Annie Brewster is an Assistant Professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, a practicing physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston, a writer and a storyteller. She is also a patient, diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2001. In response to the disconnection she experienced in healthcare, both as a patient and a provider, and motivated by her belief in the power of stories, she started recording patient narratives in 2010. Integrating her personal experiences with the research supporting the health benefits of narrative, she founded Health Story Collaborative (HSC) in 2013. HSC is dedicated to helping individuals navigating health challenges find meaning, and ultimately heal, through storytelling. She is excited by interdisciplinary, cross-institutional collaborations that break through resistance to change. She is widely published in the press and is author of The Healing Power of Storytelling: Using Personal Narrative to Navigate Illness, Trauma, and Loss (2022).
Dr. Steven Harris, a physician specializing in Lyme at Pacific Frontier Medical, was guest speaker as part of our Distinguished Speaker Series. His presentation on the complexity of tick-borne diseases is transcribed below to share his invaluable insights into novel treatment options for those living with chronic/persistent Lyme and other intractable infections that severely curtail patients’ quality of life, bringing hope and restoring health to many. Note: This transcribed presentation has been edited for clarity.
What is “Precision Medicine”?
“The concept of precision medicine, which is a growing area, is where we look at an individual and try to create a tailored plan for that person. I think many doctors wish that we could have a ‘cookbook’ approach to medicine that would work for our patients. But unfortunately, that approach doesn’t work. Luckily, here in the San Francisco Bay Area, there are doctors offering precision medicine including Dr. Sunjya Schweig in Berkeley, Dr. Christine Green, with us at Pacific Frontier Medical, and Dr. Eric Gordon, at Gordon Medical Associates in Marin and others. And thankfully, we have Stanford and UCSF (our local medical centers) that we work peripherally with. In addition, the Open Medicine Foundation is making great strides in understanding illness and Dr. Mike Snyder’s group at Stanford who are working on multi omics for chronic fatigue that track an individual patient’s data.
“These doctors are working in their own fields, not necessarily just tick-borne diseases, but our work overlaps. For example, the Snyder Lab multi-omic study involves genomics, epigenomics, metabolomics, where they are looking at tons of data and assimilating a lot of this different data to try to create treatment plans that work for the individual, because of the fact that a ‘cookbook’ approach doesn’t work for this group of chronic complex patients. For example, we look at someone’s multi-ome and the parts that make them up, including their microbiome, epigenome among many others, which is becoming a bigger and more exciting field. One of the practical aspects we try to determine is how to address an individual’s level of inflammation, the diversity of their personal bacterial flora, and how to help compensate for any deficiencies—or over abundances—that help contribute to disease.
Dr. Charlotte Mao is a pediatric infectious diseases (ID) physician with special focus on Lyme disease and associated infections. She received her medical degree at Harvard Medical School and did her pediatric and infectious disease training at Boston Children’s Hospital. Ticktective Video and Podcast Editor: Kiva Schweig.
Dr. Edward B. Breitschwerdt is the Melanie S. Steele professor of medicine and infectious diseases at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. He is also an adjunct professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center, and Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.Ticktective Video and Podcast Editor: Kiva Schweig. Click here for this podcast transcript.
Ross Douthat, New York Times columnist, political analyst and author, shares his findings on the state of Lyme research, public perception, and his personal experience with tick-borne infections. Previously he was a senior editor of The Atlantic. He is the film critic for National Review, and he co-founded the New York Times’s weekly op-ed podcast, The Argument. Ross’s most recent book is about his experience with Lyme disease and is called “The Deep Places: A Memoir of Illness and Discovery”.Ticktective Video and Podcast Editor: Kiva Schweig.
Steven Phillips, MD is a Yale-trained physician and co-author of the book, “Chronic: The Hidden Cause of the Autoimmune Pandemic”. He has treated over 20,000 patients from over 20 countries. Dr. Phillips is well-published in peer-reviewed medical literature such as the Lancet and has been featured in popular media such as the NY Times, the Huffington Post, Dr. Oz, Fox’s Lyme and Reason, CBS, Revolution Health Radio with Chris Kresser, Dr. Been, and The Doctors. Ticktective Video and Podcast Editor: Kiva Schweig.
Meghan O’ Rourke is the editor of the Yale Review as well as the author of articles in Scientific American, the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal, Slate and many poetry publications. She is the author of several books including her newly released book,The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness. Meghan is the winner of many awards and prizes including the Guggenheim Award for General Nonfiction. Meghan has recently been featured on NPR’s Fresh Air, the Ezra Klein Show and Good Morning America. Ticktective Video and Podcast Editor: Kiva Schweig.