Disrupting Healthcare Through Innovation

Courtney Burnett, MD, Physician, Writer, Brain Cancer Thriver

Dr. Courtney Burnett’s personal story, a brief history, and endless gratitude

For patients and physicians alike, clinical research provides hope that ongoing innovation will offer new options to treat and even cure challenging illnesses. Indeed, most of modern medicine revolves around learnings from disruptive, successful clinical trials that investigated the safety and efficacy of promising therapeutic options.

A physician, writer, and brain cancer thriver, Courtney Burnett, MD, transitioned abruptly to being a patient when, at the age of 29 while studying medicine in Thailand, she self-diagnosed a tumor that turned out to be an incurable and rare form of brain cancer.

Through an outlook inspired by her work in medicine, mindfulness, and Eastern spirituality, Burnett views her diagnosis as a difficult gift. “By this I mean a gift we don’t necessarily want to receive, but that can change us by teaching, motivating, and inspiring us,” she says. “I also try to share this perspective with my patients to help reframe their perspective on their illness [by] refocusing to bring added meaning to life and achievements.”

Burnett, who is a hospitalist at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Minn., points out that modern healthcare and evidence-based medicine would not exist without clinical trials. “Virtually everything I see in practice is based on clinical research,” she notes. “These trials bring hope to patients suffering from all sorts of maladies. My own current treatment, chemotherapy with radiation, is standard of care based on the findings of clinical trials.”

“After being diagnosed with a rare disease, I sought out expert teams and resources,” says Burnett. “While I didn’t immediately need an active clinical trial, I likely will one day. Knowing that research is ongoing is very encouraging, giving me hope that if my disease advances, there will be trials available to help me live longer and feel better.”

Disrupting Healthcare Through Innovation: My Personal Story, A Brief History, and Endless Gratitude

Join Dr. Courtney Burnett for her keynote presentation at ACRP 2023 [April 28 – May 1; Dallas, TX], to hear why continued innovation through clinical research is both essential and endlessly appreciated by patients and physicians alike. View complete schedule.

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Since her diagnosis, Burnett has worked especially closely with the Brain Tumor Network, an organization that helps people manage a primary brain tumor diagnosis, overcome treatment obstacles, and facilitate access to quality healthcare. The network provides practical help, including compiling lists of potential trials for a particular diagnosis, and offering the assistance of nurse navigators. “This has been extremely helpful, and I now look for similar organizations that may help my patients,” Burnett says. “I’m also more aware of trials in my practice of medicine. I encourage my patients to ask for second opinions [and] to seek out hospitals that are carrying out trials. When I see successful trials, they bring hope and real results – and it’s wonderful to know that there is always more that can be done for our patients.”

“Clinical trials are important at every level of medicine and will continue to become more so with advances in areas such as imaging and genetic testing to enable individualized approaches,” concludes Burnett. “Telemedicine, electronic health records, and connected devices are also disrupting healthcare in positive ways – all offering the promise of increases in both the quantity and quality of life for us all.”

Author: Jill Dawson