Thematic Areas

Systems Medicine

Understanding the interaction among genomics, the external environment, and individual behavior is one of the fundamental tenets of health care. Modern medicine often neglects this comprehensive model and treats disease in isolation without taking into account the dynamic, integrative systems in the human body. Proponents of a paradigm shift in medical education and practice look towards “systems medicine,” which incorporates the complex biochemical, physiological, and environmental interactions that sustain living organisms. Although a holistic approach to medicine should benefit patients and society, consideration of the socio-legal, ethical, and economic implications is essential. The O’Neill Institute is collaborating with Dr. Howard Federoff, Executive Dean of the Georgetown School of Medicine, and Executive Vice-President for Health Sciences, on a systems medicine project.

JAMA published the first of several articles from this collaboration: “Evolving from Reductionism to Holism: Is There a Future for Systems Medicine?” Future project goals include a one-hundred year follow-up publication to the 1910 Flexner Report on medical education in the U.S. and Canada. O’Neill law fellow, Nora Connors will present on the legal and ethical implications of systems medicine in the Society for Experimental Biology and Medicine (SEBM) symposium at the 2010 Experimental Biology Meeting. Dr. Federoff serves as a co-chair for this symposium, and will present on a systems medicine approach for neurological diseases.

Selected Project Resources

Federoff, Howard J., and Lawrence O. Gostin. "Evolving From Reductionism to Holism: Is There a Future for Systems Medicine?" Journal of the American Medical Association 302, no. 9 (2009): 994-996.