I admit to being a tech geek. As an undergraduate, majored in Neurosciences at the University of Rochester, mostly because it was a self-designed degree program back then, allowing me to design a minor in Artificial Intelligence. That was long before AI became a common term, back in the late 70’s (geek!).
Those were the days before you could program from a computer terminal in real-time. We had to program in long-hand on paper, then punch the code onto punch-cards, feed those into the digital card-reader, and wait anxiously to see whether our program had run properly (it hadn’t). The U of R installed computer terminals in their computer sciences center the year after I graduated, eliminating the need for those dreaded punch-cards. Poor timing.
Had the very first IBM PC, and programmed that in my lab as a graduate student. Owned the first IBM PC-AT, had the oh-so-cool rotary key for it – a status symbol for geeks. Our lab also had many generations of Macs, and the lab that I currently collaborate with at Ohio State University runs on Macs. Love ‘em.
As I transitioned into medicine, I began to apply my interest for technology to challenges in medicine, and to improving patient care. Worked early-on to develop electronic medical records (EMR), and have taught many courses in the application of digital technology to optimize the practice of medicine.
Given my background in the fine arts, many of these courses focus on imaging and design: how to use a digital camera in medicine, how to use a digital camera to document surgery, how to use a digital video camera to document endoscopy, how to program a website in HTML, and how to use off-the-shelf software to function as an EMR – things like that. Here is a sampling of the courses taught over the years: http://wp.me/PR4iB-tW.
As applied to patient care, my passion for applied technology led me to augment human surgical skills through robotics. I have worked with Dr. Yulan Wang (“father” of the Zeus surgical robot) on miniaturizing surgical robotic instruments in order to operate in the newborn neck using minimal incisions. That work resulted in the first published text on robotic surgery (Faust, ed: Robotics in Surgery, 2007). Also worked with Dr. Wang on bringing the “rounding robot” (that he designed) from InTouch Health to the Children’s Hospital of Michigan. Currently working on follow up text on robotic surgery.
Currently, consult with an agency in Boston to help medical practices “go digital”. That is, healthcare reform demands joining the digital age through the implementation of EMRs. Just as importantly, medicine must improve the connection between the docs, the hospitals, and our patients. The majority of Americans are online for education about their personal health issues. The majority of us are also connected through “social media networks” such as Faceook and Twitter. This agency helps physicians, group practices, clinics, and hospitals to better connect with their patient populations through the new and old media. The physician-patient relationship does not need to end at the clinic door.
Luckily, all of these geeky activities make great use of my background in the fine arts and technical disciplines. They are activities that I thoroughly enjoy. Since these activities are secondary to my primary responsibilities, there is a risk of these activities defusing my main efforts in medicine. In contrast however, I feel that instead of these activities possibly detracting from my roles as a physician-scientist-teacher, they really augment those roles. Furthermore, these activities are personally rewarding, as they increase the number of ways that I can help improve the practice of medicine.