Despite what you may hear about the inefficiencies of the US healthcare system, the unselfishness of our healthcare workers; everyone from the facilities, food service, and laundry workers to health aides, nurses, physician assistant and doctors is just incredible! Even the retired are volunteering in large numbers at risk to themselves to help contain this pandemic — a true definition of altruism! This is why the U.S. has the best healthcare in the world — it is the people — thank you for your bravery!
As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Eric First, M.D., FAIS, Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of R3SET
Eric First, M.D., FAIS, is a medical doctor by training and a Fellow of the American Institute of Stress, Co-Founder and Chief Scientific Officer for R3SET. Dr. First’s research began 25 years ago, in the Department of Neuropharmacology at Boston University Medical School as well as collaborations with researchers affiliated with both the Department’s of Neurology and Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. This early research was focused on brain-body communication pathways and neurologic conditions; especially focused on communication of the nervous system within various systems in the body which are impacted by stress. Over the course of the last 20 years, Dr. First has held senior executive positions such as; National Medical Director, Chief Medical Officer, and Chief Scientific Officer in various healthcare and nutrition companies, He has submitted close to 200 records of invention, numerous of which have become US and/or international patents or applications, with pending patent and trademarks focused on stress solutions.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Sure! When I graduated from high school in a small town in Wisconsin, actually went to school for a degree in culinary and nutritional food services. I worked as a chef in various restaurants/hotels, then took a job as a Food Service Director, running dietary and nutritional departments in Hospitals in Boston. While in the healthcare environment and being exposed to patients with chronic preventable diseases, I became more interested in health and science; especially how lifestyle choice can make a big difference. So I went back to college to pursue a medical degree. I guess you can say metaphorically, that “I traded in my chef’s knife for a scalpel”!
It was during my undergraduate years and then while in medical school, where I became fascinated with how the brain and body communicate especially the nervous system, endocrine and immune systems, and how you can actually prevent many chronic diseases by addressing the root cause — stress.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Yes, actually it was while I was collaborating on the writing of a book that I discovered THE book!
It is one that I still use as a reference today, is a book by Dr. Candace Pert called Molecules of Emotion. Twenty-five years ago, I was working as research assistant for a book by a prominent Harvard Medical School Psychiatrist, Barbara Schildkrout, M.D. called: Unmasking Psychological Symptoms: How Therapists Can Learn to Recognize the Psychological Presentation of Medical Disorders. It was during my research collaboration with her where I became fascinated by how the brain and body communicate.
A lot of what was being published in medical journals that I was researching for the book was by Dr. Pert, who ultimately authored the book Molecules of Emotion in 1997. Dr. Pert and her lab were the pioneers in discovering how various body systems actually cross-communicate using neurotransmitters and other molecules that historically were thought to only be found in the nervous system, were in fact found to play major roles in the endocrine and immune systems.
Even more fascinating was how your thoughts and emotions can actually affect bodily systems like your immune system. For example; it has been reported that people who have a positive mindset, tend to have less colds, and a stronger immune system. People who are more stressed and have a more negative mindset, tend to be more prone to illness, especially chronic illnesses long-term. And, if people are educated on how to manage their stress and mindset, I believe that they can dramatically improve their health and longevity through preventative health techniques.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
Sure. No doubt this is a very stressful and uncertain time that the whole world is experiencing. I believe we will see the light of at the end of the tunnel will be bright. Nothing brings out the best in the human spirit in times like these. The human spirit is alive and thriving. The cooperation we are seeing between individuals, communities, industry and government is unparalleled, This gives me a lot of hope that we will rapidly find new treatments and preventative methods to slow or eliminate this threat, while being kind and compassionate to each other.
- Partnerships between Government and Industry: Our government has partnered with industry to massively accelerate approvals of testing kits and various drugs that may help those who contract the virus. Never has the FDA moved so quickly on approvals of drugs. The same is true on the medical device side, ventilators that are now being made by auto companies and others, something that would usually take years to convert, they are literally doing it in weeks — A crisis can massively accelerate innovation if there is cooperation and we are seeing that like never before!
- U.S. Drug Innovation: As of today, there are already 239 Clinical trials underway (what would take years to start) and more being registered everyday on ClinicalTrials.gov. As a person involved in clinical research for over 25 years, it is amazing to see how fast the pharmaceutical companies and scientists around the world were able to initiate this number of studies, at the massive expense of putting other studies on hold. It is refreshing to see just how ethical and compassionate the industry really is, despite historical consensus — people before profits!
