Cancer Doctor’s Upcoming Lecture Revolutionizes Comprehensive Health


Robyn Weatherby

In between studying, internships, part-time jobs, and trying to make lasting memories on a budget, taking care of your health is hard to fit into the college student to-do list. In his upcoming talk through the Arts and Lectures series, Dr. David B. Agus is coming to the University of California, Santa Barbara to help us revolutionize the way we engage our personal health at no added cost.

“My statements may be bold, declaratory, and aggressive, but they are not unconditional and one-size-fits all,” said Agus the prologue of his book,”The End of Illness.”

After 20 years of working with cancer patients, Agus, currently a professor of medicine and engineering at the University Of Southern California Keck School Of Medicine says his book is “part manifesto, part life plan.” At the heart of his text is the argument that we must cease to see our bodies as separable, independent parts and rather as whole systems whose unique homeostasis depends equally on our genetic make-up and our custom-built environments.

In an interview Agus said the purpose of his book is, “to push patients to engage in conversation with their doctors; to ask questions. I want to empower people.”

“This is a free country—you can smoke, you can choose to be obese, but why is it everyone else’s responsibility to pay for that?” said Argus. “The health care reform that’s taking place in Washington is really just financial reform. What we need is real health reform.” Agus argued both in the interview and in his book that real health reform should encourage a more personal, dynamic approach to health, where patients design their futures by making smart choices now and bearing the least cost to others and themselves later. “It’s very frustrating to see time and time again people didn’t take those steps we know that are our there to prevent cancer.”

“If I had to sum up this entire book in a single phrase, it would be this: get to know yourself” said Agus. It’s time to avoid magazine cover diets and workouts and finally start figuring out who you are, what suits your body best and then stick with it.

Figuring out “who you are” means finding out more about your family medical history. Agus is a proponent of DNA screening and even has his own personal genetic profile on his website where you can see how he ranks in terms of genetic predispositions. When asked if this is something students should do he replied, “Well if you think knowledge is a good thing, then yes.”

“Health is dynamic. It’s so dynamic as to be a verb, not a noun,” he quips in his book. “We go to our doctor and they measure our heart rate at just one point in a whole day, but what about all the other parts of the day? We have to realize that our bodies are trying to talk to us…We constantly have to observe what they’re trying to say.” Our bodies change and adapt based on the lifestyle we choose whether it’s how much sleep we get, what we put in our mouths or how much we move around daily; we have to be sensitive to when the body thrives and when it shuts down.

One way that Agus argues we can ensure our health is to stick to eating “real food” and forget about vitamin mega-supplements. When we get a cold, or some virus, typically our first reaction is to chug an “Emergen C” packet and hope for the best. Agus throws this popular trend out the window and argues that other chemical components in the solution of Emergen C obliterate the Vitamin C. “If you want to lessen the effects of a cold, within the first 24 hours take a Zinc lozenge, which is actually proven to decrease a cold’s duration.” Even if there was Vitamin C present, Agus still argues that all the Vitamin C you need plus other benefits doctors don’t even know are in just half an orange.

If we are “the cyber generation,” we have to acknowledge our love-hate relationship with technology. With so many gadgets out there, we could easily remain indoors tinkering away all day. “Technology is really a ubiquitous thing,” said Agus. “We need to decide what works for us. Once I realized how much I was sitting at my desk during the day, I got a headset so that I can stay moving while I’m on the phone in the office.” Like picking friends, figuring out what technology supports a healthy lifestyle is key to a long and happy life in the 21century. “Exercise,” he says, “is the only proven fountain of youth.”

For hurried readers Agus even caps off every chapter with a brief summary or “Health Note.” So if you’re looking to have a dynamic, wholesome understanding of your body, dive into his book “The End of Illness” and see for yourself what Dr. Agus’ expansive experience and exhaustive research offers.

Agus’ talk will be sponsored by the UCSB Arts and Lectures Series and will be held in Campbell Hall on Monday, Feb. 11. Tickets are $10 for students and $15 for the public.