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Patrick Dempsey on his mother's cancer and the power of CrowdMed

Kristen Fischer is a writer living at the Jersey Shore. In addition to writing for SheKnows, she has penned articles for Prevention, Health, Woman's Day, BELLA, and New Jersey Monthly. Kristen enjoys spending time with her family, friend...

McDreamy's do-good deed

We spoke to Patrick Dempsey (a.k.a. Dr. McDreamy) about his real-life efforts to help others with medical issues through CrowdMed.

There’s more to Grey’s Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey than playing Dr. McDreamy. When it comes to health, in fact, the actor is out to make a difference in the lives of real-life patients.

This week, I had the privilege of speaking to Dempsey upon his announcement that he invested in CrowdMed. The website is a medical crowdsourcing platform that gives users access to feedback from doctors, medical students, alternative medicine providers and fellow patients. (To learn about how CrowdMed works, click here.) The website launched last year and has solved more than 200 cases through its patented software.

Dempsey is one of a few in a recent round of funding to help the website further its mission. He, along with other investors, contributed $2.4 million for CrowdMed.

Giving back is nothing new for the actor. A few years ago, he worked with his siblings to open a cancer center in Maine. His mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer about a decade ago, so he has been in the shoes of someone feeling helpless about getting a loved one the care they need.

"I remember being overwhelmed when my mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer almost a decade ago, and I know how challenging it can be trying to make the best medical decisions for oneself or a loved one," he said. Dempsey’s mother passed away this past March, but her memory lives on through everything the center is doing. He's hoping his new connection with CrowdMed will open up more resources for the center.

In November, Dempsey visited several startups and began looking for potential investment options. When he met with CrowdMed C.E.O. Jared Heyman, they instantly were impressed with each other. Heyman created the company after his sister faced problems getting a medical diagnosis. Heyman and Dempsey connected over their appreciation for technology and desire to improve people’s lives.

"It really touched me," Dempsey said of CrowdMed.

Heyman was equally as pleased with the actor’s interest in the company. "Patrick really impressed me from the start," Heyman said, adding that Dempsey showed so much "genuine interest" in the platform. "I think both of us are coming from the heart in our motivations for evolving CrowdMed," Heyman added.

For Dempsey, part of the draw to investing in the medical startup is being able to reach more people that may not otherwise have access to research opportunities or health care advancements.

"In my own case with my mother, you know, we were very fortunate because my sister worked in the hospital, so she could navigate us through all of that," he said. "And that’s my concern… how do we reach people who are not getting that information?"

Dempsey said the more information patients have, the better the chance that they can combat a disease or condition.

"I’m really concerned about getting to people who really need this in areas outside in the rural communities or even in the big city that may not be following all of the tech blogs and things like that," he said. "The patients who are turning to CrowdMed can't even begin to think about treatment options because they haven’t been able to find an accurate medical diagnosis yet — but hopefully we can change that."

More good news about CrowdMed: The solutions feature will enable anyone who already has a diagnosis to get answers about which steps to take next. So the next time your doctor gives you some not-so-great or all-out bad news, you have somewhere to turn.

"This comes out of a true need… and that’s what’s great about this and that’s why it gives it so much strength," Dempsey said.

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