Floyd Bloom: Building a bridge to the future pg. 8
Fixing health care
After he retired as editor, and while he was president of AAAS, he stood before his constituency at its annual meeting and delivered a clarion call about the wretched state of the American system of health care. His cry, repeated in an essay in the June 13, 2003, issue of Science, called for a complete overhaul of the way American medicine is taught, delivered and financed. Specifically, he demanded that a new breed of physician, one responsible for translating bench research into patient protocol, be introduced into academic institutions.
The speech shook the venerable scientific community to its core. AAAS is an esteemed organization dominated by basic scientists, who have made tremendous contributions to the body of medical knowledge. Suddenly a physician who hadn’t been involved in clinical care in 40 years was putting it all on the line -- the American medical system is failing not scientists, but patients, he claimed, because the fruits of the AAAS are not being applied to the needs of the public.
“I think what he said is tremendously important,” says Alan Leshner, Ph.D., executive publisher of Science and CEO of AAAS. “It brings to bear a new pressure in understanding that health care won’t be able to take advantage of advances that are coming and it adds urgency to our need for fixing the health care system.”
Bloom used the AAAS as his bully pulpit because he had continued to listen. He observed his wife battling with HMOs and insurance agencies over treatment for her patients with dementia and severe degenerative diseases. He knew that layers of bureaucracy were being added, almost daily, layers that waylaid the delivery of new discoveries and the delivery of appropriate care.
“Floyd knows that it’s becoming increasingly frustrating because we are no longer in control of what our patients can and cannot have – even when new discoveries become available,” says Corey-Bloom. “What he’s seeing now, at the time that you’d expect fruition in the setting of the Human Genome Project, is that many of the decisions about treatment and patient care are being taken out of the hands of people who were trained to make those decisions. And he’s aghast at it.”
In 2000, when Bloom was at an age when many academic physicians begin winding down their careers and settling into emeritus status, he joined with colleagues John Morrison, Ph.D., and Warren Young, Ph.D., to form the biotech firm, Neurome, Inc.
The company is developing standardized, quantitative databases that can integrate gene expression patterns within the brain and correlate that data with the rapidly growing store of information on brain structure and function. The goal, says Bloom, is to aid the discovery and development of new ways to diagnose, treat and prevent brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.