Washington, DC: Interviews with Dr. Francis Collins & Dr. Kenneth Moritsugu

Marc and Isa
Isa Stenzel Byrnes & Marc Smolowitz in D.C.

As we speak, THE POWER OF TWO film crew follows Ana Stenzel & Isa Stenzel Byrnes through our nation’s capital during a week of advocacy. Each day in D.C. has brought our team in close quarters with great intellectual minds of science and government, solidifying the place of Ana & Isa’s personal story in the broader scope of American public health. We caught up with director/producer Marc Smolowitz for a recap of last Wednesday’s interviews with Dr. Francis Collins, the man who discovered the CF gene, and organ donation advocate/former Surgeon General, Dr. Kenneth Moritsugu. Continue reading for a behind-the-scenes breakdown of each doctor’s seminal contributions to our film!


Tour of Intramural Research Lab for Human Genome Project
The Intramural Research Lab for the Human Genome Project where Dr. Collins researched

The morning began with a tour of National Institutes of Health (NIH) where we found Dr. Francis Collins: the physician/geneticist who discovered the CF gene in 1989 and subsequently led the Human Genome Project. Dr. Collins emanates excitement about his role driving medical research to benefit all Americans, especially through great advances in rational drug development and personalized medicine. These new approaches to treatment are astronomically beneficial for rare chronic diseases such as Cystic Fibrosis, where there are 1,000 mutations in the genetic misspelling that can drive the symptoms from mild to severe.

Dr. Francis Collins at NIH
Dr. Francis Collins: geneticist who discovered the Cystic Fibrosis gene

Dr. Collins offered a down to earth, approachable explanation of how Cystic Fibrosis works genetically; and especially how its research has become a bellwether for understanding other rare chronic diseases. When he located the CF gene 24 years ago, it was expected that the cure was right around the corner. Though the cure remains undiscovered, Dr. Collins is optimistic about the 2010 status of Cystic Fibrosis research and its contribution to knowledge of all kinds of chronic diseases.

Day 2 in DC 16
Isa Stenzel Byrnes and Dr. Francis Collins


Isa & Dr. Moritsugu
Isa and Dr. Moritsugu

Wednesday afternoon, we headed over to Johnson & Johnson Diabetes Institute to meet with Dr. Kenneth Moritsugu, former Surgeon General. Moritsugu shared incredible professional expertise and moving personal experiences, reflected by Marc Smolowitz as such: “Moritsugu’s perspective is one that we really needed to include. He is clearly a spokesperson for donor family experience and recognition- it really hit home that communities of color need to engage with organ donation.”

Dr. Kenneth Moritsugu
Former Surgeon General, Dr. Kenneth Moritsugu

Moritsugu himself lives with the personal tragedy of losing his wife and daughter who both became organ donors. He relayed compassion for potential donor families that feel confused and troubled over the decision to opt in for organ donation, as circumstances are not always black and white. Dr. Moritsugu delivered a powerful interview showing how culture, race and ethnicity play a large part in decisions for organ donation- a subject that we often visit in THE POWER OF TWO.

Dr. Kenneth Moritsugu
Dr. Moritsugu being interviewed by Marc Smolowitz


Our interviews with Dr. Francis Collins and Dr. Kenneth Moritsugu provided unique and highly valuable perspectives to our film. This is just one clip from several interviews and events taking place in D.C. this week, including our Capitol Hill Public Health Briefing on July 15. Check back for photos & details from this powerful event and please encourage your friends in D.C. to join us this evening (Friday, July 16) for a special Happy Hour celebration!

See our flickr for more photos from our D.C. trip so far.

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