Monthly Archives: February 2015

SPIE 2015 Talks Big [data]

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the SPIE Medical Imaging conference held in Orlando, FL. My visit was cut short to a single full day, but it was enough to learn a great deal.

The meeting is divided into different tracks, each a themed conference with a keynote speaker, paper presentations, and a workshop. Attendees are free to switch from room to room to attend different topics. These are generally engineers, physicists, computer scientists, as well as industry leaders in imaging technology like IBM and Siemens. I spent most of my day in the PACS and Medical Informatics (9418) conference.

SPIE Medical Imaging conference is held in Orlando FL this year

SPIE Medical Imaging conference is held in Orlando FL this year

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Tips on Putting Thoughts into Writing

Writing is an excellent stress reliever – and, according to New York Times, modulates one’s self-narrative.  This is true even if you are bad at it!  (Who has two thumbs and can barely keep “your” and “you’re” straight?)

Recording thoughts is also an excellent exercise in staying focused.  I am a very distractible person, frequently leaving sentences un

© Mats Tooming | Dreamstime Stock Photos

© Mats Tooming | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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How Do You Solve Your Maze?

Envision a mouse trying to solve a maze for a piece of cheese, and he has to decide which way to turn at the first cross-section. He takes a look at the three possible routes, thinks for a bit, then turns a sharp left and ran. In a complex labyrinth, the mouse would most likely reach a dead-end by blind guessing.

A regular mouse might get confused (where’s my cheese?!). A smart mouse might think “well that’s all wasted effort, let’s start over” and start again from the beginning. But a smarter mouse might try to backtrack as little as possible, by going back to the nearest intersection and making a different turn.

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Do Your Research Before Doing Your Research

Recently I had an idea.  Something just clicked when I least expected it – of course!  Why didn’t I ever thought of that before?  A simple research question.  A simple way to answer it.  Helpful contribution to knowledge.  I began to assemble the idea by writing it down, into outlines and paragraphs, thinking through all the possibilities.

Then it occurred to me to use PubMed.  It turns out that although I didn’t “ever thought of that before,” someone else clearly did.   It was a good paper.  So there was that.

Every now and then we all stumble upon an idea so good, so exciting, so cool that we want to pursue it and make it our life’s goal – a research focus, a project, a new company.

Just be careful that someone else might have had that epiphany too.  Last year. Find out what happened to that idea before starting yours.

Be a humble impostor

There is such thing as the impostor syndrome, in high-powered institutions when students and trainees hear their inner voices tell them that they are a fraud, that the admissions office made a mistake.  And the worst of it – on the next test, the truth will be revealed, and everyone will find out.

You might not be an impostor, but you also might be working among very smart people.  If you are as lucky as I am, you would have the occasional opportunity to be the dumbest person around.

I say lucky because once you realize that you work with a the world’s smartest people and trust that you still belong, you will have the humility to become a little bit more like them and the confidence to believe you can.

Is your niche too narrow? Too wide? It doesn’t matter.

Academics care about being in a niche.  A person only has 24 hours a day and 7 days a week.  It’s practically impossible to be the world expert in everything.

Some days I worry that my interest in informatics is too narrow.  So tell me again, why wouldn’t anyone just hire either a dedicated radiologist or a dedicated informaticist?  What’s the point of you?

Some days I worry my niche is too broad. Because that’s basically all of radiology, you dimwit!  That inner voice in my head would scream.   How can you expect to understand all of what makes my profession tick, all the intricacies behind every segmentation algorithm, every big-data challenge, every line of code?  Give it up.

And then there are days when I spend 8 hours doing something I want to do, and the day feels 20 minutes long.  Days when I feel tired but satisfied, proud to have made those career choices.

These are the days when that voice doesn’t speak.


Measure Differently to Think Differently

Credit: Innovation by Boegh, licensed by Creative Commons

There are many forms of innovations.  Sometimes medical innovation is nanotechnology, molecular imaging, high-precision targeted therapy, or 3D-printed prosthetic, which are advancements whose adaptation rate are limited by the rate of research.  This is a good thing.

And then, there exists technology that has become commonplace in every other industry but is still considered “innovation” in medicine due to their glacial adaptation rates in hospitals and clinics.  Case in point: When was the last time you saw a pager that doesn’t belong to a healthcare provider?

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