Touch a TRUCK

May 26th, 2016 by Nick Jacobs No comments »


Last weekend a friend sent me a text from the Heinz Museum, and we met to discuss the day that she and her husband had just experienced. You see, their daughter-in-law was in charge of a major event that, had I been more observant, would quite possibly have been the most awesome experience of my youngest grandson’s life.  Yeah, he’s only 19 months old, but Pete’s primary obsession can only be described as all encompassing. He is completely obsessed with vehicles: buses, cars, lawn mowers, ambulances, but most of all trucks.  Let’s face it, he’s probably not unique in his love of these things, but, compared to the other five kids, he’s the most attached, the most enthralled, the most enamored by them.

If you give him a choice of fifteen different types of toys, he makes a beeline directly to the cars and trucks. He insists that I let him sit on my lap in the car so that he can pretend to drive and then he proceeds to jack up every dial and control in the entire car.  He hears a vehicle and screams tru or ka-r.  He runs to the window every time a vehicle comes near, and when he’s strapped in his child seat, a.k.a. restraint cage, he tries to rip out the seat belts if he sees a school bus or a big truck. This kid should be in someone’s automobile ads. I guarantee you he’d sell more vehicles than any 12 screaming old men or sexy young ladies.

So, back to the event that I missed.  It was called something like “Touch a Truck.”  The Junior League of Pittsburgh sponsors activities like American Girl Fashion Shows and Touch a Truck.  They should describe them as Heaven on Earth for little kids.  Seriously, Pete would have had to have two diapers if I had known about this earlier and taken him there.

These wonderful folks bring every type of vehicle they can get their hands on to Smallman Street in Pittsburgh, and then they let the kids literally have at it. There were ambulances, fire trucks, cement trucks, dump trucks, front loaders, you name it. All I could think about was “Why should the kids in Pittsburgh be the only ones to enjoy American Girl fashion shows and Touch a Truck events?”

I don’t want to wait until next year for Pete and all of my American Girl-owning granddaughters to get to experience the joys of childhood in such a great way.

It’s funny, however, when you suggest something like this as a fundraiser.  Even at $15 a person, this would seem to be a serious money maker, but everyone I’ve mentioned it to has scattered like roaches when the Orkin guy enters the room.  I expected to see every nonprofit in need of funds to look like dogs waiting at the door with their ears perked up every time they hear a sound.  This lack of enthusiasm is probably because they have been burned too many times by too many ideas that the presenter thinks is the greatest idea in the world.  Can a friend raiser really be a good fundraiser?

We all know that when our kids and grandkids are concerned, there are no barriers to entry. People practically mortgage their homes to take their kids to Disneyworld, why not a truck touching, doll fashion show day? Every little boy wants to drive a truck and every girl between the ages of five and 10 would gladly dress up their prize dolls for an event like this.

Come on.  Twenty phone calls and a volunteer group of 15 people could pull either or both of these events off with ease.  It only takes some creativity, a little donated space, a heck of a lot of liability insurance and, of course, some alcohol.  (Hopefully, the alcohol would be for after the event.)


Changing Tides

May 13th, 2016 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

As I sat in a circle with my six grand kids and listened to them talk about their lives, their friends, their toys, their challenges and their joys, I couldn’t help but contemplate what their futures might hold. They could easily live to be 100 or more years old, and what will the quality of their lives be for the next nine or more decades?

Hopefully, they will all have an opportunity to get an education, and they’ll probably have a lot more intelligent advice along the way than was available to me in the 60s. But what about the rest? What else will be resolved, improved, repaired, destroyed, invented, or resurrected?

Will the climate continue to deteriorate? Will food become less plentiful as the world population zooms to 10 billion people? As I dug deeply into the past decades of my life, the single most dramatic technological change that has occurred (to the point of seemingly attaching itself to our bodies) is the smartphone. It’s still a little difficult to comprehend the power of this device and the impact that it’s had on our lives already, but there’s no more dramatic technological advance to pedestal-ize than that minicomputer.

“What percent of fat, proteins, or carbs should I consume, Siri?” “Let me check on that,” she politely answers. “How many angels can fit on the head of a pin, Siri?” “An infinite number of angels can fit on a pin, Nick,” she replies.

