Teaching the Health Care Industry About Patient Centricity
The Patient Perspective
Linnea Olson—a remarkable person who inspired countless patients, providers, researchers and industry innovators—passed away on November 15, 2021. Linnea lived with advanced ALK+ non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) for 13 years, thanks in large part to her participation in multiple phase 1 clinical trials. These trials led to three ALK-targeted therapies receiving regulatory approval around the world.
Linnea was already well known as a patient advocate, blogger and activist when she started teaching for Harvard Medical School's executive education programs for companies in the health care industry. The very first speaker for our very first executive education program (for Google, in 2015) was Linnea.
Typically, I or one of her oncologists would interview Linnea, and she ended up teaching many of the world’s leading tech, biotech and pharmaceutical companies. These companies told us that they often brought in patients for interviews, but that Linnea’s insights and their visceral impact were unmatched. Her experiences encapsulated the best of what medicine can offer, from a true patient-doctor partnership, to the clinical trials that established novel precision medicine therapies.
But she also highlighted areas where we strive to do better—making care delivery and clinical trials more patient-centric, authentically treating patients and clinical trial participants as partners, and making information about doctors and treatments more accessible. Drawing on her background as an artist and writer, Linnea spoke with grace, power and honesty.
Her teaching earned well-deserved outside recognition. In 2019, HMS Executive Education nominated Linnea for the first ever “Patients First” award sponsored by Xconomy, as part of Boston’s Biotech Week – and she won. She was profiled in a Harvard Magazine article about precision medicine approaches to cancer, and someone who heard her speak in one of our programs nominated her to give a TEDxBeaconStreet talk.
Ironically, on the day that she died, Linnea was scheduled to teach in one of our programs. Thanks to extensive video clips we and Opalite Media had captured of Linnea for a brief documentary, we were able to share Linnea’s lessons on that day, and we are honored to continue to share her message going forward.
Linnea inspires us and challenges us as we pursue our shared mission: to decrease suffering from disease, to provide hope, and to transform the lives of patients while keeping them at the center of our efforts.
Stanley Y. Shaw, MD PhD
Associate Dean for Executive Education
Harvard Medical School