IONS is pleased to welcome Joshua Weiss, MD, to the IONS science team as a Fellow. A former intern at IONS, Dr. Weiss went on to earn a BSc in Biochemistry from McGill University and an MD degree from the University of Manitoba. Today, he is a supervising hospitalist at the Brant Community Healthcare System, where he teaches McMaster University medical residents and medical students. Dr. Weiss is the founder of the Life Medicine clinic, where he is pioneering the use of lifestyle medicine and group psychotherapy treatments for Canadians with chronic medical and mental health diagnoses. In addition, Dr. Weiss is the lead investigator for the Institute of Noetic Sciences’ Spontaneous Remission Annotated Bibliography project. Since its initial publication in 1993, this ongoing IONS project has been the standard text on cancer and chronic disease spontaneous remission.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Weiss to ask him about his work in the field of noetic science and what becoming an IONS Fellow means to him.
Can you share with us a noetic experience that you had as a young person that opened or shifted your worldview? Why has it been meaningful to you?
There have been many. I’ll briefly describe one of the first and most important to me. There was a TED Talk by neuroscientist Jill Bolte Taylor called “My Stroke of Insight” where she describes, in breathtaking detail, the experience of watching herself have a stroke. One part of her story was particularly relevant to my own experience. There was a period of time during my undergraduate years that I started meditating quite a lot. As I matured in my practice, something special happened. During an otherwise un-special session of meditation, I had a spontaneous experience of complete tranquility and stillness – and complete focus on the inner field of my body. Gradually, my awareness extended to an area around and outside of my body, and like Dr. Taylor, I came in touch with a sense of expansiveness that was unlike anything I had ever imagined prior. This was an experience that changed everything for me; but, as such things go, much more difficult to convey in words.
When I say it changed everything for me, I mean I woke to the reality that not all is how it seems on the surface. I was studying biochemistry at the time, and I was on a fairly conventional path to medicine. That experience started an exploration into the not-so- conventional that led me to many wonderful places, including IONS.
What is the work you are up to currently in the world?
In addition to my work with IONS on the Spontaneous Remission Bibliography, the thing I’m most excited about in my clinical practice is the diabetes group in my Life Medicine clinic. The group has been a work in progress for a few years at this point. To put it simply, at my clinic we strive to help people make better choices. We think of diabetes as an epidemic – which it is – and an existential threat to our limbs, eyes, and arteries. What we don’t often think about is that diabetes is, at its core, a reversible disease of lifestyle. In our diabetes group, we help people not only figure out what to change about their lifestyles, but we also help them do it. We use cooking classes, physician-supervised exercise, mindfulness training, and group psychotherapy to help our patients with diabetes overcome their barriers to lifestyle change. And being in Canada, it’s covered for everybody – regardless of circumstance.
I also work as a hospitalist at two hospitals in Southern Ontario, and I’m an Assistant Clinical Professor at McMaster University in the Department of Family Medicine, where I teach medical students and residents.
What inspires you about IONS?
The main thing about IONS that always has, and continues to inspire me is its ideal of real scientists asking questions and testing theories that have not traditionally been seen in the purview of ‘real’ science. I remember when, back during my time as a medical student and IONS intern, I first walked into Dean Radin’s lab in Petaluma. The meticulous attention to detail, the creativity of the protocols and the steadfastness of the researchers rivalled anything I had seen in the top-tier university laboratories in which I had worked during my training. And then I learned about the mind-boggling stuff Dean was studying – like non-locality or retro-causality – and I thought ‘this is totally awesome.’ I believe that’s really the whole point of Dr. Edgar Mitchell’s IONS vision. He knew there was something more and he wanted to figure it out. Paradigm-shifting hypotheses require air-tight evidence – let’s go out there and find it, if it’s there. We’re doing that with the Spontaneous Remission Bibliography. IONS is doing it every day.
Why did you say yes to becoming an IONS Fellow?
IONS is a very special and unique place. We don’t just throw things at a wall and see what sticks, philosophizing about and debating humanity’s biggest questions. We actually try to figure it out. The combination of both the willingness to ask the big questions and the scientific rigor to go about proving the answer one way or the other is, to my knowledge, unique. When I was invited to become an IONS Fellow for my work on the Spontaneous Remission project, I was honored to expand my commitment to this special place.
I’ll also say that we are in a very exciting and challenging time, both scientifically and geopolitically speaking. There is a tremendous amount of confusion and misinformation in the world. Being a voice around the table at IONS – a research institute driven to shed light on some of the murkiest parts of the human experience – feels tremendously important to me right now, and I am grateful for the opportunity.
What excites you most about the possibilities of the Spontaneous Remissions Project? What does it make possible in the world that drives you to dedicate so much of your time to?
First off, let’s talk about what spontaneous remission (SR) means. Formally speaking, the SR phenomenon describes an event where a chronic disease process (such as cancer, or chronic infections like tuberculosis) either partially or completely resolve without adequate, conventional treatment. Some people like to say we are studying medical miracles. In and of itself, compiling and studying SR cases is pretty exciting – and IONS has been doing just that for over 30 years. But we are now in the position to take things a few steps further.
After poring through 12 decades (yes, 120 years!) worth of SR cases and articles, we have extracted the most pertinent clinical clues for every single published case study. We then compiled all this data by disease type so that anyone – researchers, patients and providers, or just interested readers – can, at a glance, see credible patterns in how the SR phenomenon actually operates. We are making this invaluable data of the SR patterns – of demographics, of conventional and non- conventional treatments provided, of immune system activation and involvement – intuitively accessible for anyone with internet access. What I find most exciting about this phase of the project is the treasure trove of medical hypotheses, previously obscured by sheer mass alone, finally available to us from this data. Whether it leads to a breakthrough treatment for a previously incurable disease, an added sense of optimism and possibility for a generation of cancer patients, or a pathway into the minds and hearts of their healthcare providers, the SR project embodies a great deal of hope for the medical world and its patients. I am extremely excited by that.