We have our clocks, our schedules, our email accounts, our message systems, our phone directories and contact lists, our weather reports, our bank and credit card accounts, our word processors, and that’s truly just the beginning because everything that has ever been recorded in human history can be searched via the web on our smartphones.

But these amazing devices have also both increased and simultaneously marginalized our ability to communicate directly with each other. Supposedly, 85 percent of what we do in face-to-face communication is lost in emails and texts.

Any time there are teenagers at a family gathering, they are, for the most part, non-communicative. It’s as if they are lost in space, and unless you accost them directly by standing in front of them and peppering them with questions, they can be completely removed from the room. On the other side of that coin, however, is FaceTime and Zoom and a half a dozen other face-to-face software programs. Wow, what a difference that can make toalonely grandfather staying in some remote part of the world without his family.

We’re already seeing the use of nano particles and chips implanted in our pets to identify them and nano healing delivery systems, space travel, driverless cars, and talk of a colony on Mars. Will my grandkids enjoy the amazing products of science and engineering in a Brave New World of wonder and beauty, or will they be subjected to the continuation of the tribal mentality that is currently sweeping the world?

Will we eventually eliminate prejudice? Will we ever control our greed enough for them to know world peace for even a decade or two? Will we ever embrace a philosophy that cares enough for our fellow man to ensure that we can all have a decent life?

I’m hoping that we find new antibiotics through the discovery of the benefits of microbes, that we continue to make discoveries in mental health, cancer and heart disease, and that we restore our overall commitment to education and the arts in this country.

The good news is that I’ll be a memory. The rest of the news is, while I’m here, I’m going to do everything that I can to make sure that every one of these good things at least has a chance to become reality. Purpose Driven Lives…learn those words. Let’s focus on making things better.


Intrigued by Secret Stuff

May 5th, 2016 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

Let me be the first to admit that I have an obsession. It’s not a secret obsession,
its trap doors and stealthy rooms, and sliding panels. It all started when I was very little.
My dad’s father took me into an underground tunnel that connected the servants’ quarters
to the mansion of a coal baron’s house, and from that day forward, I was hooked.

We lived with my mom’s mom, and her house, like so many houses built in the early 1900s, had accompanying sheds that were constructed at the same time, from the same materials, with the similar siding, and paint jobs. There was a tool shed by the one-acre garden, a play house that had once stored coal, and a wash house. The play house had a front door and a wooden side window. This was the place where my brother and I could, as little kids, go
hang out and play for hours at a time.

In this one story 250-squarefoot house, my 9-year-old self decided that it would be mportant to have secret compartments. The sad truth was that neither my brother nor I had anything to hide. We were incredibly transparent kids, and we felt no need to keep anything from our parents. Nevertheless, I had installed an old Pennsylvania license
plate with concealed hinges that lifted up to reveal a hiding place in the wall. In this
playhouse I also meticulously sawed through the floorboards and created a trap door that
literally went nowhere, but if I ever needed to, I could hide a strong box.

Later, my brother and I graduated from the little kid playhouse to the much bigger wash
house. This wash house had been built to accommodate the tubs and indoor clothes lines
that helped keep the laundry clean for the eight children and two adults who had lived there
when my mom was a kid. The secret in this place was the second floor. Dad helped us
build a trap door that he connected to pulleys at the top of a ladder leading to the attic.
When you pulled on the rope two times with just the exact rhythm and swing to it, the secret trap door would fall open. That was the only clandestine device in that building, and,
for that matter, it was my last secret place until I became an adult.

When my son was about 12, I had a revolving bookcase built in his room. It was like
the Young Frankenstein bookcase, but that was not enough. I also had a secret room built in
the adjacent chamber. He would invite his friends into his bedroom, turn off the lights and
disappear completely. They’d go crazy trying to find him, but he had escaped through the bookcase and was secretly tucked away in his safe room.

Move the clock ahead about 25 years, and my son showed me the secret room that he had had built under the steps for his two daughters. Yes, the tradition continues. Shortly after that I had hush hush compartments built in my apartment, and someday, I’m sure that my grandkids will be building secret places and they’ll be wondering why. It’s funny how family traditions come about and get passed on from generation to generation.

