Exploring the Future of Medicine

Cancer biology and immunotherapy, the future of psychiatry, the direction of medical education, and the importance of advance directives were among the topics Kenneth L. Davis, MD, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Mount Sinai Medical Center, discussed at an Aspen Ideas Festival preview event held recently at The Studio Museum in Harlem.

The talk, titled “The Future of Medicine,” was a prelude to a larger discussion in which he will participate at the Aspen Ideas Festival in June. Corby Kummer, Senior Editor of The Atlantic magazine interviewed Dr. Davis for 20 minutes before inviting questions from the audience of about 75 invited guests. The event also featured Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum, who was interviewed by the actor and writer Anna Deveare Smith.

“Biomedical researchers are identifying more and more ways to boost the immune system to defeat disease,” Dr. Davis explained in response to a question posed by Mr. Kummer. “They are learning how your genome interacts with environmental and other factors, and how to create personalized immunotherapies based on an individual’s genome.”

In 10 years’ time, the cost of sequencing an individual’s genome will come down from about $2,000 to $20, he said. This will help doctors give all patients optimal treatments and health guidance. “For example, we know that vigorous exercise is the only factor that reduces risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Davis, who is an international expert in Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases. “This is very helpful knowledge for people with a genetic risk.”

Mount Sinai is the first medical center to sponsor the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is now in its ninth year. It will be held June 26 to July 2 in Aspen, Colorado. Walter Isaacson, President and CEO of the Aspen Institute, extended his appreciation to Mount Sinai. “Mount Sinai’s work is renowned, and its researchers and clinicians will add a welcome perspective to our sessions on health, which will have a special focus on maximizing individual health and longevity,” he said.

During the Festival this summer, Dr. Davis will also present ideas on “Bending the Health Care Cost Curve” with Peter Orszag, PhD, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Barack Obama. Drs. Davis and Orszag have written a white paper on ways to reduce health care costs and to make Medicare more affordable for the country.

Mount Sinai will also offer Festival participants informational sessions on personal genomics with Joel Dudley, PhD, Director of Biomedical Informatics at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and co-author of the new textbook, Exploring Personal Genomics. A team of Mount Sinai dermatologists will also be on-site to provide melanoma screenings.

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