Ask a Fortune 500 CEO what her company’s most valuable asset is, her answer will be, human capital. This, by no means, has always been the case; and reviewing the evolving definition of human capital over the last century is the ideal backdrop for understanding the evolving healthcare needs of the 21st century American workforce.

When referenced in the first half of the twentieth century, it is no surprise that human capital was essentially a fungible resource similar to the heavy machinery of what was, after all, an industrial based economy. All that would change in 1957, when in response to Soviet’s launching of Sputnik, President Eisenhower vowed to “prevent technological surprise” and created Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA).  To fulfill its mission, ARPA developed networks by which computers communicated with each other called the ARPANET. In addition to being the precursor to what would become the world-wide-web, ARPANET’s impact on Humankind’s ability to disseminate information sparked the servicization of the US Economy in earnest. Prior to 1957, about 40% of the US GDP came from the manufacturing sector. As of 2011, 80% of US GDP came from the service sector with less than 20% manufacturing.

Thus, from the dawn of the Information Age through the Digital Revolution up to the present day, the US workforce evolved from one dependent primarily on its brawn to one almost entirely dependent on its brains; so, the health issues most commonly affecting the work performance and the healthcare needs of its members’ have evolved as well. Our health-care system as well as the workplace wellness movement have failed to adapt in a way that readily and effectively recognizes these critical health issues or meets the needs of the modern, largely cognitively driven, workforce. However, adapt they must, for the health and well-being of America’s Human Capital as well as the global competitiveness of US Companies hangs in the balance. 

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Mitchell R. Weisberg, MD, MP

Internist-Psychopharmacologist-Corporate Wellness Consultant

Founder-CEO and Personal Physician at:

Optimal Performance MD

A Unifying Theory of Human Health and Wellbeing

A person is what a person does

Our performance, all that we do and how well or how poorly we do it, is the ultimate manifestation, the furthest downstream effect, of our health and well-being.

Proof of the Health∞Performance link

It begins with the most fundamental of all scientific principles, that is the natural relationship between an object’s structure and function. Architects like to think they created this relationship with their motto, form follows function. Apparently the architect, or whatever force that created the Universe, was already familiar with this principle. For whether an element on the periodic table, a single-cell organism, a forklift or a distant galaxy, regardless of its scale, from subatomic to astronomical, inherent within every object in the known universe is both a structure and a corresponding function. The human being, arguably the most complex object in the known universe, is no exception.

Human performance is defined as accomplishing tasks according to agreed upon standards of accuracy, completeness, and efficiency. If human performance is the willful and measurable part of a human-being’s function, what then, is the structure of human performance?

To answer this, imagine human performance as if it is an onion. If we peel back the outermost layer of this onion, we will see that performance is a collective of individual behavioral  components, each of which is executed exclusively and entirely by the moveable human body; its skeleton, muscles and connective tissues. Just beneath this layer we will see that each component behavior is the immediate reflection of the innermost layer, or the core of the human performance onion; the molecular structure of the human Central Nervous System (the human brain). 

While at the macroscopic level it seems a solid structure, at the microscopic reality the human brain is more like a liquid or soup whose molecular ingredients continuously and instantaneously change by the process of neurotransmission, which in its collective form drives what has come to be known as, neuroplasticity. To illustrate this process, consider a soldier who suffers a shrapnel injury to his shoulder. The first thing the battle-field medic does when she comes upon the wounded soldier is inject him with enough morphine to ease his pain so he can stay still, allowing her to safely examine and treat the soldier’s wound. If this soldier received this exact dosage of Morphine, even a millisecond before he was wounded, he would have died instantly due to Morphine’s suppressive effects on the soldier’s ability to breathe. However, at the exact instant shrapnel penetrated the soldier’s flesh, the molecular ingredients, or the surface receptors on his 100 billion neurons (brain cells), structurally changed in a way which allows Morphine to exert its analgesic, rather than its respiratory suppressive, properties. This is neuroplasticity in action, and it occurs faster than you can add a dash of salt to bland soup.

It does not need a mortal wound to set neuroplasticity into motion. In fact, neuroplasticity occurs continuously from the time the brain forms during the embryonic stage throughout the lifetime of a human-being. As in the wounded soldier, the effects of neuroplasticity can be instantaneous. However, the effects of neuroplasticity can also be sub-acute, as in a soldier exposed to heavy combat who develops Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or chronic, as in a soldier, or the civilian for that matter, who suffers a minor physical injury but instead of the injury healing normally over time it gets worse leading to a Chronic Pain Syndrome known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) in which the pain spreads to every part of their body. This later example graphically illustrates the case in which the process of neuroplasticity is maladaptive.

