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Stanford Medicine magazine explores how relationships influence health

The spring issue of the magazine explores the many ways our connections with others influence our health and our lives. Also included is a Q&A with Jessie and Glenn Close on ending the stigma of mental illness.

- By Rosanne Spector

Brian Cronin

Ron Davis, PhD, has built a career solving biochemical puzzles — and now his son is desperately ill due to a biochemical puzzle of his own. So Davis, a professor of biochemistry and of genetics at the Stanford University School of Medicine, has taken on a new scientific challenge: sussing out the molecular cause of chronic fatigue syndrome, the disease afflicting his son.

The story of this quest appears in the spring issue of Stanford Medicine magazine as part of a special report, “Relationships: Ties that heal.”

As the article explains, for Davis, “Each day has become a race to unravel the mystery of chronic fatigue syndrome, the disease that is killing his 32-year-old son, a freelance photographer who was forced to move into his childhood home five years ago when he was no longer able to care for himself. It’s a puzzle that Davis ruminates over day after day, his mind humming along in high gear, constantly shifting through data, hypothesizing, analyzing.”

It’s no surprise that a loved one’s dire need inspires zeal for finding solutions. In the medical realm, as in every area of life, relationships play a huge role.

Influencing our health

Not only do relationships help determine what research is conducted, they influence our physical well-being. Connections with others affect the production of hormones, the actions of immune cells and the pattern of our sleep cycles. Researchers are finding that relationships are a crucial, though difficult-to-measure, ingredient for health.

The magazine also includes a Q&A with actress Glenn Close and her sister Jessie about their family’s experience with mental illness and their fight to end stigma against the mentally ill. The online version of the magazine includes audio of the interviews.

Additional highlights of the special report include:

Additional articles include a story about the decline in the diversity of our gut microbes and what we can do about it, and an essay by a Stanford psychiatrist about returning to his home state of West Virginia to help fight the drug problem there.

The magazine is available online. Print copies are being sent to subscribers. Others can request a copy at (650) 723-6911 or by sending an email.

Stanford Medicine integrates research, medical education and health care at its three institutions - Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Health Care (formerly Stanford Hospital & Clinics), and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford. For more information, please visit the Office of Communication & Public Affairs site at

2021 ISSUE 2

Unlocking the secrets of the brain

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