Stanford Medicine Newsletter Updates For the Local Community


Community matters

Precision health in the clinic and operating room

Christopher Dawes, president and CEO of Stanford Children's Health; Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the Stanford School of Medicine; and David Entwistle, president and CEO of Stanford Health Care.


Today, technological advances make it possible to identify subtle signs of disease early, even before symptoms occur, and to interfere in the process to prevent illness altogether. Cell and gene therapy, artificial intelligence, tests that reveal early signs of cancer or other diseases, and wearable devices that can detect heart and other problems are all among the tools empowering this growing movement, which we call precision health.

Precision health enables us not only to predict and prevent disease but also to treat it with precise therapies that are tailored to individual patients. In this issue of Stanford Medicine News, you will find several examples of precision health in action.

For instance, Stanford Medicine recently embarked on an innovative approach to health through a study of some 10,000 people, known as Project Baseline. A collaboration with Verily — an Alphabet company — and the Duke University School of Medicine, the study will amass voluminous molecular data from each participant with the goal of understanding the molecular factors associated with health at various stages of life. The study will help scientists understand what makes a person healthy and the forces that may send that person down the path to illness. Armed with this information, we could intervene to alter the course of events.

This winter, Stanford Medicine also is expected to open a new genomics lab that will enable physicians to examine an individual's unique genetic blueprint, including use of a technique known as whole exome sequencing. This technology will help clinicians identify genetic mutations in people with unexplained medical conditions, thus pointing the way to possible treatments. We are among a handful of medical centers in the country to offer this type of testing, which will benefit patients at both Stanford Children's Health and Stanford Health Care.

Two other stories in this issue — one on natural heart valve repair and another on a bloodless heart surgery in an infant — provide examples of precise modes of treatment, tailored to the individual. With natural heart valve repair, Stanford Medicine cardiac surgeons preserve and reshape a patient's own valve tissues, rather than replace a damaged valve with a mechanical or animal version. With natural repair, the valve heals along with the patient, providing lifelong benefit without the need for additional drugs or surgeries. Stanford Medicine is among a select group of medical centers across the country that specialize in this type of valve repair, particularly for the aortic valve.

At Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford, pediatric heart surgeons recently performed a technically challenging open-heart surgery in a newborn without use of blood products, out of respect for the family's religious beliefs. Patients who undergo bloodless surgery are more likely to resist infection, avoid adverse immune responses and recover more quickly. This recent surgery is believed to be one of the first times in North America in which the operation, known as an arterial switch — or a rearrangement of two major heart arteries — was performed without a blood transfusion, providing a unique benefit to the patient and her family.

Precision health represents a new way of proactively focusing on the health and well-being of people and of addressing their individual needs. That is our commitment: to keep patients as healthy as possible and, when necessary, provide them with the most advanced and personalized care available.

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