Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Health info just a click away

Sokoloff duo empowers patients with Web Q&A


By MATT FURBER
Express Staff Writer

Kiril Sokoloff and Dr. Tilden Sokoloff

People make many lists in life. Jotted down on scraps of paper, groceries may be the most common list, but even birdwatchers and stamp collectors have their top tens. Few itemizations compare in importance, however, to a list of questions a person might prepare for a visit to the doctor.

Yet, for any given ailment, a layperson gets only limited face time with physicians under the current healthcare system. Knowing what to ask, much less having a substantive discourse about a very personal issue, one's health, can be daunting.

Enter the Sokoloffs: Tilden Sokoloff, a medical doctor, and Kiril Sokoloff, an economist, are both Ketchum residents, who coincidentally share the same last name, a love of skiing, and common interests in health and medicine. Using the Internet as their medium, the Sokoloff friends have concocted a new Web site to bring the power of medical knowledge to the trenches of the American healthcare system.

The Web site, Healthsearches.org, disseminates information dosed with a hearty serum; a barrage of questions thorough enough to challenge anyone carrying a medical degree. Organized by category, the Q & A forum is designed to provide a number of avenues for readers seeking specifics about a disease and how to get the most out of any treatment, be it allopathic (mainstream) or alternative.

"I want this site to empower people to know what questions to ask to get more information," Sokoloff said last week, on the day that six-time Tour de France victor and cancer survivor, Lance Armstrong announced his plans for a seventh consecutive bid for the yellow jersey. "Miracles do happen. There is spontaneous remission of things that have terrible names."

The Sokoloffs are of the opinion that the current medical system is broken and that the human spirit, especially when fully informed, has vital healing powers.

Part of the cure is to provide an independent source of medical information unencumbered by commercial advertising. The Sokoloffs hope Healthsearches.org will go a long way toward helping both doctors and patients sort through the morass of the American medical system. By teaching patients and their loved ones what questions to ask, they will become better informed about personal health issues.

"Health is a destination for most people. You're never there. You're always working towards it," Sokoloff said, explaining that the Q & A format is based on a concept put forth by American writer James Thurber; "It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers."

Empowering patients with knowledge can go a long way to restoring confidence in people regarding their health, Sokoloff said. Informed people have control over their health, which can help people avoid time bombs like obesity, which threaten to topple the entire healthcare system. He stressed the power of individuals to play a role in healing both themselves and the system.

With his partner, Kiril Sokoloff, travelling in Russia, Tilden Sokoloff took the helm as information officer. He spoke to the Idaho Mountain Express last week soon after the first pages, covering the introductory subject, breast cancer, were launched. Coincidentally, the young company's inauguration coincides with the Expedition Inspiration Fund for Breast Cancer Research summit of researchers and doctors visiting Sun Valley this week for the Ninth Annual Laura Evans Memorial Breast Cancer Symposium.

Sokoloff described his passion for integrating modern and alternative medicine and his partner's passion for disseminating information and exploring the power of emotion. Kiril Sokoloff, became deaf in the late 1980s, Tilden Sokoloff said, explaining that his friend underwent a transformation in his approach to life after losing his hearing, turning the negative experience into a means for personal growth. The experience has become part of Kiril Sokoloff's motivation to help others find their own sources of empowerment and change in their lives.

In addition to providing financial information and guidance to an international clientele as the founder of the 22-year-old 13D Research, Inc., an independent financial research firm based in Boca Raton, Fla., Kiril Sokoloff has also written extensively about the collapse of the American medical system.

"It is imploding," Tilden Sokoloff said. "We don't have a healthcare system. We have a sickness system."

The Web site will have an alphabetical organization addressing diseases from A to Z, but the Sokoloffs are in no great hurry to race through the litany of famous diseases to finish the site. Their focus is on thoroughness.

The company's team of writers and editors is headed up by Scientific and Creative Director, Holly D. Abrams, Ph.D. Abrams has extensive background in oncology and virology research as well as marketing and business experience in medical industries, education and communications. The Web site will remain independent of corporate sponsors. A subscription to a newsletter published every three weeks will be sold. The plan is to upload about eight new topics in the same Q & A format each year.

Breast cancer was chosen as the introductory subject because it comes early in the alphabet and because women's health has been Sokoloff's area of focus for some 15 years. He said that traditionally women are the health care decision-makers in the family. They also make the most visits to Internet health sites.

Sokoloff said there are so many spheres of information in medicine that the aim of Healthsearches.org is to help patients get a basic direction and find the best sources for more information. For example, on the breast cancer site there is a link to The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, a resource for cancer research and community outreach.

Healthsearches.org is intended to offer a balance between traditional medicine and integrative medicine, which includes alternatives like homeopathy, herbal medicine and acupuncture, areas where Tilden Sokoloff has focused much of his study and practice since finishing his traditional medical degree.

"There is no prejudice of pharmaceutical (treatments) versus botanical," Sokoloff said. His hope is that both traditional and alternative medicine can stand together to help provide the greatest possible health for the entire organ, not just the body, but also the mind and spirit.

"We're wonderful at acute medicine," Sokoloff said, commenting on the strengths of modern medicine, which has long avoided the mysteries of the human spirit. "We're terrible at chronic disease. That's why we come up with so many drugs."

Citing actor Christopher Reeves' relative success in overcoming paralysis as an example of the mind-body connection, Sokoloff said he believes it is possible to will yourself to health and that that power needs to be integrated into everyday medicine.

"There are times when you have to swim up stream, but if you have the will to stay the course the current changes," Sokoloff said, explaining that the immune system strives for balance in the fight against disease.

The Sokoloffs set much of the blame for on-going healthcare problems on the advertising industry, which is allowed to parade various drugs like Vioxx and Celebrex in glossy, misleading commercials.

"In Europe that would never be allowed," Sokoloff said. He added that a patient who has a handle on what doctors are saying stands a greater chance of developing a deeper understanding of why things go wrong, rather than just filling a hollow prescription.

Sokoloff is not totally down on the current healthcare system. He said some strides are being made from within to fix the system. For example, he applauds the changes to the government food pyramid, which recommend a more healthy diet.

"Food is the most important thing we (consume) other than air," Sokoloff said.

For more information about Laura Evans Memorial Breast Cancer Symposium call 726-6456.




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