Editor's Choice Editor's choice

Get inspired, again

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39069.589792.47 (Published 21 December 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:0
  1. Tony Delamothe, deputy editor
  1. 1 [email protected]

    Doctors don't need to look far to find reasons to be glum this festive season. If their jobs don't depress them, the behaviour of many of their national politicians will. And if not that, how about the state of our fragile planet?

    Yet doom and gloom seems an inadequate response to this world and its teeming possibilities. Students begin their medical careers inspired by these possibilities. Why can't we keep that early inspirational flame burning as brightly throughout those careers?

    A single issue of a single medical journal is not going to do it, but we wanted to flag up the challenge as worthy of attention. In these pages, you'll find a host of inspirational ideas, people, stories, and activities. But rest assured, not everything is inspirational. We've still found room for the age old enmity between physicians and surgeons—played out this time over physical appearance (doi: 10.1136/bmj.39015.672373.80)—and a series on “A day in the life of a doctor.”

    The journal opens with an editorial by Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, arguing that current practices concerning intellectual property are keeping lifesaving drugs from the developing world (doi: 10.1136/bmj.39048.428380.80). He proposes a medical prize fund, which would give large rewards for new treatments for diseases like malaria. The formulas would be made available to generic drug companies, and market forces would ensure production and distribution at the lowest possible price. “Importantly,” argues Stiglitz, “the medical prize fund would ensure that we make the best possible use of whatever knowledge we acquire, rather than hoarding it and limiting usage to those who can afford it.”

    A similar philosophy informed the movement to make original research articles “open access.” Creative Commons director John Wilbanks provides another reason for opening access to research: to allow “the full power of new technological approaches such as text mining, collaborative filtering, and semantic indexing” (doi: 10.1136/sbmj.39063.730660.F7). Some of these approaches are wrapped up in Web 2.0, the year's big internet story. For those of you who missed it, Dean Giustini provides a handy catch-up (doi: 10.1136/bmj.39062.555405.80). His challenge is just as thrilling as Stiglitz's: “An expert (that is, doctor) moderated repository of the knowledge base, in the form of a medical wiki, may be the answer to the world's inequities of information access in medicine if we have the will to create one.”

    Elsewhere in this issue you'll find articles on an extraordinary hospice building programme emanating from a tiny charity, Maggie's Centres (doi: 10.1136/bmj.39062.614132.55); five startling technologies that may transform medicine (doi: 10.1136/bmj.39049.453877.BE); and an essay comparing doctors to early polar explorers, which asks, “What fine traditions must we unload before it is too late?” (doi: 10.1136/bmj.39057.524792.BE).

    Inspiration is about having the eyes to see, the ears to hear, and the openness of mind to make new connections. General practitioner Gerhard Esser looked at his 5 year old daughter's pictures and saw a colour chart for sputum, urine, and faeces (doi: 10.1136/bmj.39044.714780.68)—and two anaesthetists saw a disposable laryngoscope blade and thought “ideal paint tin opener” (doi: 10.1136/bmj.39031.653160.AE).

    The fuel is all around us. Who will light the fires and fan the flames?

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