Frontiers Conference at the University of Pittsburgh

University of Pittsburgh researchers play a leading role in a White House conference, co-hosted by Pitt and Carnegie Mellon, on the future of innovation.

A Moment from the Personal Track

A rousing conversation up in the Personal Track at the White House Frontiers Conference. Pitt's David O. Okonkwo, MD/PhD professor of neuroscience, joins moderator Margaret Anderson from FasterCures (who just made a joke about presidential moderators); Freda C. Lewis-Hall from Pfizer; James Park from FitBit; and Dana Lewis from OpenAPS. The panel has covered genomes, the vital role that failure plays in science, and how to get hospitals and doctors talking to each other to improve patient care. The panel's guiding topic is "Building Science Capacity for the Future of Health."

Near the end, Lewis-Hall quips that we're "Star Wars medicine in a Flintstone system," and that gets a big laugh from the room. What stands between a patient and an idea to innovate is the big question. She says, however, that the barriers to innovation are ultimately small and can be overcome. Collaboratives and consortiums are trying to figure theses steps out and address review boards that might slow down progress. Patients are key—what matters to them and how can we measure that? How can they share data with doctors?

Here's a snippet from the final question. Moderator Lewis-Hall asks: What's one step we can make to make the future better?

Dana Lewis: If you swap AI and put healthcare in President Obama's statement from yesterday, we can make that work too, she says. Creating a system is important, as is having clear regulatory principles. Remember the patient: "living with a disease is like death by a thousand papercuts—you make 300 or more choices a day to live!" Yes, the barriers are small, she says, but try to remove one of those small barriers. That's one papercut, and possibly a breaking point for a patient. 

James Park: Safety and privacy need improvement. It's a buren on companies to comply with current regulations. Where we store data, how we store data, how data flows between systems. There's not a lot of clarify. "If you ask 5 different lawyers if we're in compliance, a lot of times we get 5 different answers." Also: How can we use data to better influence screening and software? 

Okonkwo: The incentives for doctors and researchers need to be revitalized. Any aministrative cynics need to get out of the way of the optimists and create an environment to acknowledge and reward successes. It takes vision, and the more we have visionaries rising in these organizations, the better. We need people who can say yes (to things like integrating Apple's health app into studies).

Next up: Nancy Davidson from Pitt's Cancer Institute.

—Robyn K. Coggins