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Author Q&A Priya Hays

CRC Press is pleased to share our Q&A session with author Priya Hays to celebrate the year anniversary of her publication Advancing Healthcare Through Personalized Medicine.

About the book and your subject area

Congratulations on the recent year anniversary of publication of your book Advancing Healthcare Through Personalized Medicine. What do you want your audience to take away from the book?

I would like my audience to take away from the book that a paradigm shift is currently taking place in healthcare through advances in personalized medicine. Personalized medicine constitutes an improvement over the current “one size fits all” approaches to treatment, and consists of tailoring diagnostics and therapies for each patient based on an individual’s unique genetic makeup. Personalized medicine takes on different levels of meaning for the diverse stakeholders in medical care: patient, provider, health insurers, pharma, regulatory agencies; and, for each of these stakeholders, personalized medicine can be approached from the perspectives of targeted therapies, genetic testing, pharmacogenomics, companion diagnostics, and immunotherapies, as examples. Major medical centers are currently making large investments in genomic medicine, and are radically devising new approaches to clinical trials that may mitigate the price of pharmaceutical drugs. Suffice it to say, personalized medicine is a complex, broad and evolving topic, and will impact healthcare, medicine and medical research for decades to come.

What inspired you to write this book?

Prior to the publication of this book, my academic and scientific research was not explicitly in the healthcare domain. I studied nanotechnology and ethics for a Fellowship at Northwestern University in 2008, and many of my conclusions focused on how nanotechnologies were approached from similar perspectives as Artificial Intelligence, that is, a unified, homogenous person constituted the normative ideal for the development of nanotechnologies, and framed how they would benefit society. This thesis resulted in a journal article in the Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society entitled “Nanoselves: NBIC and the Culture of Convergence.” In 2012, I was awarded a Science and Social Justice Initiative grant by a faculty committee at the University of California, Los Angeles, and it was during this period that I started to become interested in personalized medicine. Personalized medicine, a relatively new concept at the time, fascinated me precisely it treated patients as unique individuals. I was interested in the societal implications of personalized medicine, and the grant outcome was an article in the journal Clinical Research and Bioethics on social determinants of health, the Affordable Care Act, and personalized medicine. I attended a conference on personalized medicine in Silicon Valley, and it was at this conference that I decided to devote the next five years on writing a book on personalized medicine, its societal effects, its impact on biomedicine to transform healthcare for the better, improve the value of medicines and many of the challenges it faces.

Two-part question:

A) Why is your book relevant to present day personalised medicine?

My book is relevant to present day personalized medicine because it showcases both the changes that personalized medicine has undergone and the transformative potential of personalized medicine for healthcare. Historical advances in targeted treatments such as Gleevec for chronic myeloid leukemia, Kalydeco for cystic fibrosis, Herceptin for breast cancer, and Xalkori for non-small cell lung cancer and genome-wide association studies are chronicled, in addition to the the latest breakthroughs in precision oncology and targeted genetic testing for cancer, the use of next-generation sequencing and gene panels for diagnosis and treatment and immunotherapies. The All of Us Research Program and the National Academies of Medicine’s Knowledge Infrastructure Initiative are also described in detail. Interviews with the prominent stakeholders in the field from patients to providers and researchers from the the Tufts University, Mayo Clinic, Harvard University School of Medicine, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Vanderbilt University, and Translational Software were conducted and contextualized. I also write about the ethical implications for patient privacy and researcher accountability for patient use of genomic data, and the coming challenges ahead in data storage and portability with the widespread use of genomic sequencing.  

B) How do you think the field of personalised medicine is evolving today?

Personalized medicine will have major impact on health policy and the discussion of evidence-based medicine and comparative effectiveness. The biotechnology and pharmaceutical industry are also seeing widespread changes in the technological landscapes and drug discovery and development. One of the prominent discoveries in targeted treatments has been in the area of immunotherapies, when the body’s own immune system can be mobilized to selectively destroy abnormal cancer cells. A major development in recent FDA drug approval has been in the area of immunotherapy: Opdivo, Keytruda, and Kymriah, for the treatment of relapsed or refractory cancer, for example. The ability to store data is also improving, with the necessity now for terabyte storage for genomic sequencing. Clinical trials are being revolutionized with the stratification of patients according to their genetic makeup to efficiently conduct studies. Personalized medicine is evolving in myriad ways, and its implementation will lead to broad, sweeping changes in medicine. In short, a paradigm shift is underway.

What makes your book stand out from its competitors?

My book stands out from its competitors because of its combination of technical precision, presentation of societal implications and clinical relevance. Scientific and clinical data providing evidence for precision medicine are presented from the literature, and an assessment of the public health goals with regards to personalized medicine is provided, and the concerns of community physicians are also addressed. The innumerable aspects of personalized medicine, from its economical value, ethical considerations, R&D and clinical trial impact are clearly presented with their implications for the overall scope of healthcare in mind. Physicians, scientists, patients, payers, bioethicists, and pharma researchers would find my book enlightening, pertinent and accessible.

What did you enjoy about writing the book?

I enjoyed most about writing the book were the people I encountered, interviewed, and engaged with. I garnered material from stakeholders passionate about the field of personalized medicine, and they inspired the writing of my book. I realized that I could do much for the patient and provider community if the goals of the book were met, and the recommendations I made or implied in my book could be impactful. The potential significance of my efforts were not lost on me, and I very much enjoyed the prospect of my conclusions being substantial for the population-at-large.

About You:


Tell us more about your academic background?

I completed my undergraduate studies at Dartmouth College, graduating with a double-major in Biochemistry and Comparative Literature. I was attracted to interdisciplinary themes for graduate school, earning a Master’s of Science in Genetics from the University of California, Davis and a Ph.D. in Literature from the University of California, San Diego. My dissertation, Molecular Biology in Narrative Form, was turned into my first book of the same name (Peter Lang Publishing 2006). After my doctoral studies, I entered an interdisciplinary postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Medicine at Dartmouth Medical School. I conducted an ethnography of the laboratory at Dartmouth, which resulted in my second book Science, Cultural Values and Ethics (Common Ground Publishing 2013). Advancing Healthcare in Personalized Medicine is my third book. In addition, I have published sixteen peer-reviewed articles in journals such as L’Esprit Createur, Interdisciplinary Literary Studies, Blood Cells, Molecules and Diseases and Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice. I have given presentations and invited talks at over thirty conferences both in the United States and abroad.

Do you have plans for future books? What’s next in the pipeline for you?

I am entering a program in health policy, and working as an independent consultant for major institutions. I would like to continue this line of writing about personalized medicine’s impact, and in the context of health policy. My ensuing education in health economics, political science, strategic and organizational management of healthcare organizations will broaden my perspectives in light of my current foundation in personalized medicine.

What is the last book you read (non-academic)?

I am reading Leonardo da Vinci’s biography by Walter Isaacson.

About Priya


Priya Hays has an A.B. from Dartmouth College and a Master’s in Genetics and Ph.D. in Literature from the University of California. She also conducted research at Dartmouth Medical School for her postdoctoral fellowship. She has taught science writing at Santa Clara University and San Francisco State University. Currently, she is working as an independent consultant for major institutions. Her research interests in biomedicine involve social and cultural aspects of medicine and health, public understanding of genetic testing, stem cell research, and areas in biomedical ethics. She also has an interest in science and technology policy, focusing on biomedical and nanotechnology policy.

Author Priya Hays


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