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In 2009, the Society for Participatory Medicine was created to continue the work of “Doc Tom” Ferguson (1943-2006), the founder of the e-patient movement and a true visionary who foresaw decades ago that “e-patients” (empowered, engaged, equipped, enabled) would transform the future of health and care.

(Learn more about “Doc Tom” and his work:

2018 marked the fortieth anniversary of Tom’s graduation from medical school and his first published thoughts on medical self-care. In honor of this and to promote his values, SPM created the “Doc Tom” Award to recognize people and/or organizations whose work exemplifies what Tom foresaw and advocated.

Criteria for the awards are as follows:

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

(Learn more about last year’s winners by reading the last year’s post)

Category 1: e-Patient Principles

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.

Our winners were not announced in advance, and Susannah was engaged at another event far away. So she sent her comments to us via email and then tweeted them:


Category 2: Contribution to SPM

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.”

Congratulations and thanks to our 2019 Doc Tom Award winners!


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