‘Precise medicine’ helps freshmen breathe easier

August 12, 2015 / by / 0 Comment

GCU Today Magazine

There were times when Carter Bennett felt asphyxiated, as if someone was sitting on his chest or thrusting a knife into his lungs. Throughout his youth, the Grand Canyon University freshman relied on his parents, Dave and Kimberly, for relief from the suffocating complications of cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder for which there is no cure.

GCU President's STEM Advisory Board member Dave Bennett and son Carter

Dave Bennett (left) and his son Carter have a better handle on the incoming freshman’s struggle with cystic fibrosis because of advancements in technology and health care. Photo by Darryl Webb

When Carter was diagnosed at age 9, his father was a software entrepreneur. But the family’s ensuing experience with doctors and insurance companies led Dave into the emerging field of health care information systems. He became focused on the blending of technology with personalized health care.

The Bennett family learned to understand Carter’s disease and to investigate his genetic makeup. They tailored his treatment plan by zeroing in on his disease mutation, one that affects only 4 percent of cystic fibrosis patients.

They researched new drugs for Carter’s mutation and actually brought information to their doctor about one that has helped him thrive.

“It’s kind of unfortunate that the doctor didn’t know it, but it’s not really the doctor’s fault since he didn’t really have the systems to do it,” said Dave Bennett, a member of the GCU President’s STEM Advisory Board who has shared his industry insights with the College of Science, Engineering and Technology and its science, technology, engineering and math programs. (Click here to read a GCU Today Magazine story about the programs.)

Today, as vice president of healthier populations at Orion Health in Scottsdale, he develops “precise medicine” solutions that allow doctors and patients to access and use personalized health care data.

“I became real passionate about how we can fix the health care system, how we provide docs and patients with more concrete support,” he said.

Seeing his son off to college this fall marks a transitional point in the family’s journey.

“Thinking about your son dying before you is quite frightening,” Dave said. “But when we understood the mutations a little more and we started following this drug, we were excited … we thought, in a couple years, Carter would have a shot to outlive me and grow up big and strong.”


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