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Sharing information with new knowledge in ophthalmology

We are lucky to have an elaborate system in which 
sharing is so highly valued, writes Leigh Spielberg MD in the editorial in October 2016 EuroTimes

Leigh Spielberg

Posted: Saturday, October 1, 2016

poster-sessions_2615The speed with which new knowledge in ophthalmology is currently disseminated would make every physician since Hippocrates green with envy. With a little luck and a lot of perseverance, anyone with a tried and tested discovery can let the whole world know about it within months. More importantly, anyone looking for this information can readily find it, whether online, at conferences or in traditional printed journals.

“We live in interesting times. The whole world is a global village. When we publish, the whole world is our audience,” writes Manish Mahabir, the winner of this year’s John Henahan Prize for ophthalmology writing and a co-author of a paper published in Nature. The proliferation of informative sources has made everyone part of this audience, including readers of EuroTimes. Dr Mahabir’s prize-winning essay is being published in this month’s issue.

But some might argue that the explosion in the number of published journals has diluted the pool of knowledge available, making it difficult to figure out what’s really important. This is indeed true for anyone who has not developed a system to sift through the inevitable noise. There are, however, solutions.

PubCrawler, an update alerting service for PubMed, is a great way to keep up with what’s being published on particular issues. I receive regular updates on topics of my choice (macular holes, capsular tension rings, submacular hemorrhage) right into my inbox. The motto of PubCrawler: “It goes to the library – you go to the pub.”

For those looking for a one-stop shop for updates on innovations in anterior segment pathology, the XXXIV Congress of the ESCRS in Copenhagen last month was the way to go. There was something for everyone, from young residents and fellows, to university department chairs and ophthalmology clinic directors. An instructional course entitled ‘Refractive and Cataract Surgery Nightmares’ cannot be ignored, and the whole refractive world seems curious enough about SMILE to attend at least a session devoted to the new technique.

If total immersion in the world of retinal disease is what you’re looking for, the 16th EURETINA Congress in Copenhagen was the place to be. Although I love reading a well-written article on a selected topic, hearing well-prepared presentations by the authors of the year’s most widely-read papers is tough to beat. I particularly enjoyed several of the ‘Decision-Making in Challenging Cases: What to do when…’ sessions, which offered insights that only the most motivated mentors are willing to share. Teaching other doctors during a busy schedule is tricky business, but many presenters attend conferences to do just that.

Without researchers’ enthusiasm for sharing their most promising discoveries, a new technology such as OCT would never have spread as quickly as it did. This spread was not only geographic (with OCT currently featured in clinics worldwide) and subspecialistic (with corneal, cataract, glaucoma and retinal specialists relying on it daily). The spread was also across medical specialties, being used in cardiology and oncology, among others. As this month’s cover story reports, OCT incorporated itself into the world of ophthalmology within a decade of its invention and introduction.

Medicine is rare in its enthusiasm for sharing information. We are fortunate to have devised an elaborate system in which sharing is highly valued and well rewarded. Let us continue to nurture it.