Goals and Objectives

I'm working on a project for my residency's journal club -- a website to archive the papers we discuss, along with our analyses (if you're wondering about the format -- it's a blog! Just call me Johnny One-Note).

But the project's got me thinking about my approach to scientific literature, and just how much has changed since my research days. I've already quoted that axiom -- "The role of the physician is to express confidence. The job of the scientist is to express doubt."

That quote just deals with the way information is presented and projected, however. I'm now experiencing a fundamentally different mindset when first evaluating the literature -- I'm now asking myself, "will this change my practice?" from the outset, and organizing my assessment of the paper around that question.

It occurs to me that many of my peers have already been doing this, but I recall a time when I was more interested in novel methodology, or surprising conclusions, whether or not it was immediately relevant to urban academic emergency medicine.

Researchers, I think, squirrel away such data for future reference -- you never know when it might prove useful, in explaining a quirky lab result, or building a case for your next grant. Physicians, on the other hand, tend to discard a lot clinical information that they come across -- as though we can't afford to expend mindshare on articles that aren't going to influence decision-making.

The trio of fun articles I covered a few weeks ago on GruntDoc's site has already been boiled down to one high-yield question I can ask drunk college-aged patients (in case you're wondering, my request for handheld lasers in the ED is not expected to go through).

It's too bad -- because reading about a clever experiment, or unexpected finding, can be a true delight. This kind of thoughtful reflection and recollection defines what a scholar is, to me. I hope I can retain some of that, and enjoy the intellect and creativity that goes into many underappreciated manuscripts.