Neuroplasticity is a variable process within every human organism that occurs spontaneously as well as in response to a stimulus, or collectively to multiple stimuli, whether internal (within the person) or external (in the person’s environment). Neuroplasticity is both a highly evolved process, while at the same time is the primary process that has continuously driven human evolution forward. Neuroplasticity is the chisel from which the human brain, the only human organ which definitively distinguishes humans from every other species on the planet, has been meticulously sculpted over millions of years. Neuroplasticity is what allowed our prehistoric ancestors to successfully adapt to an ever-changing, ever-challenging environment we commonly refer to as Planet Earth, through a process, which in evolutionary terms is known as natural selection. For millions of years neuroplasticity has played, and continues to play, the leading role in the continuing saga, first documented by Darwin and referred to ever since as the evolution of our species. Neuroplasticity is the process that can singularly be credited with making humans fit to survive and fit to strive.

The impact of neuroplasticity on human performance is ubiquitous. The effects on our health and performance from doing regular exercise, how we eat, how we sleep and the effects of our taking drugs, both prescribed and illicit, favorable and unfavorable, are all mediated via this single process called neuroplasticity. Therefore, when we peel back the last layer of the human performance onion, at its core is a soup whose molecular ingredients are constantly changing and are all contained within a bowl that is easily identified as every one of our thick skulls. To the extent that an internal stimulus, such as a disease or an injury, or an external stimulus, such as soldier in battle or winning the lottery, affects the ingredients within this bowl of soup, is the same extent to which it affects a person’s performance.

Conclusion

Human performance is a direct reflection of neuroplasticity, making it the last crossroad between the health (structure) and performance (function) of the human being. Thus, performance is our ultimate vital sign, for within each human beings’ performance, their health is fully revealed.

The author has logically derived that the missing link between human health and performance is neuroplasticity. You will want to stay tuned to this blog to see how this theory, when applied in the arena of workplace wellness programs, can get them to actually work well.

End Post

Mitchell R. Weisberg, MD, MP

Internist-Psychopharmacologist-Corporate Wellness Consultant

Founder-CEO and Personal Physician at:

Optimal Performance MD

 

Of all the signs one can measure, none is more vital than our performance. Whether in the vocational, academic or interpersonal setting, how we are functioning, or our performance says more about our health and well-being than any blood test, X-ray or high-tech scan can ever possibly show.

As a primary care physician in private practice for the past quarter century, my focus on my patients functional status (performance) is the one tool in my medical bag to which I attribute my success in effectively helping my patients be healthy and well. Our healthcare system, however, focuses almost entirely on disorders and health conditions that can be measured and quantified with laboratory tests and scans. While this is effective in improving patients health, it leaves far too few of them actually feeling well.

Viewing the people I have the good fortune of calling, my patients from a performance perspective, allows me to immediately link their symptoms to the real challenges they are experiencing in their daily lives. As a result of my treatments, I not only help my patients be healthy and feel better, I help them do better, or perform optimally as well.

Practicing medicine in the way I have for nearly half my life and the wonderful feedback I have received as a result has inspired me to spread my method in a way than can help as many people as I possibly can reach their optimal health, wellbeing and performance. To achieve this mission, as an extension of my private practice, I have officially thrown my hat in the ring as a Workplace Wellness Consultant. I am confident that the results that I, and the hundreds of patients I have had the pleasure of working with during my career, have achieved can be enjoyed by thousands of American employees by sharing my clinical method with the workplace wellness movement.  Here is the reason for my confidence: Patient Reviews

Thank you all for sharing your inspiring feedback.

Mitchell R. Weisberg, MD

Founder/CEO
Personal Physician and Corporate Health & Wellness Consultant at:

Optimal Performance MD

In their attempt to improve the health and productivity of their employees and cut their skyrocketing healthcare costs, rather than negotiating for better service from the healthcare system they already overpay, employers have invested millions of dollars in wellness vendors to motivate their employees to confess to their health sins on specially designed questionnaires, submit to blood tests, stand on a scale, join health clubs, eat broccoli and view stress relief videos. Much to everyone’s’ surprise, these efforts have failed. Does anybody have a new plan?

Mitchell R. Weisberg, MD, MP

Internist-Psychopharmacologist-Corporate Wellness Consultant

Founder-CEO and Personal Physician at:

Optimal Performance MD

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