The importance of live interaction for innovation in atherosclerosis

Literature - Prof Peter Libby, Harvard Medical School - ISA-2015, Amsterdam

Prof. Peter Libby from Brigham and Womens Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston (MA), USA in his openings speech at ISA2015 in Amterdam:

We live in an information age.  Twitter, Instagram and the like furnish access to uninhibited, unfiltered thoughts and pictures in real time worldwide. 
A surfeit of SMS, an avalanche of Email surrounds us. We enjoy immediate Internet access in real time to late braking trials and “ePub ahead of print.”
The whole world has access to gifted teachers through TED Talks.  Massive open online courses (MOOCs) permit villagers from the Texas panhandle to Bangladesh to “attend” MIT and Stanford.

This meeting has appropriately embraced state of the art technology:  we have been given a tablet and just enjoyed music played on transparent electronic fiddles.   What would Antonio Stradivari have thought?

So in the face of this barrage and richness of instantaneous communication via the web, why do we need a meeting like this one.  Are such live meetings still relevant and useful, or an antique exercise whose time has passed?

I argue that the human element afforded by live meetings stimulates conversations, controversy, and commonality; and fosters discussion, disagreement, and resolution far better than electronic exchanges.  Just as physicians should not let clinical informatics and computer screens come between them and their patients, we need and should foster face to face communication between colleagues.

I urge you to judge for yourselves during this meeting.  I invite you to observe the interactions between neophytes and more senior investigators, and among peers at this meeting, around posters and during the social sessions.  I invite you to listen to the thrust and parry of questions and answers during the scientific sessions. 

This is an exciting time in our field where some old shibboleths have shuddered, and now concepts and findings promise to revolutionize our approaches to atherosclerosis.  Our enterprise is self-correcting.  We make and test hypotheses, and when the data challenge them, we modify them, and move forward.  The live meeting furnishes a crucible for this ferment.  The live format fosters this process, airs the debates, and allows each of us to hear the various opinions, evaluate the data, and decide for ourselves in a more fully informed manner.

Some might consider that the interactions with industry at a meeting like this could somehow diminish the proceedings.  I argue that during the course of this meeting, we will witness the desirability, and even the necessity of transparent, and ethical interactions with industry.  Such interchange can elevate our mission, and help speed the development and rigorous testing of therapies to promote public health.

But why is an International meeting needed?  Could not the plethora of smaller, regional meetings meet these needs?   I ask you to consider the headlines in any major newspaper on any day.  You read of turmoil and inhumanity between peoples, on scales both small, and horrifically large.  Political leaders often seem paralyzed or worse when confronting this mayhem.

I assert that as a community, we have an opportunity and even a moral obligation to counter these currents.  This worldwide meeting brings together individuals from many nations with a common commitment to increase human knowledge, and to improve human health.   The mutual understanding and reasoned exchanges that we will enjoy in the coming days transcends national borders.  It can in a small, but meaningful way, illustrate how people of different backgrounds and nations can unite under the emblem of science and medicine to improve the human condition.

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