An English Prof and a Pediatrician Walk into a Bar…

Screenshot_1_7_13_10_21_AM-2Today marked the first class of Medicine in the Age of Networked Intelligence, a Rice University course (English 278) that I’m co-teaching with my Medical Futures Lab partner-in-crime, Kirsten Ostherr, PhD.

Our course examines how developments in mobile, social, personal and global health are transforming research, communication, and medical practice.  Topics of focus include social media, mHealth, quantified self, big data, ethics, and the evolving doctor-patient relationship.  The course is open and relevant to any Rice student interested in understanding how culture and health communication have changed in the networked age.

Here’s the best part: a significant portion of the course grade will be dependent upon publicly created content (written and video) and conversation centered on our reading and class discussions.  At the end of the class they will be required to generate a synthesis/summary of their online portfolio.  Some of our students will be attending the Health 2.0 Houston launch to interview some of our local 2.0 luminaries.  Follow their progress on the class Tumblr where their creation, curation and comments will live (look for student posts beginning in about 2 weeks).  And please comment as things evolve.  We’re counting on dialog with you as a means of understanding the emerging role of public thinking.

So what’s a pediatrician doing teaching an English class at Rice University?  And what’s an English Professor doing thinking about technology, media and the future of medicine?  Quite a bit, actually.  We believe that the solutions to medicine’s most pressing issues can be found in the collaborative experiences of non-traditional stakeholders.  This is the thinking behind our Medical Futures Lab, a collaborative project involving Rice University, Baylor College of Medicine and UT Health Science Center.

Wish me luck.  I’ll be writing about my experience teaching college students here, on the Networked Intelligence Tumblr and over on the MFL site.

The woodcut illustration above was created by Matthia Qualle in 1510 and published in 1513.  Latin notations indicate specific areas of the brain and their corresponding senses.  The is in the public domain and is courtesy of the National Library of Medicine.

The Medical Futures Lab is Now

Medicine is in the midst of a shift never before seen.  Information and technology are advancing at rates faster than our ability to adapt.  The physician of 2050 will think and work in a way that can only be imagined by the current generation.  But we’re completely unprepared to deal with what lies ahead.

That’s because medicine has traditionally focused on what we currently understand.  Our practices and workflows have been predicated on models shaped by the generation before us.  But medical educators need to anticipate and study the issues evolving as medicine undergoes its most extreme transformation.

This past weekend at Stanford’s Medicine X, we launched The Medical Futures Lab, a collaborative space dedicated to rethinking medicine in the digital age.  The MFL will bring the undergraduates of Rice University together with humanist scholars, computer scientists, designers, medical students and doctors from both University of Texas Health Science Center and Baylor College of Medicine.  Our portfolio will include a suite of courses, design studios, media experiments, and continuing medical education courses.  We’re looking to leverage our collective capabilities to identify core problems, create dialog, and fashion innovative solutions, all in a uniquely creative academic culture.

It’s a tall order.  But someone’s gotta do it.

Right now we’re busy planning Millennial Medicine, an April 2013 meeting on the disruption of medical education.  We’re bringing together some of the planet’s most unique anti-disciplinary thinkers to discuss what we need to do to bring medical education into the digital age.  If you’re in medical education, miss it at your own peril.  Millennial Medicine is generously supported by the Josiah Macy Jr Foundation and the Rice University Center for Humanities.

My partner-in-crime is Kirsten Ostherr.  She’s an english professor with a penchant for media, imagery, health and really big ideas.  You’ll find us together at Rice University in the spring of 2013 teaching Medicine in the Age of Networked Intelligence.  We’ll be looking for your input as we build the curriculum.  Stay tuned.

And in just a few short weeks you’ll find us on the first floor of the BioScience Research Collaborative on the campus of Rice University.  Come by, put your feet up and help us shape medicine.  You can follow our public thinking on or on Twitter @MedFutures.