by chief communications officer Paul Costello last week at a Stanford Health Policy Forum on “The Problem of Prescription Opioids.”

“This is an extraordinarily timely topic,” Dean Lloyd Minor, MD, said in his introduction. “These issues really reflect a dilemma of wanting to bring the best compassionate care and science to our patients, yet also needing to respect the adverse effects that can occur.”

The statistics on both sides are sobering. The two experts told the audience that in the U.S., more than 16,000 people per year die of opioid overdose and 100 million people live in pain.

And both Lembke and Mackey shared harrowing tales of the suffering of their patients. Lembke once was called to consult on a women suffering from low back pain who had a opioid addiction identified by two previous psychiatrists. Yet in the exam room, the patient threatened to sue if she didn’t receive an opioid prescription, Lembke said. Cases like that prompted her to pen a provocative 2012 essay titled “Why doctors prescribe opioids to known opioid abusers.”

But Mackey treats patients who are suffering deeply, including a woman whose foot injury from a vehicle accident morphed into a pain syndrome affecting her upper extremities.

The current opioid addiction problem stems from a historical pattern of failing to treat pain, even in dying patients, Lembke said. Yet the pendulum swung too far and now doctors feel obligated to prescribe drugs such as opioids, she said.

At the Stanford Pain Management Center, teams of specialists work together to treat pain as a complex condition that affects many parts of the body and mind, Mackey said. Patients are treated with physical therapy, psychiatry and a variety of other specialties to try to allow them to participate in meaningful life activities, he said.

Although care at Stanford is top notch, it is an outlier and thousands of other patients are exposed to poor pain management practices. In addition, pain is now widely recognized as a disease, but addiction remains stigmatized, Lembke said.

When doctors recognize a opioid-seeking patient, they should treat the addiction, not boot the patient out of their practice.

Lembke and Mackey stressed that education about both pain and addiction ought to receive increased attention in medical schools. And patients need to take a role in treating both their own pain, and their addictions, they said. They do share common ground, Lembke said.

“All we think about every day is how we’re going to do it better,” Mackey said.

Previously: Assessing the opioid overdose epidemic, Stanford addiction expert: It’s often a “subtle journey” from prescription-drug use to abuse, Is a push to treat chronic pain pressuring doctors to prescribe opioids to addicts?, Why doctors prescribe opioids to patients they know are abusing them and Study shows prescribing higher doses of pain meds may increase risk of overdose
Photo by Becky Bach

Events, Parenting, Pediatrics, Stanford News, Videos

Pediatric health expert Alan Guttmacher outlines key issues facing children’s health today

Pediatric health expert Alan Guttmacher outlines key issues facing children's health today

The inaugural Childx conference was held here last month, and video interviews featuring keynote speakers, panelists and moderators are now on the Stanford YouTube channel. To continue the discussion of driving innovation in maternal and child health, we’ll be featuring a selection of the videos this month on Scope.

During his keynote speech at Stanford’s recent Childx conference, Alan Guttmacher, MD, director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Development, told attendees, “We need to be a society that values children.”

In the above video, Guttmacher emphasizes this point as he outlines key issues facing children’s health today. He explains that it’s the dawn of a new era in medical research with the potential to improve the lives of children throughout their life span. To make a lasting difference in children’s lives, he says, research needs to go beyond the medical approach and integrate social and environmental factors. He highlights the example of preterm birth, saying that while we’ve made strides in reducing the infant mortality rate of babies born too early, more needs to be done to understand the causes of preterm birth and prevent it.

Watch the full interview to learn more about why investing in pediatrics research can help the generations of tomorrow build a healthier future.

Previously: “It’s not just science fiction anymore”: Childx speakers talk stem cell and gene therapy, Global health and precision medicine: Highlights from day two of Stanford’s Childx conference, Innovating for kids’ health: More from first day of Stanford’s Childx, “What we’re really talking about is changing the arc of children’s lives:” Stanford’s Childx kicks off and Countdown to Childx: Q&A with pediatric health expert Alan Guttmacher

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