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28th January 2021

KEEPING PACE WITH INNOVATION HAS SAVED MY LIFE

“Without the right diagnostics, frankly, I would have died,” says Global Liver Institute Founder, President and CEO Donna Cryer. Little wonder she now spends her time thinking about advancements in medical technologies, not only to optimise her own health but also to help the millions of other people with liver diseases around the world.

Donna’s journey started when she was 13 years old, with a diagnosis of ulcerative colitis. By the time she was in the last year of college she couldn’t get out of bed to attend classes. “I had very mysterious symptoms and couldn’t walk,” Donna tells This Is MedTech. “So I went to a variety of doctors, which is not uncommon, I would later learn, for someone with a rare liver disease.”

Multiple medical technologies helped to give Donna the diagnosis that she urgently needed; these included blood tests and endoscopies: procedures to look inside the body using a long, thin, flexible tube with a light and camera at one end. The diagnosis: Donna had primary sclerosing cholangitis, a rare, progressive liver disease and would soon need a liver transplant. What is more, the endoscopies and sophisticated imaging showed that the cells in her colon were starting to become cancerous.

As a result, Donna had her colon removed and underwent a life-saving liver transplant within two years of diagnosis. While this led to an amazing recovery, technology continued to be a significant part of her life, as it does today, 26 years post transplant.

“There used to be so little information, but now there is a constellation of ‘wearables’ and digital scales, and more visual imaging of organ function to supplement lab work,” Donna enthuses.

Fitness trackers and smart weighing scales have helped Donna to make ongoing decisions with her physician. “The use of the data has changed the dynamics of several conversations: doctors can see what I have seen and experienced on a daily basis,” she says.

Donna is also passionate about the place of non-invasive diagnostics as a possible alternative to liver biopsies, such as those based on ultrasound or magnetic resonance elastography (MRE). “The evolution of these technologies in addition to cameras has been amazing to see,” she says.

Despite her challenges, Donna has never let her health interfere with her achievements, from graduating in the top of her class in high school and achieving her degrees from Harvard and Georgetown University Law Center, to her professional advocacy across a career spanning law, policy, clinical trial recruitment and non-profit management. Now, through Global Liver Institute, she is committed to improving the lives of individuals and families impacted by liver disease through promoting innovation, encouraging collaboration and scaling optimal approaches to help eradicate liver diseases.

“Medical technology has given and continues to give essential insights into my health and has facilitated the health itself,” says Donna. “This makes me so excited to shine a spotlight on innovation, to share with others that these things are possible and available. It brings such hope and possibility.”