Radical_RemissionPhotoWhile I was flying to and from Fort Lauderdale this week for strategy meetings with the folks at Spirit of Women, I read Kelly Turner’s book Radical Remission: Surviving Cancer Against All Odds. Several people recommended the book to me, knowing my interest in health and healthcare. Foremost among them was my sister Kerry, who is living with advanced ovarian cancer. Kerry, who also loved Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips (Kris Carr), said that Turner’s book is a must read. I love to read and always want to know more about what patients are reading and experiencing, so I ordered the book. While I was waiting for the book to arrive I coincidentally heard Kelly Turner interviewed on NPR – I believe she was a guest on Joe and Terry Graedon’s show, The People’s Pharmacy. In the interview Turner did a nice job being balanced and reasonable in her messaging. It made me even more interested in reading her book.

Kelly Turner, Ph.D., studied more than a thousand cases of “radical remission,” where people overcame cancer against all odds. Within her study she noticed nine factors or lifestyle changes (my language) that were common in most of these cases, in varying combinations:

  • Radically changing your diet
  • Taking control of your health
  • Following your intuition
  • Using herbs and supplements
  • Releasing suppressed emotions
  • Increasing positive emotions
  • Embracing social support
  • Deepening your spiritual connection
  • Having strong reasons for living (beyond not wanting to die)

I’ve been around cancer enough in my life, and around people living with cancer, to be familiar with the rationale behind each of these factors. In that regard, Turner’s book and its revelations were not surprising. However, it was nice to see one researcher bring together all of these factors into a single text – empowering individuals with lifestyle changes they can make to get themselves back in some kind of body/mind/spirit balance. She also does a nice job of storytelling – sharing case studies. By putting connecting a human face to each of these factors, they seemed to have more weight. This wasn’t just a report; these are real human stories and outcomes. By the way, at the end of the book, she mentions that a tenth factor should be EXERCISE, but its importance in her study was diminished because most of the patients she studied with advanced cancer were too ill for exercise to be a major factor in their recovery.

It is important to note that Turner doesn’t recommend turning away from traditional cancer treatment options. In fact, she mentions cases where the patient underwent conventional treatment while also making lifestyle modifications that come more from the world of complementary or integrative medicine. However, some patients, in the stories she shares, did get frustrated with conventional treatments and abandoned them altogether – either due to a lack of results, medicine had gone as far as it could go, or because of the harsh impact of the conventional treatments on their bodies. Facing advance cancer, these individuals turned to some combination of the nine factors and eventually found a path to radical remission.

For those who have a cancer diagnosis and for those of us who know someone who has cancer, this is a potentially important book. It provides hope. Not false hope. But the kind of hope that comes from access to new knowledge. In this case, it is knowledge about how focusing on your body, mind and spirit can bring about the possibility of incredible healing. Conversely, there are lessons to be learned about how stress, negative emotions, poor diet and the like can be impediments to good health, creating imbalances that invite illness.

I enjoyed reading Kelly Turner’s book and recommend it. For someone looking for answers, this book should be among the materials they review. Assuredly, it will not be the only thing they read.


Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 8.40.12 PMMy friend, now former friend, Kelly Mello Woodsum, executive director of the New England Society for Healthcare Communications, tagged me earlier today to take the ALS Awareness Challenge: either donate $100 to ALS or create awareness by creating a video of a bucket of ice water being dumped over your head. Kelly wouldn’t let me go the donation route. This is about participating in a viral social media program to drive awareness for ALS, so $100 is the cheap way out.

