Things don’t make sense UNTIL THEY DO (mitochondria in the eye, from

John Ball via

In medical school, we all learned that the back of the eye, the retina that gathers and converts light from photons into electric signals in neurons, were cluttered with cell bodies and mitochondria that seemed to BLOCK light to the photo-receptors. We all sat around and puzzled “huh, why is that” and, in 1986, had no answer from the textbook.

Well, science progresses, and NOW there is an incredible answer, from the retinas of squirrels. Thanks to our brilliant basic science colleagues.

In a grand case of convergent evolution, birds circling high overhead, mosquitoes buzzing around their delicious human victims, and you reading this article have all independently evolved related optical functions—adaptations that bring a sharp and vibrant world to the eye of the beholder.

Yasemin Sapakoglu (

Using CRISPR gene editing to affect epigenetics?

Here’s another editing function that we humans now have over our own genes. Cool advances by scientists to advance the frontier.

Epigenetics is the study of the chemical changes that happen to DNA throughout a lifetime, which in turn affect the expression of genes. These changes can occur as a result of a person’s behavior (such as through diet or smoking) or environmental exposures (such as to toxins or ultraviolet rays). Epigenetics is a kind of molecular memory that reflects the experiences that we’ve encountered over many years. It’s the reason why, among identical twins who share the same DNA code, one may develop cancer while the other remains healthy.

Emily Mullen,

The ongoing remote vs return-to-work debate (nytimes)

What is your organization doing? We (as of early June) seeing a “test positivity rate” as high as 28% for COVID in our region (it was as low as 3% a couple months ago just before Omicron variant), but a low hospitalization rate.

The informatics team (my Large PIGs) are still exclusively meeting remotely.

We are actually writing this COVID pandemic textbook paragraph-by-paragraph together, my friends. There is no “playbook” for how to behave now.

Dr. Glaucomflecken’s graduation speech to University of Colorado School of Medicine 2022

Of course the entire 90 minutes is worth watching, AND Dr. Glaucomflecken starts at minute 24. His speech is only about 13 minutes long. You won’t regret hearing what he has to say. He has survived 2 cancers, and a cardiac arrest (really? wow)

I’m so grateful to amazing folks like Dr. Will Flannery (Glaucomflecken’s real name), his humility, his insight, his humor, his TikTok channel. He’s a shining example of what a humanist physician aspires to be.

A.I. Is Mastering Language. Should We Trust What It Says? (nytimes)

GPT-3 can write text that astounds, based on its Large Language Model. Things are happening, people. Are we paying attention? #hcldr #hitsm #whyinformatics

I’m always on the looking for developments in computing outside of healthcare. This is a longer read, but so thought provoking:

  • What is a Large Language Model and why is it only recently important?
  • What is GPT-3 and what are all these magical things it supposedly does?
  • Can GPT-3 digest 1000 progress notes of a patient chart, say, and write a cogent 1-page summary for a clinician to digest rapidly? I’d pay for THAT.

‘‘The underlying idea of GPT-3 is a way of linking an intuitive notion of understanding to something that can be measured and understood mechanistically,’’ he finally said, ‘‘and that is the task of predicting the next word in text.’’ 

Prompt the algorithm with a sentence like ‘‘The writer has omitted the very last word of the first . . . ’’ and the guesses will be a kind of stream of nonsense: ‘‘satellite,’’ ‘‘puppy,’’ ‘‘Seattle,’’ ‘‘therefore.’’ But somewhere down the list — perhaps thousands of words down the list — the correct missing word appears: ‘‘paragraph.’’ The software then strengthens whatever random neural connections generated that particular suggestion and weakens all the connections that generated incorrect guesses. And then it moves on to the next prompt. Over time, with enough iterations, the software learns.

Ilya Sutskever

There is all this discussion of “is this a sophisticated parrot” or “truly an artificial intelligence capable of generating new ideas.” Well, in our Electronic Health Record world, just the first item would be transformative, if we can get an AI to digest a hyperobject large set of data into an executive brief. Just that.

CMIO’s take? This is an important article by Steven Johnson in the New York Times Magazine. Watch this space; the development of GPT-3 heralds a qualitative improvement in AI language models; so much so that we feel compelled to teach it values and culture lest it start spewing hatred it learns on the internet. This is a worthwhile long read.

Virtual Reality: reliving the past for seniors? (nytimes)

Interesting that one of our innovation partners, Rendever, has developed a way for family members to record and annotate video to be viewed by seniors, so that they can see their hometown, where they grew up, where they worked, to reawaken pleasant memories of times past. An interesting, unanticipated way of using virtual reality.

A Woman’s guide to Toxic Trolls (

I have lost the ability to even … #hcldr #whyinformatics #hitsm

Image from Getty, via

Sometimes a well-written piece allows one to step outside of one’s identity and perceive what it is like to be someone else. This is one.

This is a “wow” read, in support of my colleagues out there using social media for good, and how about 50% of our colleagues suffer through nearly unimaginable interactions in a largely unregulated space. AND one way to fight back.

HIMSStv: video interview about innovation and RxRevu, real-time benefits at UCHealth

We talk about EHR optimization, clinician burnout, real-time prescription cost data