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New Microbiome Health Research Puts the ‘Cell’ Back in Cell Phone

Jun 24, 2014, 12:13 PM, Posted by Deborah Bae

WNH Jessica Green infographic

What’s Next Health guest Jessica Green, founding director of the BioBE (Biology and the Built Environment Center), visited RWJF last year to discuss the health implications of the microbiome—the invisible collection of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and archaea that live on, in and all around us. Watch Jessica’s What's Next Health interview to learn more about microbiomes in the built environment and how that knowledge can be used to design spaces and buildings to create a healthier, more sustainable world.

During her visit, Jessica led an educational workshop where staff swabbed their fingers and mobile phones to learn about the relationship between the microscopic communities living on both. The findings from that educational workshop turned out to be quite interesting, and ultimately led to a study published today in the journal PeerJ. Senior Program Officer Deborah Bae caught up with Jessica to learn more about her research.

Deborah: When we hear the term microbe, many of us think about germs that cause disease. So what is the microbiome, and why is it important in promoting health?

Jessica: Twenty years ago, when I was an environmental engineering student, I learned that microbes were pollutants or contaminants, and were something that you wanted to eliminate, particularly in the indoor environment. And we know from history that being in a very unclean, unsanitary environment kills people. What we’ve learned more recently is that for every human cell, we have up to ten bacterial cells and even more viruses living on the human body. There's a rising consensus that aspects of this microbiome can be beneficial to human health. Some of these microorganisms help our immune system function, ward off pathogens and infections, and microbes in our gut may be even linked to the way that we think and feel.

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Big Strides in Community-Level Interventions at Health Datapalooza

Jun 10, 2014, 2:38 PM, Posted by Paul Tarini

Paul Tarini, Susan Dentzer, Dwayne Spradlin, Greg Downing, and David Vockell discuss harnessing data for health on an RWJF First Friday Hangout

As co-chair of the Community Track at this year’s Health Datapalooza conference, I was impressed by the strong sense of purpose I felt among the attendees. The conversation has clearly moved from the abstract concepts of gathering and accessing data, to how we can use that data to solve real-world challenges. The launch of a new network to bring together researchers, scientists and companies and accelerate research using personal health data, led by the Health Data Exploration project with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, was one of many efforts designed to directly improve our understanding of health through the wise use of data.

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Another Step Toward Open Health Education

May 22, 2014, 8:00 AM, Posted by Mike Painter

Osmosis Logo Image credit: Knowledge Diffusion

This post was originally published on The Health Care Blog by Shiv Gaglani, Ryan Haynes, and Michael Painter, MD.

Earlier this month Shiv and Ryan published a piece in the Annals of Internal Medicine, entitled What Can Medical Education Learn from Facebook and Netflix? We chose the title because, as medical students, we realized the tools our classmates are using to socialize and watch TV use more sophisticated algorithms than the tools we use to learn medicine.

What if the same mechanisms that Facebook and Netflix use—such as machine learning-based recommender systems, crowdsourcing, and intuitive interfaces—could transform how we educate our health care professionals? For example, just as Amazon recommends products based on other items that customers have bought, we believe that supplementary resources such as questions, videos, images, mnemonics, references, and even real-life patient cases could be automatically recommended based on what students and professionals are learning in the classroom or seeing in the clinic. That is one of the premises behind Osmosis, the flagship educational platform of Knowledge Diffusion, Shiv’s and Ryan’s startup. Osmosis uses data analytics and machine learning to deliver the best medical content to those trying to learn it, as efficiently as possible for the learner. Since its launch in August, Osmosis has delivered over two million questions to more than 10,000 medical students around the world using a novel push notification system that syncs to student curricular schedules.

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Khan Academy MCAT Competition: Building Free, Open-Access Medical Education Resources

May 14, 2014, 8:00 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

Rishi Desai Rishi Desai, MD, MPH, Medical Lead at Khan Academy

Rishi Desai, Medical Partnership Program Lead at Khan Academy, works to help Khan Academy connect people to quality information about health and medicine. He is currently a pediatric infectious disease physician, and previously spent two years as an EIS officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

By Rishi Desai

When I think about the new MCAT test that will launch in 2015, it brings back memories of my own late night study sessions in college. Just prior to taking the MCAT, I was enrolled in a particularly tough life sciences course at UCLA where our professor asked us to design an experiment that would “prove” that DNA was the genetic material in cells. We literally had to step into the shoes of historic researchers, think critically, and rediscover the fundamentals for ourselves. Preparing for these classes was tough, but it was worth it because I knew that it would help me understand the material on a very deep level. At Khan Academy we want to help all students truly understand the material and understand how to apply it.

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RWJF Pioneering Ideas Podcast: Episode 4 | MakerNurse, Visualizing Health Data & More

May 12, 2014, 8:00 AM, Posted by Pioneer Blog Team

Please note that this podcast player might not work in some versions of Internet Explorer. Please view this page in another browser, such as Chrome, Firefox or Safari. You may also access the episode via SoundCloud.

Welcome to the fourth episode of RWJF’s Pioneering Ideas podcast, where we explore cutting edge ideas and emerging trends that can transform health and health care. Your host is Lori Melichar, director at the foundation.

TED Master Class Game designer Jane McGonigal and IDEO CEO Tim Brown join Thomas Goetz for the master class conversation at TED 2014

Ideas & Projects in This Episode

  • MakerNurse (2:38) - Nurses Kelly Reilly, Roxana Reyna, and Mary Beth Dwyer share how they hack the supplies in their hospitals’ supply closets to improve patient care. (These nurses are all involved with RWJF grantee MakerNurse, the brainchild of Jose Gomez-Marquez and Anna Young, who lead the Little Devices Lab at MIT.)
  • Alternative Marketplaces (8:59) - Grantees Terry McDonald (St. Vincent de Paul) and George Wang (SIRUM) have something in common: They’re passionate about turning other people’s trash into resources that can improve health and health care. We introduced them and invited them to have a conversation about their work.
  • Visualizing Health (19:15) - RWJF entrepreneur in residence and former WIRED editor Thomas Goetz, RWJF program officer Andrea Ducas, designer Tim Leong and the University of Michigan’s Brian Zikmund-Fisher talk about Visualizing Health (vizhealth.org) -- how it came about, how they collaborated to make it happen, how it features agile research practices and what they hope happens next
  • Designing a Culture of Health (25:45) - Game designer Jane McGonigal and IDEO CEO Tim Brown share ideas about designing a culture of health (highlights from the master class conversation at TED 2014).

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