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Alumni Dispatches

Transforming Kanter's Vision

Joshua C. Rubin, MPH ‘04

Josh RubinAnyone familiar with the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health knows the school’s motto, “Saving Lives, Protecting Health—Millions at a Time.”  Imagine if an information technology (IT) initiative could engage millions of ordinary people in doing just that, simply as a byproduct of living their lives and receiving healthcare services.

Many millennia ago, humankind invented writing, and that changed everything.  A concept known as a Learning Health System (LHS) promises to do for healthcare no less than the invention of writing did for human civilization; to enable us to record and learn from our collective experiences so that future generations can pick up where previous ones leave off.

Every one of us has been or will be a patient.  Yet the vast majority of us will take lessons that could be learned from our health experiences to our graves with us when we die; nobody else will benefit from what we went through, and we will not benefit from what others have been through.

With vast sums being expended today to ensure that our health experiences over time are captured electronically, imagine if we were empowered to let researchers learn from our (anonymized) collective digitized real-world health experiences—millions at a time.

Almost two decades ago, before “Internet” was a household word, Joe Kanter, a frustrated prostate-cancer-patient-turned-patient-activist, envisioned a health system that could do just that, and ultimately communicate lessons learned to clinicians and patients so that they could collaboratively make better-informed treatment decisions in light of real-world scientific data on “what works best” for every disease for every patient.  He has been working tirelessly every day since to effectuate his vision, one that promises to leverage the potential of health IT as a key that will unlock the power of researchers, public health professionals, clinicians, and patients alike to improve health, save lives, redefine the patient experience, revolutionize medical research and transform our health system.

I feel honored and privileged to use what I learned at Johns Hopkins on a daily basis to help transform Joe Kanter’s vision into a reality that will touch people’s lives and health—millions at a time.

Joshua Rubin is the executive director of the Joseph H. Kanter Family Foundation, a nonprofit that leverages the power of health information technology to unleash the potential of individuals to improve health, save lives, protect the public's health, redefine the patient experience, revolutionize medical research, and transform our health system.

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