One Man’s Journey to Innovative Health Technology

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One Man’s Journey to Innovative Health Technology

At the San Francisco Health Technology Forum’s Meetup in November, our host Daniel Zimmermann, a partner at WilmerHale, was asked to give a short presentation. He’s advised technology startups and counseled Silicon Valley-based venture capital firms, so he knows how to put together a killer presentation. His PowerPoint slide deck was complete with colorful graphics, charts, and bullet points. But, after taking the measure of our group, he decided to forgo his presentation. Instead, he told us a story about his Mother.

Like so many women of her generation, Daniel’s Mom was very strong and independently minded. Asking for help didn’t come easily to her. And why should it? She had been the undisputed matriarch for multiple generations of her family.

Then she was diagnosed with stomach cancer.

Daniel’s Mom had spent her entire life taking care of everyone else. She didn’t know how to became the one who needed caretaking. She wasn’t even able to accept offers of help from her family. Both she and everyone else were in complete denial… until the day she died.

Daniel wonders if some innovative treatment may have saved his Mother if only she, or the family, had been able to ask. It’s a question that will remain unanswered.

Since then, Daniel hasn’t let an opportunity to avail himself of innovative health technology pass him by. He was one of the first to sign up with the Cord Blood Registry when his son was born ( He’s even let his spit do the work for him by sending in a sample to 23andMe and learning about any genetic risk factors he may have or may have passed onto his children (

Here in the Silicon Valley, you can’t throw a stick without hitting a new Digital Health startup. That makes it easy to focus on the latest and greatest technology… and easy to lose sight of the people whose lives Digital Health is supposed to improve.  In the US alone, there are over 12 million people who have been diagnosed with cancer. Behind everyone one of these diagnoses is a story…

…like Daniel’s Mom who died from stomach cancer

… like the two bouts of breast cancer my grandmother survived

… like my own scare with cancer

It is these stories that remind us why innovative health technology matters.

Julie Hope Goldberg, PhD

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