My #dotMED16 experience

I was on vacation when I got a DM from Ronan Kavanagh asking me if I would be interested in speaking at dotMED. I said yes without really knowing anything about the conference, but a quick glance at the previous speakers convinced me that speaking there would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. A chance to punch above my weight.

Ronan gave me a blank slate to speak on anything I wanted. I chose social media opportunities in medical education.


My wife and I took a red eye to Dublin and arrived on the Tuesday before the conference. We toured the Guiness Factory Store, Kilmainham Gaol, the Modern Art Museum of Ireland and the Irish Museum. On Wednesday night we were invited to the White coat ceremony at UCD. Pat Murray my old program director at University of Chicago is now the dean of the medical school. Friends in high places and all that.



The following day I gave a lecture on social media to the staff and students at UCD. Great response.

Big thanks to @kidney_boy who gave an excellent presentn on SoMe & MedEd. You guys attending @DotMedConf are in for a treat.

— UCD Medicine (@UCDMedicine) February 11, 2016

And it was great getting a chance to rehearse my dotMED talk in front of a live audience.

The talk went long, about 45 minutes for my 30 minute slot. When I went to the Smockalley Theater later that day for an AV check, I asked Kerry O’Sullivan if a slightly longer presentationwas okay. She turned ashen. I had my answer. So I pulled out the metaphorical scalpel and started my lecture lobotomy.

Looking good at @smockalley for #dotmed16 tomorrow, technical run-through smooth #dotmed16

— Einstein Epigenomics (@EpgntxEinstein) February 11, 2016

Thursday night the speakers met at the Shelbourne Hotel for drinks and then went to The Winding Stair for dinner.

Ronan meets Steve Bergman, A.K.A. Samuel Shem. Ronan looks so happy.


The Winding Stair is by the Ha’Penny Bridge, the oldest toll bridge in the world. This was before #FOAB (free, open access bridges)


Muiris Houston, conference organizer at dinner


Monica Lalanda, conference cartooner showing Dr. Bergman his representation. Dr. Leticia Rivera is behind Monica.
Monica and Leticia

The following day we walked from our hotel to the Smock Alley Theater.

Good morning from the theatre! Registration is open and there’s coffee upstairs! #dotmed16

— dotMEDconf (@DotMedConf) February 12, 2016

Ronan welcomed everybody and then John Greally, pediatrician and geneticist from Albert Einstein, gave the first talk of the day Learning from Artists in the Digital Age. It was an amazing talk. He started with a history of visual representations of data. From primitive maps, to the first histograms, to maps with epidemiologic data. Fascinating. He reminded us that modern radiology images are just visual representations of what is really quantitive data.

Greatest advance in data visualisation – Napoleon’s march on Moscow #dotmed16 @EpgntxEinstein

— dotMEDconf (@DotMedConf) February 12, 2016

The history lesson was a set-up for the fact that all advances in data visualization occurred before 1900 and that with the era of big data we need new data visualization techniques. He is spearheading this effort by bringing together artists, data illustrators visualizers and geneticists to comb through big epigenetic data dumps to find unique and useful ways to present it to clinicians and scientists. (Nice NYT article about Greally’s efforts).

I loved John’s definition of big data: any data set too large to fit on a laptop.

OMG. Unbelievably good presentation. How did I get placed after John? This could get ugly. #dotmed16

— Joel Topf (@kidney_boy) February 12, 2016


— dotMEDconf (@DotMedConf) February 12, 2016

After John, I was up. I spoke about the evolution of the medical textbook and how social media and mobile will inform future versions.

Clinical nephrologist and medical educator @kidney_boy talks med text books and our own @TheNotoriousMMA #dotmed16

— Avril Copeland (@AvrilC) February 12, 2016

— dotMEDconf (@DotMedConf) February 12, 2016

Best part about the talk? I got to use the Madonna/Astronaut microphone.

