Through the Looking-Glass

They called again and want to talk. Similar to a strict parent who gives you little clue as to where they stand, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) wants to have a conversation. I said: “Yes, absolutely.”
The NIH is nation’s power player in healthcare research. In 2010 it spent $32 billion or about $100 per American citizen forging new research paths, describing and curing disease, informing and transforming health care and keeping academic centers financially afloat. It is a model of healthcare research worldwide.
They want me to lead a think tank session next week in Washington D.C. at the NICHD headquarters. In the dead of winter, they are crystallizing plans to roll out a comprehensive new vision for reproductive health in America. This vision will lead to a white paper statement and guide the government’s research agenda for years to come. I am honored to attend.
Leading a session of experts from around the country, I will guide discussion of how reproductive health is a window to overall health, a topic upon which I have often reflected both here and in the published literature.
In preparation for this innovative meeting, I made a list of all of the medical conditions or illnesses that have been linked to male infertility or erectile dysfunction, either causally or by association. I also included conditions linked to having a past history of either of these sexual health disorders. What frightened me is that the list is 40 conditions long! Everything from diabetes to dyslipidemia, hypertension to heart disease, from tobacco use to sexually transmitted disease, and from chromosomal disorders to cancer. This list is extensive, sobering and reaffirms my deeply held belief that sexual health is a “window” into men’s overall health. Not only do male sexual health disorders coexist with many other medical conditions, but they also predict the future occurrence of even more.
So I will be showing up in Washington with my sleeves rolled up and ready to clean the sullied panes of the looking-glass, and hoping to clarify a new vision of men’s health.