I’ve never built my own home, but if I ever had, you better believe that there would have been undisclosed staircases, rooms, bookcases that revolved, and hiding places for my grandfather’s watch, or for whatever else I could think of to hide. I’d have hollow books, special, desks with invisible doors, hollow broom sticks for hiding money, and vodka.
I’m pretty sure I’d have a safe room, too. You know, like that room where Jodie Foster hid.

So, if I disappear, don’t worry. I’m probably under the trap door connected to the coffee table.


The Elections

April 28th, 2016 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

Onward to the general election The fall election is getting closer and closer, but for many of us, this pain cannot end soon enough. In fact, it would be more comfortable walking barefoot on hot ingots than listening to one more broadcaster pontificate about the flaws of each candidate. I’m concerned that the recently reported increase in suicides may not actually be suicides but instead may be the result of people’s heads exploding from all of the campaign ads about Lying Ted, Donald Drumpf Trump, Hillary – emails, Bernie’s Socialism, Kasich’s Zzzzzzzzz, and locally “The man who should separate his romantic life from his political life.” (Like that’s ever happened in American history.)

This election cycle has been even more mind numbing than usual on several levels. The most disconcerting part of all of this is, after having had more than 20 people from whom to choose in both parties, we’ve ended up with five candidates that are unacceptable to droves of us in different camps for myriad reasons. That fact is a little more worrisome than usual. So far, not one of the candidates has ripped off his or her glasses and shirt and to reveal an S on their chest. No super human has emerged to save the free world. There are plenty of flaws to go around, and on most days, those flaws seem to outweigh the total combined talent of this flock of politicos.

To me, the trust factor is the funniest measurement in this election. When you hear the talking heads proclaim that the front runners are battling each other for the lowest trust ratings ever recorded in human history, you have to wonder what kind of ratification of their candidacy that discloses. It has been interesting to see the split between the states on the Cruz-Trump journey and how much further from center Hillary has had to slide in order to appeal to the droves of Bernie supporters.

In some ways it was refreshing to hear a few of the candidates speak the honest to goodness truth about the dysfunctionality of our system, but in other ways, it makes us wonder if things may truly be hopeless. Taking apart the big banks, changing the campaign funding rules, altering the disparities that exist between the wealthy and everyone else, and stopping Putin, ISIS, and North Korea from screwing up the world all seem like pretty big challenges. Add to that the challenge of who gets to go through the day inacloud of doobie smoke and where you can pee if you’re Kaitlyn Jenner, and you’ve got an even higher stack of trials.

As things got more and more complicated over the years, some of the truly cerebral folks who may have had super powers decided to stay at home, crack a beer, and say, “Who needs this?” When folks like Elizabeth Warren, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Joe Biden, decided not to run, it just seemed like, the more realistic they were, the more they realized it wasn’t worth the exacerbation, aggravation, or pain.

Don’t take this wrong. I’m a patriot, and I do believe that these people are potentially doing a disservice to our country by not sacrificing their lives to run, but, having had the modest by comparison job of being a hospital CEO, I can tell you that my hair turned gray and fell out, and my heart clogged up like George W.’s and Bill Clinton’s, and I was just dealing with the day to day pressures of a little gig in comparison. Can you imagine going through everything that it takes to become president to change the world and then finding out that you really don’t have much power.

The cynical part of me believes that the money people are the puppeteers and the presidential candidates know they’ll end up wealthier when they’re done than they were when they started. Hope you voted.


It Will Be His Spring

April 6th, 2016 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

The air is definitely smelling like spring, and spring has always and forever been my favorite time of the year. For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a special relationship with this season. It may be because I was a spring baby, or maybe it was because my grandfather was a professional gardener.

Every spring he carefully and meticulously transferred his tiny flowers that had often times been grown from seeds over the winter from greenhouse to soil. He tenderly covered his employer’s world with the beauty, the smells and the love that only these magnificent works of nature could manifest.

He created amazing sculpted formal gardens like the ones that in London and Paris. They were formal, carefully groomed, and patterned, featuring dozens of floral combinations, manicured hedges, and plants. His work was natural art that, in hindsight, could never be fully embraced by the mind of a kid.

Maybe I love spring because, like the maple trees that lined Maple Street where I played as a young boy, I’m just a little sappy. I was actually a substitute Maple King back in the 1980’s in Meyersdale, PA, when the chosen king, Congressman Jack Murtha, had to cancel at the last minute. Nothing says spring like the Meyersdale Maple Festival.