After my presentation, Ronan sat down with John and I for a question and answer session. My answers may have been a bit too strongly worded:
‘How do you cope with digital sceptics in medicine?’asks @RonanTKavanagh ‘We’ll be pass them by & they will die!’ says @kidney_boy #dotmed16

— Dr Ros Taylor (@hospicedoctor) February 12, 2016

One of the best arguments in favor of social media was made by John. He discussed that forensic statisticians do a lot of the post publication peer review of big data research and they typically publicize their work via social media. I did get the final question of the session and my wife says it was the best part of the morning:

@MarieOScully @kidney_boy on ambiguity Q “residual uncertainty means humility which can only be a good thing in medicine” #dotmed16

— Dr Damian Fogarty (@DamianFog) February 12, 2016


— dotMEDconf (@DotMedConf) February 12, 2016

Next up was Leticia Ruiz Rivera discussing her photo exhibit, Limits, which explores the brutality of medical training. She takes portraits of residents before and after their 24-hour shifts. She gave a 5 minute introduction and then we went upstairs for coffee where we could look at her photo exhibit.

#dotmed16 Leticia Ruiz Rivera about her photos pf doctors before and after 24h at work

— monica lalanda (@mlalanda) February 12, 2016

After the combination coffee break and photo exhibit the conference resumed downstairs with a Pitch off. Four start-ups in the health space competed to win the conference.

Time for dragons den style pitching competition for medical innovators @DotMedConf #dotmed16

— June Shannon (@juneshannon) February 12, 2016

The first company was Humane Engineering with their app Cove. Cove is digital diary that allows you to create music to fit your mood and acts as a non-judgmental, always available, grief counselor. It was an amazing presentation and my personal favorite. As we spend more and more time staring at our phones, reimagining them as tools for psychotherapy seems innovative, important and the type of idea that could change the world. One day psychotherapy will delivered via computer and I don’t know what it will look like but if it is done well and is effective it will be a great thing.

Short video similar to what was just shown on screen here @cove_app #dotmed16

— dotMEDconf (@DotMedConf) February 12, 2016

The next company was N-Silico that had an EMR-like product that focused on a specific type of meeting that seemed to me to be like a tumor-board meeting. They developed software that would help the team mates collaborate. It maybe a great idea, but seemed like JAFEMR (just another fracken EMR). Though he did have the best line of the conference, “Paperwork wouldn’t be so bad without the paper…or the work.”

Video from @nSilico on Simplicity #dotmed16

— dotMEDconf (@DotMedConf) February 12, 2016


— dotMEDconf (@DotMedConf) February 12, 2016

The third presenter was the Beats Medical. They have a smart phone app that treats Parkinson’s disease. Apparently the shuffling gait and freezing can be ameliorated by a metronome like beat. This company has created an app than takes a 2 minutes walk test (done by shuffling around with the phone in your pocket) and then creates a custom metronome beat for your disease. It is customized for the individual in pitch and tempo. This was my wife’s favorite and she was not alone:

We should probably stop the pitches and give @BeatsMedical the prize. Sorry everyone else. #dotMED16

— Jason Carty (@Doctor_J_) February 12, 2016


The judges were concerned that this was a defensible idea and that copycats would flood the market. Also it is hard to build a business around the App Store. People just don’t like to spend a lot of money on apps.
Concluding the contestants was PMD respiratory. They build a device that you stick on a patient and it records the respiratory rate. The pitch is that respiratory rate is an important vital sign that can predict bad hospital outcomes but since the rate is poorly measured and recorded we need a way to automate it. Myles Murray gave the pitch and the core to the pitch is that if you look at a ward full of 20 patients, 19 will have a recorded respiratory rate of 16 and the last one will have a respiratory rate of 32, and she’ll be about to code. There has to be a respiratory rate between 16 and 32.
Every breath you take PMD follows great presentation from @BeatsMedical at #dotmed16

— martin kelly (@martykelly) February 12, 2016


He sad that measuring the respiratory rate from ECG leads works in health but in sick patients it is not very effective and prone to error.

— dotMEDconf (@DotMedConf) February 12, 2016


Later in the afternoon they announced that PMR won

— PMD Solutions (@PMD_Respiratory) February 12, 2016


Following the pitch session came a one on one interview of Rory O’Neill, AKA Panti Bliss, by conference organizer Muris Houston.

