The Boys in the Boat (book review)

From the Everett Herald

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics https://www.amazon.com/dp/0143125478/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_M81Q4K17N2RTE3JE8RYA

OMG. 6 out of 5 stars. This was intended as a fun summer read. But also, it has catapulted me into the Great Depression, WW2, Leni Riefenstahl and groundbreaking cinematography, the rise of Nazi Germany, collegiate regattas, and the elusive and ephemeral ‘swing’ of rowing. I listened to the audio book. I usually listen at 1.25x or 1.5 or sometimes even 2x: the narrative is usually more important than the writing.

But this. The story, even though the end is known, is riveting. The story of Joe Rantz is the heart and soul of the tale. The author weaves so many threads into a tapestry that envelops and then propels you forward, like the coiled might of 8 undergraduate underdogs, their brilliant coxswain and a cedar-hulled shell, coming from behind as 70,000 voices yell ‘Deutschland! Deutschland!’ to the German boat several lengths in the lead.

This, I listened to at 1.0 and savored every moment.

Go ahead, read the other reviews, but don’t tarry: the Boys in the Boat await you. I am jealous that you will experience this for the first time.

Here’s an 11 minute retrospective, including the granddaughter of Joe Rantz.

What TikTok teaches us about effective communication

Those of us stuck in the “last century” take heed: TikTok and 15 to 60 second videos are IN.

My Tiktok channel: https://www.tiktok.com/@ctlin99

The TL;DR? 15 seconds should be the length of your educational videos. Wanna know why? and how? read on.

I was a Late adopter of Facebook

I’ve been thinking about the evolution of social media. In early days, I was a late adopter of Facebook, not getting why it was any better than email. Now, I get it: saying something once allows your network to see it, from close friends, to casual acquaintances. Medical residents explained to me that photos and memories were easier to share more broadly. AND, an existing large network made participation more valuable (hey! look at all the people I already know on here!).

Just like in the old days, getting a telephone was INCREASINGLY useful if there were MORE people and stores you could call. The network effect.

LinkedIn, Twitter

That led me over the years to LinkedIn (mostly for work contacts and posting my CV and work products publicly) and Twitter (still figuring it out, but a good way to keep up with news if you curate your network carefully, and also a way to post blog content). Also, Twitter allows you to curate for yourself an international community with similar interests, like #medtwitter.

And, my brilliant younger sister taught me that Twitter could also be good for lecture commentary and discussion (she will give a talk on 2 screens: one with her slides and another with a live pre-filtered Twitter feed: how brave! and give out a custom hashtag, like #postitpearls_lecture, and ask the audience to submit questions this way: wow).

YouTube

And, some of you know that I’ve dabbled in amateur song-parodies with EHR songs on my youtube channel.

IFTTT, blogging

Finally, I’ve figured out how to blog regularly and then use IFTTT to cross-post my content auto-magically to my other platforms (Facebook page, Twitter, LinkedIn) so that I can seem more connected and omni-present than I really am (Thanks for another great tip, Sis).

Tiktok?

BUT! TikTok is another thing altogether. My colleague and her daughter suggested that I take my latest Hamilton parody song (that I had gamely posted to YouTube and here I am shamelessly showing it to you again)

#notthrowinawaymyshot and now post it on TikTok, a post-millenial social media platform restricted to 60 second videos. Leaving aside the recent kerfuffle about Chinese ownership and control, this is qualitatively a different animal: getting your thoughts across in 15 seconds (preferred duration, and the time restriction being a result of the music industry’s maximum replay length of a copyrighted song). It has since been extended to 60 second maximum if you have an original soundtrack on your video.

So, I dove in. Unlike my “dozens” of views on my YouTube channel (with which I was satisfied; my broadcast domain is, admittedly to a relatively small physician informatics audience), my TikToks quickly blossomed to nearly 1000 views in 2 days.

Wow! I thought. I am AMAZING on TikTok.

What I did not appreciate is the 15 to 60 second format is much more attuned to the rapid “swipe” of post-millenials, and EVERYONE racks up lots of views. And, ultra-short videos are so easy to consume one after the other. AND, TikTok doesn’t need you to establish your network before your video gets out there; it shows your video to a random selection of viewers, and then those who LIKE it or SUBSCRIBE to you trigger the algorithm to show it to more viewers. So, an easy way to game the system is to use trending (but highly inaccurate) hashtags, like #superbowl, etc. Sadly, this user does not seem to have understood, or be willing to follow, some of these informal rules.

Furthermore, if you read online chatter about TikTok views “500 views total, is pretty sad; what you want is 500 views per hour.” For example, Nathan Evans, of Sea Shanty fame? He went viral at about 250,000 views, and now he’s at 12.9 million. Oh, well. Here’s my paltry Covid Sea Shanty, currently at 62 views (not 62,000) and SIX LIKES.

