Congratulations to the Winner of Our PMWC Essay Contest!

The annual Personalized Medicine World Conference (PMWC) is a one-of-a-kind event bringing together the top thinkers, industry leaders, scientists, and policy-makers in health care. 23andMe hopes that consumers and individuals will get involved in ushering in personalized medicine and we recently held an essay contest to give away one free admission to this year’s PMWC, to be held in Silicon Valley January 23-24.

Over the last six weeks readers, interested citizens, and 23andMe customers sent in many inspiring essays. We chose our 10 favorites to receive a 23andMe t-shirt and then selected a random entry from those 10 to win the grand prize of free admission to PMWC 2012.

Without further ado, congratulations to David McAndrew!

David’s essay, featured below, speaks to his desire to find truly meaningful work in the area of personalized medicine.

“Why I Want to go to PMWC”
By David McAndrew

Unlike I imagine many of your entries to the “Why I want to go to PMWC” essay contest, I don’t have a great story about how Personalized Medicine has deeply changed my life in the past. I wasn’t saved by Warfarin dosing, didn’t have a mother diagnosed then treated correctly with Herceptin, and as a matter of fact am still a little apprehensive and nervous of the implications surrounding ordering my own 23 and Me testing kit. (Although the holiday discounts always help sway me!) In fact, I am not a patient, I am not a doctor, and I am not a formal researcher.  I don’t work for the government, a pharmaceutical company, a University, or even in the healthcare field. My name is Dave; I work in a ski shop in Seattle; work nights at a winery; and have never felt so overworked and beaten down in my life. I am Ivy League educated, in Ivy League debt, and have researched, drafted, and applied to somewhere over 300 jobs in science and healthcare since I finished school in May 2010. Most have not even offered back a complimentary “no” in response.

There are many stories out there about why personalized medicine is good, how it has been used to help people, and about how it will continually help to advance the world of medicine as we know it. There are books about the ethics, books about the economics, and books about the awesome potential of the world that personalized health care will offer. Stories are what get our attention. Somehow our empathy towards the struggles as well as the successes of others helps us to better understand true meaning in our own lives and experiences. We learn from the experiences of ourselves as well as the stories of those we meet. So in this sense, I won’t tell you a story about how Personalized Medicine has affected my life. Instead I will attempt to give you my story of how I believe that my life will lead me to someday positively affect Personalized Medicine.

All in all, the reason that I want to attend the PMWC conference is that the people and the topics being addressed at this conference represent most the type of person I hope to become and the type of topics I hope to have the opportunity to devote my career towards.

My past is filled with a great list of opportunities and advantages. I have a loving family, was mostly healthy growing up, found school interesting, and was always willing to work hard. I have always had an affinity towards helping terminally ill children, studied Biochemistry in college, studied abroad one semester, and moved to Aspen to become a “ski bum” after undergrad. After that I returned to school, got my Masters in Science Education and headed back out into the world to make my mark. The problem was when I finished school there were, and still are, a lot of other “me’s” and “better qualified me’s” out there doing the same.

The advantage of being lost in the world is having the opportunity to wander.  Since my job search after school was dead-ending and my finances were in trouble, I returned back to Aspen and picked up three jobs for the winter season. While I worked a lot, it was so much better than not working at all. My favorite part of Aspen isn’t the snow, isn’t the nightlife, and isn’t even that amazing Colorado sunshine. It’s always the Aspen Ideas Festival. This forum and forums like these, such as TedX and hopefully PMWC, are where I most “find” myself, and where I this year found personalized medicine.

I heard a talk this year from Juan Enriquez titled “What Will the Century of Biology mean to the Global Economy” and I had my moment of realization. This was what I was looking for. It was new, dynamic, interesting, and applicable science and medicine and it was everything I had been looking for. That evening I checked his book out from the library and read the complete thing before I went to sleep. So inspired I sent him an e-mail telling him about how great I thought it was written.  I also heard talks from Siddhartha Mukherjee and Eric Topol, talking about the history of cancer and the world of wireless medicine, and was continually inspired. Since then I have been chasing the topic of personal medicine and have been informally introduced to many of the ideas as well as much of the work and publications of the people listed on the PMWC’s speaker page. My search led me to move to Seattle about four months ago to attempt to become a part of the personalized medicine and medical science world out here and I believe it is a great place to find my fit. Although unsuccessful so far, I have never felt so surrounded by science in my life.

For me, just being involved in this conference will be a great opportunity. It will give me a more rounded and compartmentalized view of the world of personalized medicine as well as I am sure spark many new ideas to study and pursue. The cost of the event is certainly beyond my means alone and just the opportunity of a free ticket is something I am thankful is available to the general public. I realize that my chances are slim for the contest but I will pursue all avenues available to be a part of a topic and a community that I feel such a strong connection too.

The world keeps telling me I don’t have what it takes; being at this conference will help me remind everyone that I do.

Congratulations again to David! In the weeks to come we’ll be posting more of our favorite essays, so stay tuned.