Another spring fill-in day was when I was called on at 11:30 a.m. to speak at noon to the Somerset Rotary Club in place of Chuck Noll’s assistant coach, George Perles, who had canceled at the last minute. My speech to 120 men who came to hear the Pittsburgh Steelers assistant football coach was “The Value of the Arts in Our Lives.” Yeah, really?

In spring, there is new life, new hope, new love, and new dreams. All of these things have been consistent for me during this season of hope and rebirth. I’m definitely not alone in my feelings about spring. All one needs to do is sit and watch the extremely amorous birds chasing each other around the trees and bushes. Nature really gets it, too.

Spring is most probably the reason that I have chosen not to move to places like Arizona or Florida. Vive la difference. To me those almost single-season places are a little like cream of wheat on a white plate. Don’t get me wrong, they have plenty of good attributes when we’re freezing to death, and at least Florida has plenty of drama, but the absolute beauty of slipping from the heavy winter coat to the polo shirt and tennies is completely unmatched.

Feeling the warm sun embrace you like an old friend and smelling the sweet air of fresh blossoms is like a child opening a long anticipated present on Christmas morning. Seeing the grass come back to life (and knowing that you will not be the one to have to cut it) is completely special, too.

This is my first spring without my brother. It’s been a long nine months since he left us, and there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that he hasn’t been in my heart and mind. You see, he too loved spring, but unlike me, he loved working in the soil and loved working with his wife to help make plants and flowers and trees and special bushes grow.

He went to our childhood home before it was sold and then to our grandparent’s home, and he captured, nurtured, and raised the very same plants that surrounded us in our youth. He found the flowers and shrubs, and filled his yard with those thriving, living memories. The smells and colors of our childhood are captured in the middle of a backyard in the city.

He was spring on so many levels, and this year, this spring, whenever spring really comes, it will be his spring.

We never really die, we just transition. This year is his year.



Flexible Ethics

March 23rd, 2016 by Nick Jacobs 1 comment »

On Sunday I was driving three of my grandchildren home, and the youngest suggested that we play a game that they had often played on long, boring drives.  The rules of the game seemed simple.  Select a specific paint job for a car, i.e., navy blue, beige, grey, etc., and when you see a car with that particular color, you’re out.  Kind of a last person standing theme.  When my choice was made, they suggested that I change it to a color that would be more obscure so that I could last longer.  They selected, for example, periwinkle, pink, and yellow. So, with that in mind, I selected mint green, and was knocked out within a few minutes.  When my oldest granddaughter was eliminated, she contested the decision because the car that had her color was parked–an arbitrary rule change.

As the game progressed, the rules changed quickly and fervently.  “No, Poppa, that car was lime green, not mint green,” one said.  “That brown was not the brown that I meant,” said another. And on it went as we drove back to their home.  It was during this trip that it dawned on me that this pattern of game changing has played a huge part in my adult life.  Just when I thought I was playing by the rules, they changed dramatically.

For example, after having been insured for about 20 years by the same company, our basement flooded. When we made a claim, they very cautiously explained that we indeed had flood insurance, but we didn’t have drain backup insurance, and the water had rushed into the basement because the drain was backed up. (They had also discovered that if you didn’t pay claims, their stock holders would make more money.)

How about the greencard-holding immigrants who are encouraged to join the military and fight for our country because they can become citizens?  Then, after they get out, they find out that they are indeed not citizens, and the path to get there is just as arduous as before, and then they are deported. This represents the not-so-fine print of life.

I remember that in philosophy class we learned about something called relative ethics. We were taught about a very flexible way of looking at life in which the ethical decisions depend on the particular circumstances.  In other words, it was a very real example of the wiggle, or the weasel, theory. Time after time we hear our politicians carefully select each word as they position themselves to weasel out of whatever they are promising. The Cambridge dictionary says that to weasel out is to ?avoid doing something that you have ?agreed to do, ?especially by being ?dishonest. But then, that’s all relative.

My very favorite examples are those disclaimers that the drug companies are forced by the FDA  to post in their advertisements for their cure-all drugs. They’ll start out by saying, “This drug will help you lose weight, give you a tan, and make you sexy.”  Then the disclaimer:  “This drug may cause your eyebrows to fall out, your skin to turn orange, and your heart to stop forever. Contact your doctor if you fingernails turn black, you hear fire engine sirens in your ears all night long, and your teeth begin to have a fluorescent glow.”