- U.S. Healthcare Workers: Despite what you may hear about the inefficiencies of the US healthcare system, the unselfishness of our healthcare workers; everyone from the facilities, food service, and laundry workers to health aides, nurses, physician assistant and doctors is just incredible! Even the retired are volunteering in large numbers at risk to themselves to help contain this pandemic — a true definition of altruism! This is why the U.S. has the best healthcare in the world — it is the people — thank you for your bravery!
- Courage of Essential Workers and Communities: We are also seeing so much courage from others who may be delivering your groceries, filling your prescriptions or delivering your mail. Communities are also coming together to fight this. It gives me so much hope to see everyone really stepping up and working together — true human spirit!
- History repeats itself: if we look back to the past, most recently perhaps the events of 9/11, we united and came back from that, just as we will get through this.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
- Stay connected: First and foremost, find comfort in knowing that you don’t need to be alone even if you are home by yourself. We are all fighting this together, and we will get through this as we have gotten through other crises many times before. Stay in touch with family, friends and others, and don’t have CNN on the TV all day!
- Mindset: Numerous studies have validated that a healthy mindset can influence how you feel and how your body reacts to stressful situations. For example it has been demonstrated in numerous clinical studies just how important a healthy mindset is in keeping your immune system healthy through this pandemic
- Behavioral exercises: When you start to become overwhelmed with perhaps what CNN is reporting, there are several simple exercises you can do to reduce that stress you are feeling. For example, simple breathing exercises can induce the “relaxation response” which is the counter to the stress response.
- Physical health: Three key systems that are amplified in times of stress are your nervous, endocrine (produces hormones), and your immune system. Persistent stress can create imbalances in these three systems that can lead to illnesses. Ensuring you maintain a healthy diet and exercise, an nutritional supplement that supports those three systems can keep you in good health
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
- For the latest on what is fact vs fiction, as there are a lot of misinformation out there, go to the CDC website as well as Coronavirus Resource center at Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Center (coronavirus.jhu.edu.
- For tools and tips on how to manage your stress during these stressful times, go to www.R3SET.com. This is resource was put together by a group of doctors, psychologists and experts in human behavior. Sign up for the 14-day R3SET program which they are making free during these times. Each day you will get a fun and informative email, providing you easy and fun ways to reduce your stress.
- Another great resource is a site called Together CBT (https://www.togethercbt.com/blogs-videos) by Amelia Aldao Ph.D., a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and Founder of Together CBT, a clinic specializing in group therapy for anxiety, OCD, stress, and depression in New York City. Dr. Aldao has published over 60 scientific articles and book chapters on anxiety and CBT and has served as action editor of various scientific journals. Her videos and blogs are very informative, as well as her posts which can be found on Twitter at: DrAmeliaAldao, on Instagram @together_cbt, and @togethercbt on Facebook
- The American institute of Stress (www.stress.org), The American Institute of Stress educates medical practitioners, scientists, health care professionals and the public; conducts research; and provides information, training and techniques to prevent human illness related to stress.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” — Albert Einstein
- This quote reminds me that imagination has no bounds, and creativity leads to innovation. Knowledge is relatively easy to come by in the age of the Internet, but if it weren’t for imagination, there wouldn’t be an Internet! From my early days working in a very busy kitchen, then in hospitals, and various healthcare companies, imagination is what gave me the ability to navigate to different environments and apply imagination and learnings from them to develop novel new treatments, products and new technology.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Become the Master of your Stress! — Estimates of up to 70% of chronic diseases are a direct result of chronic stress. In fact the W.H.O. declared stress as the “21st Century Health Epidemic”, well before the current Pandemic! If people learn to master their stress, through positive mindset, simple behavioral exercises and supplementation to balance the 3 body systems impacted by stress, so much chronic disease, pain and suffering could be avoided — and it’s not that hard to learn. Our healthcare system was already overburdened before the pandemic. Wouldn’t it be great to educated people on simple things they could do so we don’t have these problems in the future.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
- Readers can follow me on:
- Blog: https://r3set.com/blogs/news
- Twitter — @1sthought
- Instagram — @firsteric
- Linked-in and Facebook: Eric First
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!