Emory Report
November 7, 2005
Volume 58, Number 10


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November 7 , 2005
Seeking Ponce’s dream through predictive health

BY katherine baust lukens

A new joint venture between Emory and Georgia Tech, the Predictive Health Institute, will present a symposium, “Seeking Ponce’s Dream: The Promise of Predictive Health,” at the Emory Conference Center, Dec. 19–20.

Predictive health is one of the cross-cutting initiatives identified in Emory’s strategic plan, and the institute is a collaborative effort between Emory and Tech that is working toward creating “a new model of health and healing for the 21st century,” according to acting Director Kenneth Brigham, professor of medicine at Emory. It will focus on intrinsic and environmental characteristics that predict disease risk for individuals, and will emphasize definition and maintenance of health rather than disease treatment. It is planned to be located in newly renovated space at Crawford Long Hospital.

The symposium will focus on the quest for optimal health, meaning the avoidance of disease, better quality of life and perhaps even longer life spans. The title, “Seeking Ponce’s Dream,” was coined by Brigham, who recalled Juan Ponce de Leon’s quest for the fabled fountain of youth. Today medicine is getting closer than ever to diagnosing and stopping disease long before the disease even starts.

“The symposium will provide a snapshot of what is coming in health care, made possible by the explosion of science and technology,” Brigham said. “While the broad concept of predictive health includes advice everyone knows—like stop smoking, lose weight and exercise—it goes far beyond, because it utilizes state-of the-art technology and science to define ‘health’ in elaborate detail and to use that information for treatment.

“If we really do what science and technology can make possible,” he continued, “there will be a complete paradigm shift in health care.”

The symposium will focus on the potential for and impact of extended life spans, including the implications for scientists, health practitioners and patients. “As the system migrates from a disease focus to a heath focus, the way health care professionals are educated will be changing,” Brigham said.

“The creation of the institute provides Emory with an opportunity to lead the way,” said Michael Johns, executive vice president for health affairs. “In the next decade or so, we will have increased tools to prevent, predict and personalize health care, making people healthier. The future holds a lot in terms of patient self-care: the opportunity to take control of your own health and learn how genetic proclivity and behavior influences your health.”

Returning to Emory to deliver the symposium’s opening keynote address will be Lee Hood from the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle; Hood also was part of the Futurist Forum held on campus last April as part of the strategic planning process. On day two, the keynote speakers are Ralph Snyderman from the Duke University Health System and renowned author Tom Wolfe, who will give a special presentation about his observations on the social implications of this new medicine.

In all, 12 speakers will address the biology of health and its relationship to genes, infections, oxidative stress and lifestyle, diagnosing and preventing health failure, regenerative medicine, and emerging technologies, followed by panel discussions on each day.

The event is open to the public; the $100 registration fee is discounted for members of the Emory community. Registration is $10 for students and $25 for Emory faculty and staff. For schedule updates or to register, visit http://www.whsc.emory.edu/public_events.cfm. For more information, contact Lynn Cunningham at lynn.cunningham@emory.edu or 404-727-6543.