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Brennan Spiegel, MD, Named Gourrich Chair in Digital Health Ethics

Gourrich Foundation Supports Pioneering Innovations in Pain and Anxiety Management Using Virtual Reality

Brennan Spiegel, MD, MSHS, director of Health Services Research and founding director of the Master’s Degree Program in Health Delivery Science at Cedars-Sinai, has been named the inaugural holder of the George and Dorothy Gourrich Chair in Digital Health Ethics.

The philanthropy of the Gourrich Foundation will strengthen and galvanize Spiegel’s pioneering studies in digital health innovation. The late George Gourrich, MD, and his wife Dorothy have been loyal supporters of Cedars-Sinai—Dr. Gourrich practiced internal medicine at Cedars-Sinai for most of his storied career spanning five decades.Dorothy Gourrich and George Gourrich, MD

Spiegel is a widely-respected authority in gastroenterology and health technology, spearheading groundbreaking research in digital health and the use of virtual reality to help patients manage pain and anxiety. His research shows that using virtual reality environments can help relieve discomfort and support positive emotions. Earlier this year, Spiegel gained widespread attention for his theory that gravity may be a causative factor for irritable bowel syndrome, the most common gastrointestinal disorder.  

“I thank the Gourrich family for their incredible vision and legacy in supporting our research at Cedars-Sinai,” Spiegel said. “We’re working to find ways to deploy digital technologies in ways that are equitable and cost effective so that all populations can benefit from them.”

Ethics, Spiegel adds, factor prominently in these developing technologies. “As we unlock new methods of treating patients, particularly with massive advances in artificial intelligence, we must ensure that these technologies are used in an ethical and equitable manner,” he said.

Spiegel’s work has helped broaden a new field of medicine called Medical Extended Reality, or MXR, in which doctors use immersive tools like virtual reality goggles to help treat a patient’s pain, anxiety, depression and other medical conditions.

Spiegel leads the Cedars-Sinai Center for Outcomes Research and Education, a multidisciplinary team investigating the clinical uses of digital health technologies—from wearable biosensors and smartphone applications to social media. Spiegel and his team are exploring the role these technologies play in establishing greater levels of understanding and empathy between doctors and patients.

The team brings together specialists, including clinicians, computer scientists and health services researchers to test and implement digital therapies to improve the health of patients at Cedars-Sinai and around the world.

“Dr. Spiegel is well poised to accelerate his national leadership in this rapidly evolving field of medicine,” said Shlomo Melmed, MB, ChB, executive vice president of Academic Affairs and dean of the Medical Faculty at Cedars-Sinai.

Spiegel has published several best-selling medical textbooks, including VRx: How Virtual Therapeutics Revolutionize Medicine. His scientific findings also have been featured in more than 260 peer-reviewed articles.

“Dr. Spiegel’s impactful research underscores the value of establishing this endowed chair and highlights how deserving he is of this recognition,” said Arthur J. Ochoa, JD, senior vice president of Advancement and chief advancement officer for Cedars-Sinai. “Cedars-Sinai is so thankful to the Gourrich Foundation for this incredible gift that promises to sustain research in the burgeoning field of digital health ethics today and far into the future.”

Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: Virtual Reality in Healthcare: Pain Relief