See my amazing video below. Note that I used an elaborate 3 camera set up. Of course I did all my own shooting and editing. No crew. No hair and makeup. No grips. Not even an audio guy. Having completed the challenge myself, I now have taggged the following individuals to take the challenge because of the admiration I have for each of them: Chad Campbell, Julia Bowen Sorensen, Susan Radican McDonald, Nick Zaharias, Jim Rattray and Donald Jones. You must now face the challenge! #icebucketchallenge #ALSawareness

Screen Shot 2014-08-05 at 9.13.35 AMLast week I led a blogging 101 training session for physicians and other healthcare professionals who blog for the Hospital Leader blog of the Society of Hospital Medicine (SHM). It was a great experience. (Special shout out to Brendon Shank and Meghan Mallouk of SHM.) The bloggers ranged in experience with some having blogged for several years while others were relatively new to blogging. I thought I’d share some of the blogging tips I shared within that session. One of the first things I spoke about was the “blogging mindset” that eventually develops, if given a chance. From my perspective, a new blogger can tell that he or she has achieved the blogging mindset if blogging begins to fit within the context or flow of his or her life. To be successful, especially for a physician blogger, blogging should not be a hassle. As the physician travels through the work day, he or she should get to the point where certain things (journal articles or a patient experience, for example) trigger an idea for a blog post. Eventually, throughout the week, the physician blogger will note various things that are blog post worthy. It might be a news story on NPR that he or she hears in the car. Or it might be news of an upcoming conference that seems particularly interesting and relevant. Making note of those things – rather than sitting down and brainstorming (forcing) topics for future blog posts – that is the blogging mindset. This approach allows your blog posts to be more spontaneous and in the moment, requiring less planning and labor.

Here are some of the quick tips I shared with the group from the Society of Hospital Medicine:

  • Be truthful – Not only should you always strive to tell the truth, but you should also be true to yourself.
  • Be interesting – The world doesn’t need yet another blogger droning on. What’s interesting about your perspective? What will others find interesting about you and your blog? One key is to write about things that interest you. Your interest will show through in your writing.
  • Find your voice – This is essential. Blogging, especially for business people and medical professionals who are not used to writing in such an informal manner, can be a struggle. What is your voice going to be as a blogger? Often it is the voice that makes you interesting.
  • Be patient with yourself – While you are working to find your voice, be patient with yourself. It can take time to find your voice and certainly it takes time to develop a blogging mindset. So be patient with yourself. Keep moving forward. And don’t get discouraged.
  • Balancing the fear of writing too little with the fear of writing too much (both can be sins) – Blog posts should vary in length depending on the subject you are addressing. Sometimes you’ll want to write a very short post that directs your readers to an article, video or blog posts. I call those “redirect” posts. These can be one paragraph in length, and that is perfectly acceptable. You’ve done your job by providing a resource to your readers. At other times, hopefully not too frequently, you’ll want to write a rant or manifesto. Those tend to be longer. My suggestion is to use subheads to break up the copy and try embedding images/graphics to add interest. In general, I feel that a good blog post will average four paragraphs. Please know, not every blog post needs to be a major literary work; 300 to 400 words is optimum.
  • Have a point – This is a really common challenge that many bloggers face: they leave their readers asking “So What?” Before writing that next blog post, ask yourself why you plan to write about this particular topic? Are you providing a new perspective? Sharing a valuable resource? What’s the point? What’s the hook?
  • Write with conviction – Don’t be afraid to take a stand and express a perspective. Having conviction will make you interesting.
  • Write when you have something to say – The best blog posts are often written in the moment!
  • Short sentences are best – Say no more.
  • Avoid using deceptively cute headlines – Ultimately, your blog post has to deliver on the promise of the headline. Avoid creating false expectations with clever headlines that mislead the reader. These are busy people and they won’t be fooled a second time.
  • Prepare for rainy days – I like to keep a running list of blog post ideas. I use the “notes” App on my iPhone. This helps when I hit a dry spell and just can’t find inspiration for that next blog post. And believe me, it happens.
  • Be generous – Generosity is a major theme in my blogging life and my overall professional life. I seek to share good content that may be of value to other healthcare marketers and communicators. When you’re writing blog posts, be sure to link to sources that your readers may find to be of value. It is okay to send readers away from your blog to an original source. Have courage. They’ll appreciate the information and will be back.

There you have it. A list of tips for healthcare professionals who blog – or may aspire to blog. What did I leave off the list?



Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 5.26.37 PMI meet a fair number of social media haters. It is a fascinating phenomenon. For some reason people have a visceral reaction to social media. On the business side of things, we’ve learned that in marketing discussions we will often get a better response if we refer to “digital media” rather than social media. Unfortunately, for many people, when you mention social media and social networks their minds immediately go to “that group of activities that is a huge time suck and is of no real value.”

I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that people find community within social networks. There is research that substantiates the fact that when people interact on social networks, their bodies emit oxytocin, the same chemical that is produced when close friends share a great hug. (Check out the research of Dr. Paul Zak.)

“Interactions on Twitter and Facebook seem to lead to oxytocin spikes, offering a powerful retort to the argument that social media is killing real human interaction: in hormonal terms, it appears, the body processes it as an entirely real kind of interaction.” (Source: “Meet ‘Dr Love’, the scientist exploring what makes people good or evil,The Guardian, Sunday 15 July 2012)

Online, people seek out communities of shared interest. These are niche communities made up of individuals who share certain commonalities. When it comes to health, those commonalities could include a chronic condition, rare disease, terminal illness or interest in fitness. But for those of us who don’t belong to health-oriented online communities, we can see the same phenomena at work on our Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, just to name a few. (I also see it on Instagram and LinkedIn, and to some degree on foursquare.)


I promised my wife that I wouldn’t write any more blog posts about my father and his recent death. That pretty much guaranteed the fact that I would mention him in at least one more post! If ever there was a question about whether all of this online activity truly results in community-building, watch what happens on Facebook when a friend of yours has a loved one pass away. The outpouring of support is remarkable.

Having only 271 friends on Facebook is a testament to the fact that I am highly selective when it comes to accepting friend requests. So it was remarkable that, when I first shared news of my dad’s death, the initial post received 71 comments. These weren’t just “likes.” These were people who took the time to write a comment and express their condolences. Similarly, dozens of online friends left comments on my blog to share their support. And it meant a great deal to me. The support was immediate and heartfelt.

People will argue that many Facebook friendships and online relationships are superficial. That is true. The online world is very much like the “in person” world (although I am not a fan of the distinction). Each community, no matter how large or small, is made up of a number if individuals with some common interest. However, one thing you can count on is that the level of involvement on the part of various individuals will vary greatly. Some people are very active in their communities while others play a more limited role. There are leaders and there are those who are just find living on the periphery. Why would online communities be any different?

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 5.45.16 PMWhen I first started using social media there was a lot of talk in the media about the “cocooning” of Americans. At the time, much of that was attributed to the impact of television, but I also connected the idea with the impact of emerging social networks. I can remember being concerned that these new technologies would exacerbate this cocooning phenomenon. The impact would be further isolation and less social interaction. It is now my perspective that, at least in my experience, digital media have allowed for enhanced social interactions and allow for a greater sense of connection, rather than isolation. Through social media niche communities are given an opportunity to flourish in a way that was very difficult in the past. Using the example of my father’s death, in the past most of the people who I engage with on Facebook would have had no way of knowing that he had passed away and that I was going through a tough time. The same would be true if I were to suddenly find myself dealing with a chronic illness. In the old days, how long would it take for people to find out? Today, if I choose to share it online, dozens of friends within my community will immediately have the opportunity to lend me their support and advice.

Don’t Hate

Sometimes we are all too quick to judge phenomena that are new and unfamiliar. Those who demean “social networks,” “social media,” “online communities” and online friendships, have not taken the time to examine the power of these platforms and the interaction that takes place within them. Online patient support communities, above all, fill so many important needs of their members. I’m excited to play a role in bringing online health and patient communities to those seeking support, guidance, friendship, camaraderie and health resources.

Dan and Kerry photoMy sister Kerry has been undergoing treatment for Stage 3 Ovarian Cancer for the last several years. She has done remarkably well (multiple rounds of chemo and multiple surgeries) and has exceeded the expectations of her medical team. When she was first diagnosed, she was treated at UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco, and felt like she was receiving exceptional care. Later, she moved to Florida to be closer to my parents, and began treatment at a local community hospital that has a comprehensive cancer center.

