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Dr. Paul Cheney, MD, PhD – A Pioneer Still at the Forefront of ME/CFS Research

  [ 7 votes ]   [ 2 Comments ]
By Cort Johnson* • • July 20, 2009

Paul CheneyDr. Paul Cheney’s roots in ME/CFS run deep. He and Dr. Daniel Peterson were the doctors of note in 1984 when Incline Village, a small resort town in the Sierra Nevada, was overrun with what appeared to be a new disease.

The Incline Village Outbreak, as it came to be known, would be the spark that fanned a fire. The CDC showed up (and quickly left) but CFS made the headlines around the world, and was thrust, after decades of silence, onto the medical agenda. Battling a hostile press, an angry town, and an uninterested federal bureaucracy, Dr. Cheney was heralded for his compassion and integrity, and the grit he showed in standing up for his ill patients.

Over the next couple of years, Dr. Cheney would co-author several seminal papers and become a powerful advocate for the disease. In 1990 he took his advocacy to the national level when he helped co-found the first (and still the only) professional organization on ME/CFS – the American Association of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (now the IACFS/ME).

Moving to Charlotte, North Carolina, Dr. Cheney and another prominent figure, Dr. Charles Lapp, together operated a clinic for a time. From there he made a move offshore, and he and his patients enjoyed the peace of Bald Head Island off the coast of North Carolina until Hurricane Floyd descended in 1999. The devastation the hurricane wrought prompted another change, and the Cheney Clinic now makes its home in beautiful Asheville, North Carolina.

Dr. Cheney’s unique orientation as a physicist turned physician assisted him in devising a novel theory of cellular dysregulation based on abnormalities in oxidative stress and mitochondrial energy production. An unusually innovative and pro-active physician, he’s pioneered the use of new diagnostic protocols and many new treatment options including breathing exercises, glutathione supplements, human growth hormone, and now cell signaling factors.

His Three Phase approach to ME/CFS was the first to posit that distinct physiological and clinical time points occurred over the course of time in ME/CFS patients.

In 2003, Dr. Cheney had a brush with death as a viral infection required a heart transplant. Eight months later, however, he was back at work, and shortly afterward he stunned the ME/CFS community with his announcement that the heart was a central locus of dysfunction in this disease.

Building on prior study evidence of impaired stroke volume and diastolic dysfunction, Dr. Cheney brought new vigor to a sadly ignored aspect of the disease. Over the past five years he has deepened and refined his understanding of the diastolic dysfunction in ME/CFS and laid out a provocative, if controversial, paradigm of the disease.

Dr. Cheney has regularly communicated his ideas to the always information-hungry ME/CFS community through a more or less bi-annual series of videotaped lectures to the Dallas-Fort Worth CFIDS Association.

An evocative figure, he presented his new ideas in the Keynote Address at the 2007 IACFS/ME Conference in Miami. In 2008 he helped open the International Conference on Functional Medicine in Carlsbad, California, with a talk on “Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Oxidative Stress and Pain,” an unusual honor for an ME/CFS physician.

One of our few ME/CFS specialists, Dr. Paul Cheney has made understanding ME/CFS and treating ME/CFS patients his life’s work.
* Cort Johnson, a noted research reporter, is founder of the website Phoenix Rising: A Guide to ME/CFS ( and publisher of the bi-monthly Phoenix Rising Newsletter.

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Article Comments Post a Comment

Dr. Cheney
Posted by: nene59
Sep 2, 2009
While Dr. Cheney as in Charlotte NC I was a patient and am glad to see articles by him on the site. I have CF and now Fibromyalgia. If I could go back to just CF I would never complain again.
Reply Reply

Missing the boat perhaps - I got well and why
Posted by: lisanagy
Sep 2, 2009
Treatment should be the focus of concern. I believe Dr. Cheny has done great research in the area of cardiac dysfunction. I fear that he is not a tune to the abiltiy to successfully treat patients and get them mcuh better - or in my case all the way well. I am referring to the field of environmental medicine. Taking an environmental history about mold and pesticide expsosure as well as stopping that exposure is key to gettng well. Fixing hormone and neurotransmitter insufficiencies, dealing with chemical intolerances, food allergies and dysbiosis, ANS and mitochondrial hypoxia and damage is the goal of Environmental Meicine. It is necessary for CFS leaders to realize that there is already treatment available if they want to do it they should start learning and stop separating themselves from environmental physicians for the benefit of their patients. Just a thought . . . Sincerely Dr. Lisa Nagy.
Reply Reply
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