In contrast, our Informatics team at UCHealth just retired/deleted a 17-minute video I made a 10 years ago for a full “walkthrough” of how to use the Electronic Health Record for our ambulatory clinic physicians. Whew, how out of touch was THIS guy? Here’s a one minute snippet of the kind of video I posted back then, when we were on Allscripts Touchworks. So young, so naive.

Our more recent training videos are more like 1-2 minutes and focused on ONE technique or tool. Now, I’m thinking, maybe we need to shoot for 15-30 seconds. The cool thing about TikToks is that you can trim seconds, speed things up, because those viewers who “get it” can be done watching in 15 seconds, but the video can be paused and also it automatically replays so the viewer can catch subtle details. Hmm, is this a paradigm shift? Should we embed TikTok length education videos into our EHR?

Put Road Signs On the Roadway

As we say internally, shouldn’t we put the Road Signs and Driving Directions (our tips and tricks) on the Roadway (where our users are actually using the EHR) and not in the Garage (our online reference library and training webinars)? Aren’t our users more likely to click on tips WHEN they’re doing work, rather than when “oh, I have some time, let me see what I can go learn.” (which is never)

Austin Chang is my hero

There clearly is an entire evolution of thinking needed to succeed in this TikTok medium. And I don’t have the savvy (yet), the luck, or the persistence to grind out the many tries needed to break through. However, there are medical professionals who have. For example, Austin Chang.

Austin is … well, just go watch him. In 15 seconds, with hilarious music over-dubs, he uses captions and terrible dancing while in scrubs (ok not so terrible), to get his medical facts out there.

I both bemoan the general public’s deterioration of attention span (15 seconds now? Really?) and his ability to fit his tiny education bites (bytes?) into this format. It works. Some of his TikToks are over 2 million views. On MEDICAL TOPICS. Nice. Here’s the NYTimes writing about him.

This reminds me of reading The Shallows, a book about what the Internet is doing to our brains. Are we losing the ability to read a book? I don’t know. I, for one, did not finish reading the book. Ironic.

CMIO’s take: Beat ’em or Join ’em? What are YOU doing about TikTok in your field?

All successful projects have a great story. What is yours?

Anyone out there trying to get a project funded?

Maybe, some of you are trying to get the attention of leaders in your organization to try an idea that is important to you?

Perhaps you’re frustrated that colleagues don’t agree with your viewpoint, and no one seems to listen?

Or, some say “your explanations are just so dry, we miss your entire point.”

Yes?

Consider: that in healthcare, and as scientists, we are taught to memorize our facts, build on scientific principle, and be rigorous. We rarely take the time to learn storytelling and communication. In fact the phrase “tell a story” in medical interview implies that you are lying.

Well, time to change all that. As informaticists, as medical professionals, as scientists, we need to be masters of storytelling. It is the ONLY thing that changes minds.

‘Sure, keep doing the great science that we all do, but let’s learn to communicate.

One of my favorite instructors in communication is Andy Goodman. At his website, you can sign up for his newsletter (and read archival issues, here is a good example about SMALL stories, and another one about Powerpoint use). His center is dedicated to improving the communication of all-important non-profit companies.

Here’s an example of his paradigm shifting ideas: “Why are non-profits named after things they are NOT? Why not name them for things they are FOR? Non-profits should be called “Public Interest companies.” Huh. How about that?

And, watch his talk above.

CMIO’s take? We all need to talk gooder.

Wall Street Casual (NYtimes) vs Loki?

Some of you remember me, with pre-pandemic bow-tie.

Soooooo long ago. Good old days?

During the pandemic, our family went into full-on Joseph Lister anti-sepsis mode. I’d dress for clinic in a button down shirt, casual pants, mask and face shield, strip down in the garage on getting home, yell “contagion!” to clear my path to the laundry, and wash everything in hot water immediately. No dry cleaning piles, no laundry baskets. Right into the machine.

No watch, no bowtie, no glasses, no dress shoes. My shoes were washable Keens. My wallet became a paper-clip with $20, a credit card, my entry card and ID, and a folded letter that certified that I was essential personnel in case I got stopped at a quarantine checkpoint.

Here we are a year later, and clothing-wise, not much has changed. Casual seems dressy enough. We’re still masking, and starting Monday, I think we’ll be back to wearing face shields, as the Delta variant rages on.

I think the Loki variant is a lot more fun, personally.

Dark Rounds – Faith Fitzgerald MD

Dr. Faith Fitzgerald, Master of the American College of Physicians, and one of my mentors

https://www-acpjournals-org.proxy.hsl.ucdenver.edu/doi/pdf/10.7326%2F0003-4819-138-9-200305060-00015

I came across this article again, written by one of my mentors, Dr. Faith Fitzgerald in 2003. I was always astonished that her discussions, and her talks, even at Morning Report, that off-the-cuff discussion of cases the morning after a busy overnight on-call, seemed to come out of her mouth, like fully formed medical textbook chapters.