Over the last year, Kerry has expressed doubts about the sophistication of the cancer program at the local hospital and wondered if they were doing everything that could be done for her. Among other things, it concerned her that the cancer center had no clinical trials for ovarian cancer. She also felt that their diagnostic equipment was outdated, given what she’d experienced at UCSF. So, for the last year, I’ve suggested that she visit a major cancer center for a consult and a review of her treatment plan. At the very least, this would help to put her mind at ease. She looked at a number of different options, including a few that I recommended (MD Anderson, Duke and UNC), and surprised me a couple of weeks ago by announcing that she was heading to meet with the team at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Right away! I was elated to hear the news, in part because I have worked with MD Anderson and hold the organization in high esteem, and in part because Kerry was taking charge of her situation rather than simply let things happen to her.

Last week Kerry headed out to MD Anderson. Before leaving she seemed nervous and apprehensive. I called her on her second night in Houston and she was thrilled with her decision. She sounded empowered. She was glowing. Suddenly she had the resources and expertise of a major cancer center at her finger tips. And they will remain a resource long after she returns to her home in Florida. Prior to this, it seemed that she felt trapped and uncertain of the path she was traveling. That’s never a good thing, particularly when it is your life that’s on the line.

So today I am celebrating the power of an informed second opinion. And I am grateful to everyone at MD Anderson for taking such good care of my sister. The care provided at most community hospitals today is solid (exceptional in some cases), and certainly not every illness requires a trip to an academic medical center. But, when the need arises, healthcare consumers should feel comfortable seeking out the expertise available within major academic centers. It is not a betrayal to seek out a second opinion. In fact, it can be a smart thing to do. Programs have limits and strengths. But not all programs are good at encouraging patients to seek out other options with greater resources and/or expertise in a specific arena. In those cases (and many others), the patient has to be his or her own greatest advocate, get educated and seek out alternatives. Power to the patient!

Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 2.41.56 PMLooking for an event to attend in late September? Or perhaps your organization, like so many others, is chasing the holy grail of “patient engagement?” On September 30-October 1 in Bethesda, Maryland, the ENGAGE forum will discuss the leading innovations and latest strategies in improving patient care and healthcare delivery. MedCity ENGAGE is an executive-level event featuring the most innovative thinking from payers, providers, policymakers, health IT and beyond to highlight best-in-class approaches to one of the biggest challenges in healthcare: patient engagement. It will feature speakers discussing the current attempts to innovate in care delivery and reimbursement, along with the innovations that will form the backbone of technological infrastructure.

According to MedCityNews, the producer of the Engage forum, attendees can expect to gather a number of take-aways, benefits and insights from the event:

  • A better understanding of the current care environment and the major policy and market drivers behind care innovation
  • Perspectives from federal policy leaders on future government support of patient engagement
  • Perspectives from health leaders on the business case for exceptional patient engagement
  • Insight from engagement experts from a variety of different fields and how to apply those principles to healthcare
  • Access to innovators “in the trenches” and demonstrations of the latest technology platforms to communicate with and encourage patient behavior.

For information about the event, go to: http://events.medcitynews.com/engage/


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Here’s something you don’t often see: An awards competition where the entries are free. This is the second year for the Multicultural Health Marketing Awards. This competition recognizes the best creative advertising of a health product or service targeting African-American, Hispanic, Asian, or LGBT consumers. (These are creative awards, so it is not necessary to present metrics with each submission.) These can be campaigns from pharma, medical devices, hospitals, insurance plans, OTCs, consumer products, NGOs, government, academia, or anything that is marketing health information to a multicultural market segment and has run on any media at any point since July 1, 2013.
Click here to download entry form: http://form.jotform.us/form/41601102792141

Finalists will be notified in late August/early September and award winners will be announced at the Multicultural Health Marketing National Conference on October 16. Nominations close on August 8, 2014


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