Roni Zeiger: Making Smart Patients Smarter

Roni Zeiger received his M.D. from Stanford University and completed his residency at UC San Francisco. He has written several medical text books and taught as a clinical instructor of medicine at Stanford University, while earning his Master’s degree in biomedical informatics from Stanford.

Zeiger created a tool called Diagnosaurus that helps doctors remember potential diagnoses for particular symptoms. It has now been created into a smartphone app used by over 100,000 doctors and medical students.

Zeiger was the Chief Health Strategist at Google, where he was responsible for items such as Google Flu Trends and Symptom Search, where Google uses algorithms to find health conditions related to symptom queries searched in their engine.

His familiarity with searching the web for health issues, ranging from support groups to clinical trials, has led him to team up with Gilles Frydman to found Smart Patients. A few months ago Smart Patients became available to the public, inviting cancer patients and care givers to join the support network to find and discuss clinical trials and other treatments. With this website, Zeiger is bringing together the disparate community of people who have become cancer experts from their close experience with the disease. Smart Patients capitalizes on the collective knowledge of individuals with the hope of improving the quality of caner patients’ lives, while making it easier to find relative information on clinical trials and rare aspects of the disease.

Zeiger is currently the CEO of Smart Patients, as well as a part time Community Staff Physician at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

Hear him explain his idea for the intersection of social media and health care, in this TEDMED video explaining Smart Patients.

Or, hear him discuss his latest work for yourself at this year’s The Atlantic Meets the Pacific, presented by UC San Diego Extension and the Atlantic Magazine. The conference will be held on October 2 through 4 at the Scripps Seaside Forum and the Qualcomm Institute in La Jolla, California.

For more information on registration, please visit


Jacopo Annese: Slicing, Dicing and Digitizing Brains

How many of you have that little organ donor sticker on your driver’s license? According to the Department of Motor Vehicles, over 200,000 Californians have pledged to donate their healthy organs upon their death to people in need.

But what about donating your organs to science? The work of Jacopo Annesse, assistant professor in residence at UC San Diego’s department of Radiology and director of the The Brain Observatory, would never have gotten to where it is today without the donations of over 1,000 brains.

In 2005, Annese founded The Brain Observatory and in 2009, was given one of the most famous brain’s in medical history.

Henry Molaison, medically known as patient HM, underwent brain surgery in 1953 in an attempt to treat his severe epileptic convulsions. Although the surgery helped his seizures, from that day on he was unable to retain a memory for longer than 20 seconds.

Upon his death in 2008, he donated his brain to The Brain Observatory, with Annese at the head of the investigating team preparing to dissect and digitize the brain. In 2009, the operation finally took place but, this one brain was just the beginning, spurring the formation of the Digital Brain Library.

This project has called for the donation of 1,000 brains to be similarly dissected and digitally recorded in the hopes of creating a comprehensive catalog of the brains to serve as a virtual map of the brain’s composition. The Digital Brain Library will simultaneously record 1,000 neurological portraits that can give scientists insight on the links between biological complexities, disease, and individual or social behaviors.

Hear Annese explain his work himself in this episode of Health Matters.

Or, catch him in person at this year’s The Atlantic Meets the Pacific, presented by The Atlantic Magazine and UC San Diego Extension. The conference will be held on October 2 through 4 at Scripps Seaside Forum and Qualcomm Institute in La Jolla, California. For more information on speakers and registration, visit

Brotherhood: Dharma, Destiny, and The American Dream

Chopra’s newest book, Brotherhood: Dharma, Destiny, and The American Dream, revisits the topic of immigration and details his experience behind why he wrote the letter to the Boston Globe decades ago. This book, released only a few weeks ago, could not have been planned more timely with the heated debate over the immigration bill recently passed in the senate.

This story, co-authored by his brother Sanjiv, is the tale of two Indian doctors who have come to the live out the American dream, during the Vietnam war when there was a doctor shortage. Watch this preview of their tale.

In a time such as now, with the country fiercely divided on immigration issues, the Chopra brothers reveal their experience as immigrants and their journey of making America their new home. They explain that an alienation from one’s home country must take place before assimilation can be achieved. In empathizing with the story of two immigrant doctors, readers can better understand the difficulties faced by the illegal migrant workers from Mexico and their hopes of pursuing that same American dream.


Deepak Chopra’s life story is a brotherly tale.

Hear the two brothers discuss their book on PBS.

To read an article from Deepak about how this book relates to current immigration issues, click here.

Deepak will be speaking at this year’s The Atlantic Meets the Pacific, hosted by UC San Diego Extension and The Atlantic Magazine. The conference will be held on October 2 through 4 at Scripps Seaside Forum and Calit2, now known as the Qualcomm Institute in La Jolla, California. For more information on speakers and registration, please visit

The Latest Buzz in Self Quantifying

This morning, KPBS reporter Angela Carone unveiled the latest device from UC San Diego’s Calit2, now known as the Qualcomm Institute, invented by the director of the institute, Ramesh Rao.

This new self quantifying system of machines is called the Bliss Buzzer and is worn to measure heart rate in order to determine when the user is optimally relaxed, at which point it gives the wearer a small vibration, or buzz.

Just like a pedometer that measures one’s steps, the Bliss Buzzer is a training device, intended to make people more aware of the subtle functioning of their own body.

Rao created the device with the intention of showing people when they are really relaxed, hoping that with this knowledge they will strive to create more restful moments through out the day. Carone describes the buzz as an inaudible, enjoyable tingling, that could unknowingly trigger the user to want to have more buzzes and therefore, more restful moments.

“You can get hooked on the buzz without knowing that you’re doing it,” Rao tells KPBS. “And so to the extent that we are associating it with healthful states, that’s a good entrainment. It teaches you.”

But the absence of the buzz can also indicate something. Wearers could notice they haven’t buzzed in a while and realize they should take a moment to remove stress.

Rao said he was driven to create the Bliss Buzzer when he began self quantifying five years ago, a craze popularized by Calit2’s founding director, Larry Smarr. Like Smarr, Rao noticed his lifestyle heading in an unhealthy direction and he decided to track the changes as he altered his diet, began exercising and has become devoted to yoga.

In this video, catch a glimpse inside the Qualcomm Institute, as Rao and Smarr discuss the institute’s accomplishments on it’s tenth anniversary.

Or, get a look inside the Qualcomm Institute yourself at this year’s The Atlantic Meets the Pacific, presented by UC San Diego Extension and The Atlantic Magazine. Also hear from the self quantifying expert, Larry Smarr, at the conference, held on October 2 through 4 at the Qualcomm Institute and the Scripps Seaside Forum in La Jolla, California.

Please visit for registration and more information.