November 2012, Vol 1, No 5
A Personal Introduction and Invitation to Join My Journey Through the World of Personalized MedicineThe Last Word
Welcome to our new column, The Last Word. At the outset, let me comment on the irony of the title, for this is not a forum that presumes to have the “last word” on any aspects of personalized medicine. The column will serve as the concluding editorial in each issue of Personalized Medicine in Oncology, where I am given the chance to explore the extraordinary opportunities personalized medicine offers patients.
Permit me to acquaint you with me as you join my journey through the inner workings of our healthcare system. I am a veteran of nearly 40 years in the healthcare industry, which began with pre-med studies motivated by an enduring desire to heal. However, a nagging desire to understand human nature led me to graduate with a major in the humanities. But healthcare beckoned again, and leaving graduate studies in history to join a pharmaceutical company, I soon forged a career in medical education programs and publishing that fuses humanities with medical and managed care best practices. Convinced that medical care is at heart a cultural pursuit and not merely scientific, I will discuss the balance between healthcare discovery and value.
The Last Word will position healthcare as the crown of a civilized culture, with personalized medicine fulfilling medicine’s cultural pursuit to serve individual patient’s needs, not grouping patients together in a depersonalized population-based manner.
I hope that you will find The Last Word every bit as fascinating as my own exploration of uncharted waters of healthcare has been. I will take you into the inner realms of the healthcare process and fire your imagination by opening up new vistas of this still nascent process of care whose implications and downstream effects are so plentiful. This model of care is facilitated by new technologies, but its mission is timeless: the ancient pursuit to bring health to those who have lost it and stand to lose their lives without stopping the process of destruction that cancer is posing to them.
Along the way, The Last Word will stop to explore the very matter of change, how disruptive innovation inherently repels all but a small group known to pharmaceutical marketers as innovators, who take their place on a classic bell-shaped curve for new product adoption. It will examine how clinical oncologists operating within the population-based model of care must overcome their comfort level with it and find how to live with the uncertainties of a new paradigm that eradicates old fixed boundaries that defined expectations. It will explore healthcare delivery as a matter of overall resource allocation.
So sit back and get ready to enjoy the ride. I can even promise to share a most apt quote from a very old Joan Baez folk song. These are all part of The Last Word – it’s the last word in enjoyment of the learning process that goes with an initiative as splendid as the personalized medicine model for oncologic care.
Robert E. Henry
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