— June Shannon (@juneshannon) February 12, 2016


I had never heard of this Panti Bliss, but the story that I pieced together at the conference is that he is a gay, cross dresser and actor. After one of his performances he came on stage and made a impassioned plea for gay marriage. This video went viral and he became an accidental spokesperson for the ultimately successful gay marriage movement in Ireland.
If u click on troll’s profile they have about 4 followers 😂😂😂 @PantiBliss on social media trolls hateful people have few friends #dotmed16

— June Shannon (@juneshannon) February 12, 2016


Muris focused the interview on Rory’s HIV status. He turned positive in the mid 90’s and lived through the birth and maturing of the HAART era. Rory discussed the wonderful staff at the STD/HIV clinic.
Pantibliss talking about being diagnosed with HIV in 1995. Managing death. Mixing the hemophiliacs, the gays, and the drug addicts #dotMED16

— Joel Topf (@kidney_boy) February 12, 2016


He had some insightful and funny insights on the early days of HAART:
On taking 38 tablets per day “You could always tell the AZT queens because they rattled” Rory O’Neill @pantibliss #dotMED16

— Einstein Epigenomics (@EpgntxEinstein) February 12, 2016


He says that being HIV is now pretty irrelevent to his life, but not completly irrelevent:
Pantibliss: I’m single and that’s partly because I’m annoying but HIV is part of it too. #dotmed16

— Joel Topf (@kidney_boy) February 12, 2016

Truvada whores: The thought that people who take pre-exposure truvada will go whoring around–Pantibliss #dotmed16

— Joel Topf (@kidney_boy) February 12, 2016


“Air, food, water, shagging. That’s what we are.” @PantiBliss #dotmed16

— Pat Rich (@pat_health) February 12, 2016


— dotMEDconf (@DotMedConf) February 12, 2016

There was a lunch break and that we were back to the conference. We started with the dulcet sounds of Colm Mac Con Iomaire. It was amazing and let’s face it not many medical conferences can boast a session highlighted by a 300 year old Irish love song.

— monica lalanda (@mlalanda) February 12, 2016


Colm was a founding member of the Frames, described to me by Suzanne Donnelly as Ireland’s greatest band not named U2.
Following Colm, they announced that PMD won the pitch session and then we were off with Deborah Bowman on Staging Medicine, or an actors perspective on the doctor-patient relationship. She talked about how medicine and theater are related. Her talk was filled with soliloquies taken from the stage.
Much of early practice in medicine is rehearsal to deal with realities without becoming an automaton: @deborahbowman #dotmed16

— Pat Rich (@pat_health) February 12, 2016


#dotMED16 a play about young doctors in love and the hospital spilling into the rest of your life

— Joel Topf (@kidney_boy) February 12, 2016


“The patients who come home with you, the people who haunt you, the interactions you can’t shake off.” We all have these. #dotmed16

— Ellie (@ellieornot) February 12, 2016


#dotMED16 more from the play James and Emily. After a failed resuscitation.

— Joel Topf (@kidney_boy) February 12, 2016

Theatre and medicine? Really? Really!! @deborahbowman at #dotmed16

— monica lalanda (@mlalanda) February 12, 2016


Following Deborah, was Ian Williams (@theBadDoctor). Ian is a comic artist and GP. He wrote a graphic novel, which he describes as a comic that requires a book mark. After he wrote the book he noted an explosion of medically themed graphic novels so he started a website to track and discuss them, Graphic Medicine. This website has made the cover of the BMJ and now has a yearly conference. He talked a bit about the history of drawing in medicine. It has until very recently been dominated by the illustrations of other peoples disease. Today we are seeing artists drwing there own illnesses.
#dotMED16 monsters. Authors view of waking with a lover he fears he may have infected with genital herpes.

— Joel Topf (@kidney_boy) February 12, 2016


#dotMED16 his image of his own OCD

— Joel Topf (@kidney_boy) February 12, 2016


I am happy to say that we now own a print of this image. Our souvenir from #dotMED16.
He tells the funny story that he put a barcode in a comic in the Guardian. The barcode resolved as a pretty rude statement. He thought it would take a few weeks to be discovered. The very first comment on the comic spilled the beans.
Do not, under any circumstances, scan this bar code #dotmed16 @TheBadDr

— Einstein Epigenomics (@EpgntxEinstein) February 12, 2016

@TheBadDr presentation was great. Entranced by his cartoons….I just managed this at #dotmed16

— monica lalanda (@mlalanda) February 12, 2016

After Ian, Ronan convened a panel of the two illustrators, Ian and Monica, and Laticcia, the photographer to discuss visual imagery in medicine.

@TheBadDr @RonanTKavanagh @subcitygalway Great panel discussion on medicine in comics #dotmed16

— Karl Sweeney (@karljsweeney) February 12, 2016

#dotMED16 @feline_charm asking a question of the panel.

