Busking for Crohn’s-Contributing to American Gut Research in a Unique Way

Good morning everyone! I hope July 4th weekend proved relaxing and fun, and that everyone is back into the work groove. Hopefully you didn’t stress your microbiomes out too much with celebratory food and drink! 😉

Today’s blog post is quite different from what you’re used to by now. The main goal of our blog is to highlight research done not only in the Knight lab, but also in the labs of our amazing collaborators. We hope you’ve enjoyed the reading so far! Today we’re switching things up a bit, however. Today’s blog post is a guest post by a young man named Gideon Grossman. Gideon approached me a few weeks ago and told me his story. Gideon is a busker-a street performer-in his spare time, and has a passion for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) research. He plans to travel up the California coast this summer to busk and raise money for IBD research. I was humbled and honored when he told me that he’d like to donate all of the money he makes busking this summer to American Gut to help support our research on IBD. Given his selfless generosity, I wanted to give him a chance to share his story-to give back to him (though a simple blog post can’t possibly show how thankful we are for his support). So, without further ado, I’ll let Gideon take it away!

-Embriette, Project Manager, AGP


My name is Gideon Grossman, and I want to tell you my story. I’m 24 years old from West Orange, NJ. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s  disease in my senior year of high school. Crohn’s disease is one of the inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), which also includes ulcerative colitis. The IBDs are not fun, to say the least. Before I was diagnosed, I suffered from diarrhea every day for two months at summer camp-not a good place to have diarrhea! I also developed a perianal abscess before finally getting the inflammation under control with a Humira injection I give myself in the thigh every two weeks. I still have an annoying fissure in that spot that has not fully healed. While I have experienced some scary and uncomfortable moments due to this disease, I am blessed to be in remission and for the most part I currently feel great. I have a strong urge to support the development of medicines for this debilitating disease.

I lived in New York City the summer after I graduated college. While waiting at subway stations and walking across midtown each day to my internship, I was inspired by captivating street performers who transformed dull sidewalks into stages and converted passers-by into an audience by showing off their musical and gymnastics talents. These guys inspired me to try my own hand at street performance, also known as “busking”. I pondered whether I had any talent suitable for busking. I thought to myself, “well, I’m mediocre at playing a drum kit” (I had taken lessons as a kid and messed around in a couple middle school bands). So, I decided to give my percussive abilities an urban twist and play buckets and cans in place of bass drums and cymbals. After a week of practicing playing beats on the trash bin in my apartment (to my neighbors’ chagrin), I walked down to the Union Square subway station, sat cross-legged on the tile platform with my back up against an iron column, lifted my wooden drum sticks above my head and began to play. For the next two years, I took this hobby from countless locations in the subterranean concert halls of the Big Apple City, to outdoor markets and boardwalks in Tel Aviv, Israel, and to sandy beaches all over Hawaii. It’s a nerve-wracking hobby, but that’s what makes me feel so alive while performing. I cherish the spontaneous conversations with all of the people who pause their hustle to stop by and listen to what I have to offer. The interactions I get to have with these men, women, and children from all walks of life as I rock out are incredibly unique and rewarding.


This summer, I’m planning to play bucket percussion on boardwalks and street corners from San Diego to San Francisco to raise money for Crohn’s disease medical research. Specifically, I plan to donate all of the tips I get from performing to the American Gut Project. This research project is one of the most promising I’ve come across in terms of its potential impact toward helping scientists identify a cure for IBD. I’ve spoken with the project’s co-founder, Dr. Rob Knight, and Assistant Project Scientist  and American Gut project manager, Dr. Embriette Hyde to learn more about this project. My hope is that Knight and his team will be able to build a large enough database to enable researchers to determine the relationship between the gut microbiome and IBD (and other diseases as well!)-and I want to help the team achieve that goal by raising funds and awareness!

I plan to film a documentary of my adventures this summer. The film will begin with interviews at the UCSD research lab and continue with footage of my experiences busking on boardwalks and transit stops, traveling and conversing with passers-by, as well as interviews with other individuals who have been impacted by IBD. I’m not yet sure what my exact travel route will be, but I will keep you posted on my whereabouts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Check out a trailer I made for the documentary here!

Aside from raising monetary funding for IBD research, my larger dream is to spread IBD awareness and to de-stigmatize these diseases. Moreover, through the film, I hope to inspire all people to 1) view misfortune as opportunity, and 2) to embrace and share our true identities, from our greatest qualities to our imperfections because when we’re real with ourselves and with each other, it becomes clear that everyone has a unique gift to share with the world.

If you have any more questions about what I’m going to be up to this summer, or if you’re interested in getting involved, feel free to contact me at my  personal email address. And, of course, please feel free to post this message in any other forums in which you’re involved that you feel might be fruitful and share with your friends who you think would be interested! I’m looking forward to updating you at the end of my trip about all of my adventures and about how much funding I was able to raise for the the American Gut Project!