Fluorescent and Starry

I receive several academic journals in the mail, and after browsing the articles of interest, I enjoy flipping through the 'letters to the editor' section at the end. Controversial topics are reconsidered from another viewpoint, which is always valuable to the physician in training. And even early in your career, you'll see some familiar names, from conference speakers or from the places you've trained.

And, sometimes, you might see your own name.

Allen Roberts and I were mentioned in a letter to Annals of Emergency Medicine, penned by none other than Jen Jen Oh, the founder of Lingual Nerve (who I finally had the pleasure of meeting, when she recently visited NYC and my hospital). The topic was blogging (what else?) -- specifically, Eric Berger's article on EM blogging (subscription req'd) this past spring. An interesting excerpt from Jen Jen's letter is below, sanse the effusive praise:
I too have a personal blog, located at www.spacefan.blogspot.com, which began in 2002. Although it started out by covering more social aspects of my life, its direction changed in 2003, when I reported on the SARS epidemic in my country. It was eventually mentioned on The Guardian’s Web site and garnered a favorable review. SARS-related entries from that year can be accessed via the archive links on the main page of my blog.

The pros and cons highlighted in the article, though cited by US-based doctors, are also applicable in other parts of the world. With regard to the ethical and administrative dilemmas, I’ve had my share of closed-door meetings, stern e-mails and other warnings over the years, first about revealing too much in my SARS-related posts, then about being too vocal in my frustrated rants on emergency department (ED) crowding (which the powers-that-be contend will tarnish the hospital’s image, ED staff’s sanity and morale be damned).

Preserving patient confidentiality is rarely an issue, but with our younger generation of doctors and doctors-to-be jumping on the blogging wagon, there have been times when too much was divulged, with dire consequences....

...Despite all the precautions taken, medical blogging remains a tenuous pastime, with few doctors making any form of profit from it. I personally do not know any doctor who does it primarily for money or fame. Instead, we are driven by a passion for the written word which, when combined with the adrenaline rush and emotional rollercoaster ride of the medical profession, makes for compelling — almost addictive — reading.

Aside from helping doctors connect on a national and global scale, medical blogs also provide invaluable insight for the general public, who know little about our small, exclusive community. While there will always be the occasional heckler, the majority of non-medical readers harbor a deep interest and respect for what we do, and express these sentiments when they comment on our entries. My posts on SARS elicited responses offering encouragement and sympathy from all over the world, providing a great source of comfort to myself and my fellow colleagues during our darkest days.

Last but not least, medical blogging can prove instrumental in raising the profile of various specialties, emergency medicine included. As recently as 5 years ago, few residents in Singapore applied for traineeship positions in emergency medicine, but this number has surged in the past 2-3 years, with many applicants mentioning that they read my blog on a regular basis and developed an interest in this field because of the information I provided. Medical students choose to do elective postings with us because they know where "Dr. Spacefan" works, and quite a number of them have already decided to make emergency medicine a long-term career choice...

Wow. I thought it was from all the American Idol posts, but Jen Jen always had that rock-star cachet about her. The illustrious Truman J. Milling responded to her letter.