— Joel Topf (@kidney_boy) February 12, 2016

Then to close out the meeting, the headliner, Stephen Bergman, AKA Samuel Shem. The name of the talk, “Staying Human in Medicine in a World on Fire.”

Ladies and gentlemen, Dr. Samuel Shem (Stephen Bergman) at #dotmed16, erudite and funny

— Einstein Epigenomics (@EpgntxEinstein) February 12, 2016

Early in his talk he recounted how he was given advice to begin his novel with lots of humor to engage his audience and leave a lot of the punch to the end. Which is exactly how he structured his talk at dotMED.

#dotMED16 when he started to write House of God he was told it needed to ride on humor. But the last third gets really dark.

— Joel Topf (@kidney_boy) February 12, 2016

He started with a charming story about how during medical school he did his OB rotation in Dublin at Hollis Street. He said it was the drunkest period of his life. He says he and his buds would get hammered at a pub then stumble back into OB ward and deliver a couple of kids. The nurses would only give him the easy ones, the moms that were delivering kid number 20. The audience was laughing uncontrollably but looking back it is kind of a horrifying story. Just like the House of God, I guess.

He told the story of how he got House of God published. He wrote the first 50 pages and he sent it off to an agent. He didn’t know what he was doing and the drat was single spaced and filled with typos and notes in the margin. A few weeks later he had forgotten all about it and received a call from the agent saying he was either insane or a genius. Later on the publisher asked if anyone in the book was identifiable. Stephen thought, “everybody” but answered just one, the chief of medicine, a renologist, who tucked his stethoscope into his pants. Son the lawyers gave him a large birthmark on his face to vaccinate them from a lawsuit.

He talked about the most important thing in medicine is connecting with a patient.

#dotMED16 how do you teach students how to deliver bad news. Do what the Fat Man does.

— Joel Topf (@kidney_boy) February 12, 2016


#dotmed16 Samuel Shem talks of the healing power of connection with the pt. The kindness & simplicity of connection is key no matter what!!!

— Valerie Keating (@fvkeating) February 12, 2016


Inserting ‘we’ into discussions with patients builds a relationship: House of God author Sam Shem at #dotmed16 #hcsmca

— Pat Rich (@pat_health) February 12, 2016

He elaborated on the healing power of connection by talking about his own alcoholism. He in recovery and a believer in alcoholics anonymous. He wrote a play about the origin of AA called Bill W. and Dr. Bob and explained that the core truth about AA is about connection:

#dotMED16 The only thing that can keep a drunk sober is telling his story to another drunk. The treatment is connection.

— Joel Topf (@kidney_boy) February 12, 2016

The problem is that meaningful use and modern medicine are separating us from our patients. It is preventing connection.

#dotMED16 he surveyed Boston and New York interns about how much time they spent in front of screens: 80%

— Joel Topf (@kidney_boy) February 12, 2016

Closing point of Bergman’s talk. So true.

“We are paid to be with people at the most significant moments of their lives” Sam Shem at #dotMED16

— Pat Rich (@pat_health) February 12, 2016

After his talk, Muiris interviewed him. Muiris started by mentioning that peope are always warned against meeting their heroes but meeting his hero, Stephen Bergman, has been wonderful.

The Laws of the House of God ; Dr.Stephen Bergman in conversation with @muirishouston at #dotMED16

— dotMEDconf (@DotMedConf) February 12, 2016


The rules of #TheHouseOfGod may not be compatible with current #sepsis guidelines. #dotMED16

— Ian Williams (@TheBadDr) February 13, 2016


You can forget knowledge, but you cannot forget what you understand – Samuel Shem #dotMED16

— dotMEDconf (@DotMedConf) February 12, 2016


What a priviledge to listen to the author of The House of God at #dotmed16

— monica lalanda (@mlalanda) February 12, 2016

Following the interview there was a wine and appetizers mixer. It was great to get a chance to chat with everybody at the conference. One of the remarkable things about dotMED was just how interesting everyone in attendance was. It was great chatting with them.

Then we went off for one last dinner and finally wrapped up up dotMED at Dex.

See that big smile on @RonanTKavanagh‘s face!? Well done to everybody involved in planning #dotmed16!

— John Brownlee (@clearJB) February 12, 2016

Just an awesome meeting and a great week in Dublin.

Smoother coverage of the meeting:

The Irish Times

Pat Rich

Marie Ennis-O’Connor put together a storify