It’s sad that we have become so used to being deceived on so many levels. Used car salesmen sometimes take a bad rap for this behavior, but several movies this year have portrayed the real villains and criminals in our lives:  “The Big Short,” which is about the greed of Wall Street, big government, and too-big-to-fail banks, and “Spotlight,” about the Archdiocese of Boston. These are examples of relative ethics. “It’s just the way things were.”




Carpet Bombing and New Cancer Care

February 10th, 2016 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

In the presidential debates we’ve recently been re-exposed to the phrase “carpet bombing.” This phrase typically means saturation bombing, which indicates large in-flight bombing done in an advanced manner that is intended to inflict maximum damage in every part of a selected area. It’s kind of like covering the floor with a carpet, but with much different results. This type of bombing was done periodically in World War II and the Vietnam conflict, and the results were as you might expect.  Unless humans were tucked away in a bomb shelter or were exceptionally lucky, they were annihilated in these bombing runs.

Now, let’s take a look a cancer treatment. I’ve been listening to and working with individual physicians and researchers who have decided that carpet bombing their patients may not be the best course of treatment anymore. For example, it wasn’t that many years ago that the typical treatment of breast cancer was a complete mastectomy, then chemotherapy and radiation, a very real form of medical carpet bombing.

The new movement in medicine is heavily tilted toward personalizing each patient’s care plan to their individual make-up. For example, one genetic test, called pharmacogenomics, can indicate the patient’s ability to metabolize certain medicines. That way, if you’re that one in one thousand person who shouldn’t have a specific type of medication, you’ll know in advance, and that knowledge might keep you from not experiencing sickening side effects to something that is critical to saving your life.

Although these tests have been available for quite some time, their use has been limited because of a lack of training for physicians, a lack of techs to run the equipment, and a complete lack of interpretive skills after the test is administered. All of those areas of concern are being aggressively addressed and will result in these tests becoming available  within a very short time.

The really interesting news is that genetic testing of tumors is driving personalized medicine in radiation oncology, too. A recent study that used a genetic test to assess radiation sensitivity of primary tumors and metastases suggests potential for genetic testing to help guide radiation therapy, too.

We know that patients have different clinical responses to radiation, but the way we treat them doesn’t acknowledge that difference. Researchers at the Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute in Tampa, Florida, are focusing on integrating genetic measures into radiation oncology so as to begin to understand the mechanisms of how to treat patients more effectively.

So, if we take that example of carpet bombing the disease but apply stereotactic breast biopsy, lumpectomy, and genetic testing to determine what type of drug will not only be tolerated but will also be the best treatment for the patient, and add similar genetic testing to determine radiation efficacy, we will begin to make real personalized progress.

Here’s some even more radical information, however.  Your circadian rhythm can impact the effectiveness of your chemotherapy.  Dr. Kevin Block has found that the actual time of day that the chemo is administered can impact curative rates up to as much as 25 percent more positively.  So, let’s add the following integrative approaches as well:

  • Comprehensive Integrative Assessment for Individualizing Treatment & Care – addressing patient profiles and treatment plans
  • Therapeutic Nutrition Program with Exchange System and Individualizing to Disease, Clinical, Drug and Laboratory Parameters
  • Personalized Physical Care Plan including fitness, manual therapy, acupuncture/acupressure/hyperthermia/cryotherapy
  • Personalized Biobehavioral Care Plan
  • Optimization of Circadian Health

Now we’re talking about personalized cancer care that should be available to everyone, but based on the speed of science compared to the speed of acceptance, we’re still probably years away, and that is my frustration. Science should be translational, and unless or until we can speed up the marriage of science and medicine, many of our loved ones will suffer unnecessarily.



February 5th, 2016 by Nick Jacobs 1 comment »

The other day one of my more cynical friends saw me at a coffee shop, aggressively walked over to my table, and interrupted a very important business meeting. As is typical of our relationship, he threw out as many insults as he possibly could think of in the opening three minute volley of introductions, then he smiled and said, “I read your articles.” To which I replied, “Thanks that means a lot to me.” (I lied.) Then he said, “You know, considering that you typically write about absolutely nothing, you don’t do a bad job.”

