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The “Doc Tom” Awards

The Doc Tom awards honor the memory of “Doc Tom” Ferguson(1943 – 2006) (Wikipedia). Tom envisioned health care as an equal partnership between e-patients and health professionals and systems that support them. It is his spirit and his work that led to the creation of this Society in 2009.

Doc Tom was a Family Medicine physician, a visionary and pioneer who sought to empower patients to use online resources, embraced patient contribution, and aimed for professionals to be equal partners with patients. Doc Tom was Medical Editor for the 1994 Millennium Whole Earth Catalog and the incredibly far-sighted 1996 book Health Online: How To Find Health Information, Support Groups, And Self Help Communities In Cyberspace.

His spirit and work led to the creation of the Society, through his peers & followers, whom he called his “e-Patient Scholars Working Group.”

Award 1: e-Patient Principles

For a person who exemplifies what Tom stood for during his lifetime – specifically, who:

  • Advocates for self-care as an essential element of health and care
  • Promotes either: (1) access to and use of quality online information, services and tools to improve the health of individuals and population; and/or (2) partnership between clinicians and patients/caregivers/families
  • Serves as an innovator, pioneer, role model and exemplar for genuine collaborative, participatory healthcare.

Award 2: Contribution to SPM

For a person who has significantly furthered the visibility and impact of our Society – someone who:

  • Has served the Society for Participatory Medicine as a passionate leader or member, through valuable contribution(s) such as advocating for the cause, leading initiatives that drive and showcase collaboration and partnership between health professionals and people/patients/caregivers/families, etc.
  • Has demonstrated the ability to speak truth to power, challenging the status quo yet able to work with existing structures and teams, in an effort to achieve meaningful improvement in peoples’ health and healthcare
  • Serves as an innovator, pioneer, role model and exemplar for genuine collaborative, participatory healthcare


2023 Winner

See the blog post.

“Mighty Casey” Quinlan

Casey QuinlanMighty Casey exemplifies Tom’s vision of patients sharing knowledge and transforming healthcare. She brought the full force of her personality and mind to assertively spreading the word through social media, patient communities, conferences, podcasts, non-profits, and academia.

SPM recognizes and thanks Casey for being a “force of nature” in pursuit of a better world of healthcare for everyone.

2019 winners

See the blog post.

e-Patient Principles: Susannah Fox

The winner of this year’s Doc Tom Award for e-patient principles is Susannah Fox.

Susannah describes herself as a member of the “health geek tribe.” She works to advise organizations on how to navigate the intersection of health and technology, and a main focus of her work as an advisor and researcher is the power of connection among fellow patients and caregivers.

Susannah’s nomination noted that “her extraordinary work is able to deepen our understanding of what happens in the e-patient world. Her blog posts are perfect examples – there is a richness of research on her behalf, and her work is also able to draw out smart and valuable responses.”

She is a powerful advocate for peer to peer health support, open, interoperable data, and the patient and care partner’s voice. Through her blog and social media influence, she raises critical points and conversations about truly improving patient care and their ability to care for themselves. She is a true champion for participatory medicine of the future.

Contribution to SPM: Ileana Balcu

This winner of this year’s Doc Tom award for contribution to SPM is Ileana Balcu.

Ileana is the founder of Woodbridge to Health, a community website to help the community of Woodbridge, NJ find local resources to get and stay healthy. She writes on her LinkedIn page that she helps people connect with each other, sometimes by using software, and that she’s a proponent of participatory medicine and e-patients.

Her nominator stated: “Ileana has been part of SPM since 2011 and is a Lifetime member.  She has served SPM as an organization in various capacities.  She worked on attempts to find online communication tools for SPM and was a valuable beta-tester for Connect.  More important than her contributions to SPM, though, is the fact that she is active and productive working to further patient autonomy, education and engagement on the front line and in the real world.  She is currently doing this by creating and managing a Facebook page for her home community.  She taught a course that included patient engagement at The College of New Jersey in 2016.  I think SPM needs to honor Doc Tom by making sure that the award goes to someone like Ileana who makes real things happen for real people on a daily basis.”

2018 winners

See the blog post.

e-Patient Principles: Liz Salmi

Liz SalmiAn exemplar of participatory medicine principles, Liz, known on social media as @TheLizArmy, turned her brain cancer diagnosis in 2008 at age 29 into “an open source chronicle of the patient experience.” Her blog TheLizArmy is her personal journal and health care soap box, receiving over 30,000 visits each year. Liz cares about patient-driven research, open source health data, palliative care, and neuroscience. In 2017 the lucky OpenNotes team named Liz Senior Strategist for Outreach & Communications, She is a patient advisor for The BMJ and PCORI, and is a member of the National Academy of Medicine’s Technologies to Enhance Person, Family, and Community Activation.  Liz sent us a brief video to share her views and thanks.

Contribution to SPM: e-Patient Dave and Dr. Danny Sands

Dr. Danny Sands (below) and his patient Dave (left) were founding co-chairs of SPM. For seven years Dave was its most outspoken evangelist through the blog, and Danny its most visible physician voice. Both have served as tireless advocates, individually and together, for participatory medicine and the Society, and Dr. Sands continues as chairman. Dave, a survivor of a nearly fatal kidney cancer, is an international speaker including the highly popular TEDx Talk “Let Patients Help” and lead author of Laugh, Sing and Eat Like a Pig, and Facing Death with Hope. His blog ePatient Dave: Toward a new science of patient engagement is an ecosystem on its own, including much more about the broad range of his global activities

Danny Sands, MD, MPH an internist, completed a fellowship in clinical computing at Beth Israel Hospital and a Master of Public Health at Harvard. He developed, implemented, and evaluated a variety of systems designed to improve clinical care and bridge the gap between patient and physician, including electronic medical records, clinical decision support systems, and a patient portal. He came to know Doc Tom after he co-authored the first peer-reviewed article about doctor-patient email – in 1999.

Danny and Dave authored the book, Let Patients Help, frequently co-present at conferences and meetings, and continue to hone their performance skills as they dance and sing about participatory healthcare. I look forward to being able to post the full rendition presented at SPM2018.