23 December 2008

Notes from Dr C

Dr C, despite a pressured life which prevents as much attention to his own blog as he would wish, nevertheless finds time for thoughtful emails to others on the content of theirs.

I have often thought that these replies ought to see the light of day, visible to others as well as to me. A while back along, I secured Dr C's permission to follow this idea ... but didn't so anything about it. Having just received his latest set of replies, however, I'm stirring myself: his dedication shames me in my laziness to date. So, here, in what Ms Heyward has dubbed "Growlery Green®", they are. I may comment on some of them in time, but have decided not to do so here (though to satisfy Ms Heyward's fascination with them, I have provided a footnoted reference...)

Education: As with most people in science and (lately) of academics, and now in pediatrics, I have been tangentially associated with education for most of my adult life. From proctoring laboratory courses in Ireland in 1970 to visiting a kindergarten last Friday, I have tried to observe education. The more I observe the less I seem to know. I do know that I advise everyone to sit in an elementary school classroom for a while; it is an eye opener. On the other hand, in my office, I tend to see the detritus of the educational system (e.g. children with ADHD, learning problems, very bad behavior problems.) It is refreshing to the soul to see that many children are wide eyed learners, at least at age six, and particularly if motivated by a good teacher. I am sure you have had your good teachers in your day and one of the proudest events of my life was getting a teaching award at Johns Hopkins in Physical Diagnosis.

Something happens to children along the way from first grade to the their teenage years. As you say, maybe all of us went through that phase but I tend to think that many teenagers today are just turned off to learning. The dismal statistics that show many American children can’t identify America on a map of America coupled with a President who knows almost nothing about anything do not bode well for our future. I don’t know what the answer is. I do know that in our efforts to suppress eliteism maybe we have done a bad thing. In addition, our obsession with “goodies” probably has some bearing on this apathy.

Information Transfer: Your experiences with the cross platform transfer of data are interesting. One of the biggest problems confronting medicine in the States is that there is a lot of computerization, but one system can’t talk to another system. The inanity and the silliness of it is mind boggling. Everyone has a propietary system and never the twain shall meet. Obama’s plan of digitizing medicine is gone to run into a very high and very thick brick wall. We’ve discussed this before and you wrote your article [for Scientific Computing World] on it.

Strangers and Brothers: Indeed, a good series. The best one though is [The New Men] on the intellectual challenge of the Bomb for the British Scientists. That and its aftermath, the Corridors of Power.

Data Imaging: I appreciated your, Julie’s and other discussion of early photography, etc. Back when I was doing a bit of that I was fascinated by the obliteration of detail (with contact prints) until one arrived at a very Picasso type of print that was full of nothing but suggestions and, as I think artists say, “gestures.” Referring back to our earlier discussions of neural pathways, it makes one wonder if the recognition process in the brain is hierarchical. That is, if it doesn’t build up the “image” from more basic shapes. Certainly, unless we concentrate on it, we do not really “see” detail. (Note to self, area for future thinking)

Lem’s Fiasco: I was really disappointed with the end. But, now I have to read His Master’s Voice.

Assisted suicide/death: At one point I ran a Children’s Hospice. Over the course of 10 years I probably was involved with upwards of 50 children dying from cancer (one was a case of national prominence and I got my 15 minutes of Warhollian fame.) I have very mixed feelings about death, particularly death in children. It probably innured me to normal human feelings.

No comments on the straight record, though it is an interesting discussion.

I appreciate Julie’s thinking on drugs. I’m not sure I agree with her in many respects. However, Big Pharm is defintely not a gentle player. Marcia Angell (one time editor of the NEJM) has written extemsively about Big Pharm and its shenanigans.

Things always look different when you are in the front lines. (I think, sometimes, I’m at Verdun.)

Diamond of Darkhold. I am going to wait to read it. Should be on Alibris pretty soon.

  • Dr C, unpublished correspondence, Monday 22 December 2008