In a left-handed complimentary sort of way, that kinda made my day. I felt like Larry David when he described the “Seinfeld” show as, “A show that’s about absolutely nothing.” From nothing sometimes came some great laughs.

Speaking of which, my 8-year-old granddaughter confided in me today. She told me that when I used to say that “I was going to work at Starbucks,” she thought that I was actually a Barista. Then she said, “Poppa, I thought it was really cool that you were getting to work there and drink good coffee.” She admitted that it wasn’t until two years later she figured out I meant I was sitting in Starbucks having meetings and using my computer for work.

It’s amazing to me how places like Starbucks have become home base for so many intinerant workers like me. Not unlike Uber and Airbnb, the new sharing economy allows folks to live a different kind of non-office life. With all of the connectivity available now through the Internet, social media, and cellphones, you can have a desk in your home with no central office anywhere. Hence, when you’re on the road between appointments, places like Starbucks become your office.

The good news is that you don’t have all of the overhead of owning or renting an office building: no expensive signage, and no need to restrict your employees to living in a certain geographic area. The world is literally your oyster. The bad news is that we’re not an overly friendly society, and sometimes you just want to be able to talk to someone at the water cooler.

What it takes to build a non-centralized company is to train yourself to be able to let go of control. You have to hire people that you can trust, self-starters who don’t need constant supervision. Then you set up parameters that are acceptable to you as the head honcho. Once you find that happy zone that allows you to accept the fact that you’re not going to be able to watch everyone at their desk all day, it can work pretty well. And it does, except for the isolation thing for the gregarious ones.

Obviously, the use of these alternative restaurant/coffee shop offices has become so big so fast that some companies have taken steps to limit the overuse of their places. They don’t want you to live there. One place turned the music up so loud that it’s hard to talk on the phone. Another limited access to the Internet during peak times, and others cut back on electric outlets.

So what can be done to help those of us not physically working in an office building? How can we avoid that feeling of isolation? Even a crowded coffee shop, offers little interaction. Here’s my idea: Create a place where people who pay a few extra bucks will get red coffee cups.

Then they have to talk to each other once in a while. Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t need to happen when you’re in a meeting or tied up in deep thought, but the red cup can be a sign that indicates that you’re social and miss the water cooler. Bam! Talk to me, baby.


Moon Shot 2020

January 21st, 2016 by Nick Jacobs No comments »

What’s going on in Windber, in Washington, D.C., and in the United States that could change the practice of medicine forever? Last week you may have heard about President Obama’s appointment of Vice President Joe Biden to head up Moon Shot 2020, an effort intended to wipe out cancer. Within minutes after the State of the Union address, pundits began to point out all of the other presidents of the United States who had announced exactly the same goal. This time, however, partially because of what’s happening in Somerset County and Windber, there may actually be a chance that this goal could be met.

Medicine is in the midst of a genomic revolution. The approach is often referred to as personalized, individualized, or precision medicine. They all mean the same thing: using technologies to sequence a person’s DNA, analyze the person’s unique characteristics, and then treat the person as a distinctive individual rather than a statistically average person. Too many times, however, we hear about remarkable discoveries in science that come with a disclaimer that they are not yet available to patients. Sometimes it takes decades to reach our physicians and hospitals. The gap between breakthrough scientific discovery and the actual implementation of these findings in practice is a major challenge. New discoveries and innovations, no matter how valuable, mean very little until they can reach a patient’s health care in practice.

There are currently 26,000 genetic tests offered for more than 5,400 conditions, and the number is growing quickly. The Global Genomics Market is expected to reach $22.1 billion by 2020, growing at an estimated 10.3 percent from 2014 to 2020. Other industry analysts estimate at least double-digit growth in gene sequencing through the next several years, and likely exponential growth. This is the secret sauce to the Moon Shot 2020 initiative.

The work that has been going on at the Windber Research Institute since 2001 has contributed to the progress of genetic research. By using already existing relationships with Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, WRI has been producing significant testing for not only military patients but also for the National Cancer Institute. Now that Dr. Patrick Soon Shiong’s nonprofit foundation, the Chan Soon Shiong Institute for Molecular Medicine has taken over WRI and Windber Medical Center, they have become a major participant in Moon Shot 2020.

