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2014 Brown Symposium Will Focus on the Future of Health Care in the United States

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    Speakers who were invited to be part of the 2014 Brown Symposium participated in a panel discussion at the end of the symposium.
    LUCAS ADAMS

Symposium will feature speakers from across the country who will address both the art and science of medicine

More than 2,000 years ago, Hippocrates firmly rooted medicine in science by introducing the concept of empirical observation and reasoning. At the same time, he emphasized the human side of healing by teaching his students the importance of honesty, compassion and ethics in the practice of medicine.

In the past 50 years, much of that human side of medicine has disappeared as house calls have been replaced with high-tech machines and office visits where patients may only spend a few minutes with a doctor.

“Medicine is not all science and machines,” says Ben Pierce, professor of biology and holder of the Lillian Nelson Pratt Chair in Biology at Southwestern University. “We need to include both in the health care of the future.”

Pierce has organized Southwestern’s 36th annual Brown Symposium, which will be held Feb. 6-7, 2014. The symposium is titled “Healing: The Art & Science of Medicine.”

Pierce says his goal for the symposium is to help people recognize that both science and the humanities play an important role in the practice of medicine. Speakers he has lined up for the symposium include Victoria Sweet, clinical professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine and author of the bestselling book, God’s Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine; Mauro Ferrari, president and CEO of The Methodist Hospital Research Institute in Houston and a leading authority on nanotechnology in medicine; Kevin Davies, author of The $1,000 Genome: The Revolution in DNA Sequencing and the New Era of Personalized Medicine; Anne West, a member of one of the first families to have their genomes sequenced; Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and author of the book Forgotten People, Forgotten Diseases: the Neglected Tropical Diseases and their Impact on Global Health and Development; and Jonathan Skinner, the James O. Freedman Presidential Professor of Economics at Dartmouth College and an expert on health care economics. Skinner will wrap up the symposium with a lecture on “The Future of Medicare.”

Pierce notes that while the United States spends more per capita on health care than any other country in the world − $8,402 per person – research shows that Americans are not necessarily getting any better care for all that money. He points to a report issued in January 2013 by the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine which found that Americans die sooner and experience higher rates of disease and injury than people in other high-income countries. This phenomena has been called “The American Health Care Disadvantage.”

“It is a very complex problem,” Pierce says. The 2013 report by the National Research Council suggested the problem has multiple causes and “involves some combination of inadequate health care, unhealthy behaviors, adverse economic and social conditions, and environmental factors, as well as public policies and social values that shape those conditions.”

The symposium will be accompanied by an art exhibit titled “Reconceived Bodies (in Three Parts)” by Patricia Olynyk, director of the Graduate School of Art at Washington University in St. Louis. An opening reception for the exhibit will be held from 4:30-6 p.m. Feb. 6 in the Fine Arts Gallery. The exhibit, which has been curated by Victoria Star Varner, professor of art at Southwestern, will remain on display through March 6.

Several other activities will take place in the Bishops Lounge in conjunction with the symposium. A health fair will be held in from 12:30-1:30 p.m. Feb. 6 and a lunch benefiting the Empty Bowls project will begin as soon as the symposium ends at noon on Feb. 7.

A photography contest also is being held as part of the symposium. Members of the Southwestern community are invited to submit photographs related to healing, medicine and health care. Photos may be submitted by uploading them to Instagram, Twitter or Facebook and tagging them with the #BrownSym2014 hashtag or by emailing them to digital@southwestern.edu. A committee will select the best picture submitted in November, December and January, and the top three overall winners. Details on the photo contest are available at http://www.southwestern.edu/academics/brownsymposium/photo_contest.php

In advance of the symposium, students in the Paideia cluster on public health which is led by Maria Todd and Maria Cuevas are planning a Jan. 21 panel discussion that will bring together health experts from four different organizations. The discussion will begin at 11:30 a.m. in the Campus Center ballrooms. The panelists will be Rebecca North, an expert on public policy and mental health from The University of Texas at Austin; Dr. Ann Marie Case from Dell Children’s Hospital, an expert on end-of-life issues; Marjorie Gallece, a breast cancer patient advocate; and Davi Thronton, an associate professor of communication studies at Southwestern whose research includes health communication.

Several exhibits related to the Brown Symposium also have been set up in the library. Display cases in the library entrance address the healing power of nature, domestic healing, scholarly medicine and medicine in literature. On the second floor, outside of Special Collections, is an exhibit about C. C. Cody’s visit to Dr. J. H. Kellogg’s Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan in 1914. Cody was a Southwestern University professor and dean.

On the second floor near the main elevators is an exhibit created by junior Maryhelen Murray titled “On the Human Body by Anatonomists During the Renaissance and Baroque Eras.” 

The Brown Symposium is funded through an endowment established by The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston. The first Brown Symposium was held in 1978.

The symposium is free and open to the public. The complete schedule for the 2014 symposium is available at www.southwestern.edu/brownxxxvi

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