Four months ago I had the opportunity to backpack with my son Kevin from the south rim of the Grand Canyon down thousands of feet to the floor of the inner canyon (and then back up again). As we descended, we passed through layer after layer of geologic time, seen clearly in the striped colors of the canyon walls. Cenozoic, mesozoic, paleozoic… Kevin observed that the passage of time could be seen in the color of the trail itself, formed from the surrounding rock.
Four days ago I had the opportunity to address the graduating class of the pediatric program at UC Irvine. These senior residents in pediatrics began their premedical degrees in 1996. This is the first graduating class that started their training after there were pediatricians and pediatric information available on the web.
I was struck that epochs of information-age time could be seen in the lecture hall in the color (and amount!) of hair on the heads of the physicians in the room. And these layers of time can be seen in the faces of the children these pediatricians treat.
My youngest son turned 12 this weekend. When I look in his eyes, I see someone born before pediatrics on the web was available. My daughter is 16. Her young face was born before the web was available at all. And at a time when it was difficult for an interested patient to even gain entrance to a medical library
What an exciting time for the class of 2007 to be entering practice! We are at the very dawn of a revolution in the core of what it means to be a physician, and what it means to be a patient. The ready availability of health information has begun an inexorable deepening of both roles, and of the potential for a richer therapeutic relationship than ever before.