As interns and residents, we were riveted, and also despaired that we would ever achieve that level of knowledge and mastery of medicine.

In fact, this worked directly against me, when, in my naiveté, I suggested that she use Pubmed, or the online search tool (in 1989!) to find relevant medical articles. As she would regularly devour volumes of medical literature, she could easily cite more relevant articles, and faster, than I could type in MeSH search terms. And, she never agreed that the introduction of electronic health records was a positive influence on healthcare in this country.

Nevertheless, I always looked up to her thoughtfulness, to her skill as a master clinician, and her writings. If you’re inclined, use “scholar.google.com” (to find research articles) and search for “Faith Fitzgerald” and “annals” and you’ll get numerous personal viewpoint articles she wrote for the Annals of Internal Medicine. They’re one page and beautifully written anecdotes.

“Dark Rounds” was a particular favorite (link above), about how a frustrated attending physician, in the too-busy environment of hospitals, teaching rounds, rush-to-discharge to shorten “length of stay” found a way to connect with her patients.

CMIO’s take? Master physicians like Dr. Fitzgerald are rare and precious. How do we grow more like her?

The Premonition – Michael Lewis: not the pandemic story you think it is.

from Amazon.com

When my book club decided to read “The Premonition” and I found out it was about the pandemic, I discovered that I was TIRED OF READING ABOUT THE PANDEMIC.

But, I underestimated Michael Lewis’s skill as a storyteller. I guarantee that you have not heard these stories. Not about Dr. Charity Dean, Santa Barbara County’s Public Health Officer. Not about the Wolverines, a shadow organization comprised of current and former federal government employees connecting resources and brainstorming ideas. Not about the fundamental structural problems and failures with the CDC since 1976.

I was entranced and raced through this book. It was complementary to the things I thought knew about the pandemic, having just lived through it.

The CDC does not come out smelling like roses. Neither do most federal agencies with political appointments. And Lewis dives into it incisively, following these personal tales where they lead.

He ends with a hopeful note, that Dr. Dean has left public service to found a private sector company called “The Public Health Company.” Maybe if the feds, our public health infrastructure, and the CDC cannot act effectively, those who DID act effectively in 2020 can become a consulting firm to private industry (there is immediate demand among large international companies for such services, advice and protection) and eventually support the federal government if we do not fix our pandemic responsiveness, when the next pandemic (and yes, it is coming) arrives.

CMIO’s take? I have new respect for public health officers. I have new respect for the CDC prior to 1976 and hope that this book points us to lessons on how to re-invigorate our federal institutions, and make them effective again. This is very readable, and worth your read.

The most effective way to approach the vaccine-hesitant

From Haymarket marketing communications website MM+M

https://www.mmm-online.com/home/podcasts/the-mmm-podcast-6-24-21-zss-jacob-braude

This is a 28 minute podcast. The crucial moment (for me) is about 12:30.

Of the all the psychologies and tactics to address various subpopulations of the vaccine hesitate (for pediatrics, for adults, for COVID in particular), ONE tactic was most effective across all these subpopulations, use of “confirmation bias” as a tactic.

If you’re in a conversation about the vaccine, leave aside all the data and arguments.

Often we see people trying to persuade by saying ‘OK, here are the facts. Here’s why you should get vaccinated,’ ” Braude said. “But this research says actually what you should ask is ‘OK, why would someone want to get vaccinated?’ and have them go through the process in their own words. That works much better than the persuasion techniques we see people trying to use.

It turns out that 20-44% of people who answered this question, who were asked to TAKE THE EMPATHIC STEP of putting themselves in the shoes of someone wanting to be vaccinated, and then having to describe the reasons why, ended up changing their mind and agreeing to get vaccinated.

Huh. I think I have never done that. Time to learn and use something new.

CMIO’s take? There are so many interesting facets of the human mind. Even amongst physicians and healthcare workers, we have a lot to learn about how humans think, and how we make decisions. We need to harness this for the public good. Who is with me?

Intersection of Robotics and K-pop

from hyundai.com via wired.com

https://www.wired.com/story/boston-dynamics-bts-spots-on-it/

I love when robotic engineering cross-fertilizes with art and dance, as in this mash-up.

I’ve mentioned before that my son has his own youtube channel, as, during the pandemic he and his sister got into K-pop, learned some dances from BTS and others, and now Mom and Dad are also nascent K-pop (and K-drama!) fans. Heck, even PBS has gotten into explaining the nuances of K-pop (9 min Youtube).

On the other hand, I’m always interested in taking science and engineering ideas and making them more accessible, more beautiful, more elegant.

Here’s Boston Dynamics’ Robot(s) SPOT dancing to IONIQ from BTS. Enjoy.