Blogosphere Debates Personalised Medicine

My morning read of Scienceroll highlighted a blogosphere debate regarding Sergey Brin’s recent blog posting about 23andMe.

The New York Times picked up on Sergey Brin’s new blog post. Unfortunately, according to Dr Steve Murphy, (aka The Gene Sherpa) they got some key facts wrong.

The New York Times:

Mr. Brin, who made the announcement on a blog, says he does not have the disease and that the exact implications of the discovery are not clear. Studies show that his likelihood of contracting Parkinson’s disease in his lifetime may be 20 percent to 80 percent, Mr. Brin said.

Dr Murphy:

Parkinson Disease affects approximately 1% of the population by age 65% and 4 to 5% by age 85 years. Therefore the lifetime risk is 2-5%. So a 1.2 to 2.1 Odds ratio would be 4% to 10% roughly. Not 80%!

Sergey Brin’s Blog

Sergey Brin has a new blog which he talks about his discovery through the 23andMe personal genetics testing service that he is at ’20-80%’ higher risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease than the general population:

This leaves me in a rather unique position. I know early in my life something I am substantially predisposed to. I now have the opportunity to adjust my life to reduce those odds (e.g. there is evidence that exercise may be protective against Parkinson’s). I also have the opportunity to perform and support research into this disease long before it may affect me. And, regardless of my own health it can help my family members as well as others.

I’ve highlighted a particularly interesting sentence. Do you think we will start seeing a trend where wealthy individuals start contributing to research that might provide them personally with a benefit within their lifetimes? This is of course already happening to some degree, but genetic testing will give them the opportunity to invest more accurately for their personal benefit.

Medicine 2.0

The Medicine 2.0 Congress was held last week in Toronto, Canada. I attended on my way back from the AMEE 2008 conference in Prague.

My role was to chair the session on medical education on day 1 and to present 2 talks on day 2, one on mobile computing and one on online communities.

The event was a great opportunity to catch up with my health informatics colleagues and meet face-to-face with previously only online acquaintances.

Peter Murray gave an excellent keynote address, introducing the conference and some of the themes of Medicine 2.0 on behalf of the IMIA. Gunther Eysenbach followed with his welcome and an introduction to the concept of ‘Apomediation’. For those not in the know, you can read up on apomediation in his JMIR article introducing the concept.

The ‘Medical Bloggers’ panel consisted of Berci Mesko, Peter Murray, Jen McCabe Gorman, Keith Kaplan and Sam Solomon. The panel included some great presentations, and I found Sam’s tale of medical blogging gone wrong particularly interesting.

After lunch, I listened to Leanne Bowler talk about teen health sites and Margaret Hansen gave us an insight into the world of virtual reality medical education.

Next up was the session I chaired on Medical Education. We had a great presentation from Panos Bamidis, who talked about the use of Moodle and other e-learning technologies he uses on his Medical Informatics courses. Deidre Bonnycastle was a very enthusiastic advocate of e-learning tools and told us about the various technologies she had tried at the University of Saskatchewan. Berci Mesko gave a very interesting talk about protecting your online reputation and he also showed us some of the fascinating presentations he has attended in Second Life. Finally, Rod Ward livened up the crowd with an animated discussion about all aspects of the use of Web 2.0 technology in medical education.

The next day kicked off with talks from Judy Proudfoot, Caryl Barnes and Lisa Whitehead on the subject of Methodological Issues and Challenges in eHealth Research.

Next up was my session with Carol Bond, Shirley Fenton, myself and Ken Seto. We talked about various aspects of running online medical communities for education and developing professional connections.

After lunch I gave another presentation, this time on the role of mobile technology in medicine. My co-presenters for the session included Benjamin Hughes and Indra Joshi, who talked about the kinds of websites junior doctors used; Miguel Cabrer, who demonstrated the amazing MedTing platform; and Marcelino Cabrera Giraldez, who talked about how Web 2.0 can be used for patients with rare diseases.

The day rounded off with presentations from Joan Dzenowagis of the WHO and Kevin Clauson who gave a very entertaining and interactive session on the risks associated with Web 2.0.

For more coverage of the conference check out:

Peter Murray on the HI Krew:

Rod Ward on Informaticopia:

Berci Mesko on Scienceroll:

John Sharp on eHealth:

Neil Versel on the Healthcare IT Blog:

Kate Jongbloed on Unpacking Development:

Even more at:


radRounds is a social network for radiologists founded by Steven Chan MD:

radRounds is a new tool for professional networking, collaboration, and learning for radiologists, industry leaders, and medical imaging professionals. This is like Sermo, LinkedIN, MySpace, Facebook, Orkut, but completely managed and created by radiologists FOR radiology! Think of radRounds as the “social network” for medical imaging..

Visit at

AMEE 2008

I’ve just arrived back in New Zealand after an enjoyable and productive trip to Prague in the Czech Republic for AMEE 2008. On the way back I stopped off at the Medicine 2.0 conference in Toronto, but more about that later.

I was at AMEE 2008 to present about using Online Communities in medical education and I talked about my use of communities for supporting university papers (e.g. Web 2.0 Summer School at Otago University), professional communities (e.g. Health Informatics Forum) and communities of medical students (e.g. New Media Medicine).

I was also there to meet up with the MEFANET team to discuss international collaboration on medical e-learning projects. We met up with MEFANET organisers and Julien Broisin from ARIADNE at the ‘Faust’ house at Charles University Medical School.

MEFANET is a new collaborative networks of 10 European medical schools with the aim of sharing e-learning content and technology. The network is already up and running and appears to have a good uptake from the schools involved. They have a number of learning ‘objects’ that the schools have shared with each other and have a single sign on, managed using the shibboleth software.

There was also a wide range of presentations on e-learning at the conference from other groups and universities. There seems to be a lot of progress in some areas and a lack of progress in others. Many universities are now using learning content management systems and allowing students access to internal e-learning content, but there appears to be some reticence about opening up communities and learning resources to outside users.

I found the work of the eVIP group to be particularly interesting. They are aiming to create a bank of electronic virtual patient scenarios that can be shared between partner universities. They also seem to be generating useful research on the problem of patient consent and anonymisation which appears to be very much in demand.

All in all, it was a very successful conference, with attendees from all over the world. The atmosphere was very friendly and relaxed and Prague was a wonderful venue. I’m looking forward to watching the development of MEFANET and the other e-learning initiatives demonstrated at the conference.

Versatile, Immersive, Creative and Dynamic Virtual 3-D Healthcare Learning Environments: A Review of the Literature

The JMIR has just publised a review article by Margaret Hansen on the use of Virtual Worlds in healthcare education:

The author provides a critical overview of three-dimensional (3-D) virtual worlds and “serious gaming” that are currently being developed and used in healthcare professional education and medicine. The relevance of this e-learning innovation for teaching students and professionals is debatable and variables influencing adoption, such as increased knowledge, self-directed learning, and peer collaboration, by academics, healthcare professionals, and business executives are examined while looking at various Web 2.0/3.0 applications. There is a need for more empirical research in order to unearth the pedagogical outcomes and advantages associated with this e-learning technology. A brief description of Roger’s Diffusion of Innovations Theory and Siemens’ Connectivism Theory for today’s learners is presented as potential underlying pedagogical tenets to support the use of virtual 3-D learning environments in higher education and healthcare.