It won’t be long before individuals interested in knowing their pathway to personalized care will be helped across the world. Vanderbilt University already advertises daily, “Come to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and you will never receive the wrong heart medication.” This is the result of genetic testing. This genetic testing would not only beamajor medical tourism draw for Somerset County, it could also be an amazing gift to those patients who cannot tolerate certain heart, oncologic, or other drugs. Rather than experimenting with drugs,a simple and relatively inexpensive genetic test can be used to reveal the genetic predisposition to absorb whatever drug is prescribed.

The Windber Research Institute as a partner with the Department of Defense, Col. Craig Shriver, MD, and the John P. Murtha Cancer Center at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center has collected more than 60,000 donated tissues with hundreds of fields of information on each patient. Their work continues to provide innovative, clinical gene testing that will contribute to national quality medicine that will lead to wellness and prevention.

Windber Medical Center also began innovative work in integrative medicine back in 1997, and that work has yielded significant positive information internationally by demonstrating that simple things like diet, exercise, and stress management can significantly impact our genetic predisposition to certain diseases.

Windber has been in the business of creating transformational experiences that will positively impact the lives and health of patients for more than 15 years, and is now positioned to be recognized as a national model for healthcare reform


A Five Year Interlude in Arts Management

January 6th, 2016 by Nick Jacobs 1 comment »

It was January of 1980, and the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and Pittsburgh Press all ran this advertisement: Wanted Executive Director forarural arts organization in Somerset. The want ad went on to read something like: This is a particularly incredible opportunity for the right person with the appropriate skills.

Just seven months earlier, I had decided to leave my teaching position in Johnstown to take a job in fund development for schools in the Pittsburgh area. After training in July,Istarted my job in August, and 11 of my 14 schools went on strike. Immediately after that, the Iran oil crisis hit. People in sales were permitted to purchase rationed gasoline in order to continue to do their work, but it meant sitting in hours long lines on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Needless to say this career decision was not one of my best, but the rest of the story includes the fact that the house that we had purchased in Pittsburgh had building jacks hidden in the walls. The repair work, lost income from the strikes, and the cost of the move ended up completely wiping out what little savings a teacher could have amassed.

So, on a Sunday afternoon, I made what I considered to be a Hail Mary decision and sent a resume and application for the position of executive director of Laurel Arts and the Dressler Center for the Arts. Because it was clear to me that my training and background had almost nothing to do with running an arts center, I approached my unexpected interview with a somewhat cynical but light-hearted air, and ended up making wise cracks for most of the session.

To my surprise that worked because three of the five people interviewing me were fun guys in their late 20s or early 30s. Another person was impressed with my references. The last person, a real artist, seemed to tolerate the decision to bring me back for a second interview.

I got the job, and on the very first dayIarrived in my threepiece, brown, polyester, Johnny Carson suit and walked into the office thatIshared with the volunteer administrative assistant. She looked at me and said, “What are you doing?” I explained thatIwas starting to work. She then said, “See that wood burner? It needs to be fired to heat this place, and I’m not doing it.” That was the beginning of a five-year relationship that will forever be lodged in my brain and heart.

Her name was Dorothy Burnworth. Dorothy was a retired elementary school teacher and former member of the Women’s Army Corps. Once, when I asked her why she had never been married, she smiled and said, “I don’t like to dance backwards.” She was intelligent, forthright, an unbelievable worker, and dedicated to the Dressler Center.

Like most of us, however, she did have a few flaws. A former CEO who tangled with her once told me she could be “meaner than a boiled owl.” Most of the, however, time she was fun and extremely competent.

My job there was to be the visionary, the idea man, the face of the organization. In those early days, she was the implementer and the operations director. If, for example, I’d decide to set up 123 classes in Senior Centers all over Somerset County, she’d get the rooms lined up, hire the teachers, enroll the students, collect the money, and announce snow days when needed.

She also became the Sergeant Major to the half-dozen people that we hired and the 300 volunteers who helped start Somerfest. Dorothy made Laurel Arts work, while she trained her successor, Lori. I’ll never forget our time together.

She had traveled the world but decided to spend five years of her retirement with me.I can hear her now, “Saint Peter, get those people in line or suffer the consequences!”