The First Terrain Health Meeting

Getting Healthy With Dr. Robin Rose.

By Aaron Cohen

Nearly 3 years ago I turned 50. I needed to get a colonoscopy (today the first screening is age 45) and at the pre-operative appointment, I met my new gastroenterologist, Dr. Robin Rose. The appointment changed my life. Not because I had colon cancer. Turned out I had some polyps and Robin removed them. What really struck me was that Robin was a connected, empathetic human being.

People hit it off with new friends for a variety of reasons.  I met Robin when I was confronting my own mortality ahead of my contemporaries.  In my circle, most 48-year-olds had at least one if not two parents. My mother was diagnosed with abdominal cancer and died 10 horrible months later in 2010. My father leaned much more into grandparenting after my mother died and was around all the time. Five years later, during Thanksgiving weekend, he stood up to say goodnight and had a massive heart attack in our house. Paramedics managed to get his heart restarted after about 10 or 15 minutes and transported him to Norwalk Hospital. With my father laying in his room on a ventilator, my sister, a nurse, and his medical proxy determined that my father’s Do Not Revive (DNR) instructions gave us no choice. We instructed the doctors to remove support and he died minutes later.

Five months after my father died, I stood up from the kitchen counter and fainted. When I woke up, I was very groggy and unable to talk. My housekeeper called 911 and the paramedics who arrived recognized the house and me.  Understandably, they assumed I had also had a cardiac event, and took me to the same hospital where after a battery of tests the ER doctors determined I had vasovagal syncope — a condition that causes people to get light-headed or faint from low blood pressure. It’s often triggered by stress or dehydration. I knew I needed to focus on my health. But how?

Six months later I sat in Dr. Rose’s office as she took my detailed medical history.   She took many notes and listened to my story attentively. To be honest, I didn’t get it.  Wasn’t I just getting a routine colonoscopy because Katie Couric had helped convinced me I had to do it? I thought I had come into to learn how to prepare for the procedure but we were talking about my mother’s cancer and my father’s heart attack. She probed me about my family life and career and I told her I was a longtime technology entrepreneur, investor and adjunct professor at New York University.

She asked me about my diet and how my digestive system worked and was interested to learn about the health of what she called “my gut.” I told her I had an iron stomach and ate way too much food quite easily.   She told me I was lucky because many Americans have terrible problems with digestion. I had no idea and then Robin gave me one of her frequent GI zingers –, “Aaron, it’s a constipated nation.”

Turned out I had polyps (some large with more aggressive pathology) removed during my procedure and Robin wanted to repeat the procedure two years later. The next year, I returned to Robin’s office for a checkup and I asked her how the practice was going. She said she had just completed her most productive year ever in her 11 years as a practicing GI. I congratulated her, but she shook her head and said, “Aaron the truth is sometimes I feel like a charlatan.”

Terrain Heath was born from this extraordinarily self-aware, forthright observation.  Robin is a fabulous doctor. Her comment was a pointed criticism of the American healthcare system which treats patients after they get sick but never helps them understand how to take better care of themselves. Over the next year, Robin and I met to discuss how she could treat people more effectively. She wanted to heal people with a more preventative, holistic approach using functional medicine as her foundation along with genomics to practice what we call precision medicine.

In the weeks to come, Terrain Health will premier a range of services and treatments that synthesize advanced genomic medicine, functional medicine, with Robin’s deep experience in gut health. Terrain Health is Robin’s platform to heal you with careful attention paid to your diet and lifestyle. The Terrain Health ethos is that you can greatly improve how your specific body functions by monitoring how you nourish it with food (and supplements if needed), sleep, exercise, and mindfulness.

Maybe somewhere along the way you were told that genes are your destiny. I was.  But it’s not true and the science grows more certain of this every day. And that matters a lot to me. My parents died at 74 and 79 and they were unhealthy for years before that. I want to be a world-class grandparent. That means I need health, mobility, energy, and longevity. We founded Terrain Health to guide me and you towards that vision of life. Live long. Live well. Live for love.