Doctors/Scientists/Researchers Whose Work Involved Their Own Condition?
October 2, 2016 8:38 AM   Subscribe

I am wondering which doctors, scientists, and researchers out there have done work on conditions they had been diagnosed with or were suffering from. I know Kay Redfield Jamison is a good example for her work with bipolar disorder, and Elyn Saks with her work on schizophrenia is also technically in this category, but can you think of any others? They don't have to be super famous, only famous enough that a Google search might bring up more information on them and their discoveries. Both my examples were from Psychology/Psychiatry, but examples from any medical subfield are welcome.

Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, this has been challenging to Google. Thank you all in advance.
posted by sevenofspades to Health & Fitness (28 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
More psychology, but Marsha Linehan and Borderline Personality Disorder.
posted by lazuli at 8:41 AM on October 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oliver Sacks and prosopagnosia (face blindness)
posted by meijusa at 8:43 AM on October 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Amy Berman (BSN, LHD) works on a variety of geriatric issues, including palliative and end-of-life care. A big part of her work is helping those with terminal illnesses understand their prognosis and plan accordingly.

She's been living with Stage IV cancer for nearly six years. In 2014, she wrote that end-of-life discussions saved her life. Her cancer informs her work and I've heard her say that her illness couldn't have happened to a better-equipped person.

She's an impressive, fascinating person.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 8:49 AM on October 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

I don't know if you're counting self-inflicted conditions, but Barry Marshall famously gave himself ulcers to prove that they were caused by Helicobacter pylori.
posted by dilaudid at 8:51 AM on October 2, 2016 [4 favorites]

This is a remarkable story about a couple who became medical researchers to find a cure for the woman's terminal disease: "Strength in Love, Hope in Science"
More here: New Yorker article about Eric Minikel and Sonia Vallabh
I saw this reported on CBS news this spring and I think of them often.
posted by areaperson at 9:08 AM on October 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

Dr. Richard Olney, who studied ALS.
posted by bluesky78987 at 9:10 AM on October 2, 2016

"Neurological researcher Jill Bolte Taylor suffered a stroke 12 years ago. While a stroke is often devastating and sometimes fatal, Taylor was able to make a complete recovery after becoming her own experimental subject.

Her new book, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey, recounts her experience."
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:34 AM on October 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

James Lupski has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, and sequenced himself to find the genetic diagnosis in his family.
posted by penguinliz at 9:37 AM on October 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Eric and Evan Edwards, twin brothers who both have life-threatening food allergies, invented the Auvi-Q epinephrine autoinjector. And here's hoping now that the Edwards brothers have won the rights to produce their device back from Sanofi (after Sanofi bungled quality control and caused a recall) that they can get it back on the market ASAP to provide some competition for the exceedingly overpriced EpiPen.
posted by BlueJae at 9:44 AM on October 2, 2016

I can't remember the name, but am posting here anyway in the case someone else can for you. I remember seeing a short documentary about brain issues like Alzhiemers and Dimentia and during the course of his research on trying to find a cure, one scientist developed the disease himself.
posted by olivetree at 9:48 AM on October 2, 2016

Ralph Steinmann, who discovered dendritic cells and their role in the human immune system, was treating his own pancreatic cancer with a treatment based on dendritic cells when he was nominated for the 2011 Nobel Prize in Medicine. He's one of only a handful of posthumous Nobelists: he died while the committee was deliberating.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 9:52 AM on October 2, 2016

Dr. David Fajgenbaum was diagnosed with Castleman disease during medical school and is now a prominent researcher and advocate for the CD community.
posted by telegraph at 9:54 AM on October 2, 2016

This is actually rather common. For example, I have an MSc in digestive physiology and a somewhat related PhD in the gut health area because of my IBS. I know/have known lots of other researchers with similar stories.

It's even more common for working researchers to have direct family members with the disease they study (I do), therefore putting us at risk of developing the disease ourselves as we grow older. This is because so many of the big multi-factorial disease are linked to age, so of course people are less likely to actually have heart disease or cancer while they do their PhD and choose their field. Whereas seeing a parent or grand-parent dealing with whatever disease is a standard motivation for deciding what to study.

I would say that part of why this is difficult to google because it happens so often and because honestly it's often kind of boring. For all the stories like those above you many more stories like mine, where I got interested in intestines simply because I can literally feel my ileo-ceacal junction and that piqued my curiosity.
posted by shelleycat at 10:11 AM on October 2, 2016 [6 favorites]

Seth Roberts was hugely focused on self-experimentation.

Terry Oberley had chronic kidney disease (as did his late twin) and did a lot of work in nephrology and dialysis.
posted by teremala at 10:13 AM on October 2, 2016

I'm currently reading The Midnight Disease by Dr. Alice W. Flaherty, which she wrote in the wake of her experiences with hypergraphia.
posted by xenization at 10:14 AM on October 2, 2016

While studying brain scans to search for patterns that correlated with psychopathic behavior, James Fallon found that his own brain fit the profile.
posted by HandfulOfDust at 10:28 AM on October 2, 2016 [6 favorites]

Is there a specific targeted goal here? Any number of people in healthcare work relatedly to their condition without doing overt research, or do uncredited research for industry teams.

If families/children count, then Matt Might has been rather clear that his computer research on the intersection of computer science to biology and medicine has major origins in his child's condition.
posted by beaning at 11:05 AM on October 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

Nancy Wexler led the research team that discovered the genetic mutation responsible for Huntington's disease, on the tip of the short arm of chromosome 4. She has a 50/50 chance of getting Huntington's herself, from her mother who died of it.
posted by Steller's Jay at 11:27 AM on October 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Auto-appendectomy in the Antarctic: case report
Vladislav Rogozov, consultant anaesthetist, Neil Bermel, professor of Russian and Slavonic studies3
posted by Jakey at 11:32 AM on October 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

I do this (link to my website is in my profile). I have chronic kidney disease and study the psychosocial aspects of information behavior, often focusing on kidney disease as a context.

You may want to look at the term "autoethnography" -- this is a common methodological approach in the social sciences for what you describe. I do not conduct autoethnographies, but the term might help open a window into the type of research that you're seeking.
posted by k8lin at 11:56 AM on October 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

Forßmann Invented cardiac catheterization in a self experiment.
posted by u2604ab at 12:57 PM on October 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Temple Grandin is a brilliant psychologist who as shared numerous insights about animal and human psychology, and is world-renowned autism spokesperson.
posted by nickggully at 1:37 PM on October 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

You might enjoy this story from The Moth about Ralph Steinmann, mentioned above.
posted by Red Desk at 2:03 PM on October 2, 2016

This may not be exactly what you are looking for, but Dr. Jerri Nielsen was the first person I thought of.
posted by SisterHavana at 7:26 PM on October 2, 2016

Jill Bolte Taylor- Neuroanatomist who suffered a stroke
posted by k8oglyph at 7:55 AM on October 3, 2016

Charles Van Riper was a person who stuttered, and also developed and researched stuttering treatments.
posted by christinetheslp at 6:22 PM on October 3, 2016

Possibly: the Jones fracture? It's a very particular kind of fracture to the fifth metatarsal bone of the foot, whereby you twist your ankle severely enough that the tendon actually pulls a chunk of the bone away. Most sufferers think at first that they just have a super-bad sprain and may even walk around for a while with it broken before they figure out something else is up.

Discovered by the orthopedist Sir Robert Jones, who suffered this exact kind of fracture while dancing at a party. (Also experienced by yours truly, who suffered it in precisely the same way.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:31 PM on October 6, 2016

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