By Dr. Jeffrey Burns
“Amen Corner” is a string of three consecutive holes at the Augusta National Golf Club, in Augusta, Ga., that has come to represent the most exciting and challenging holes in all of golf.
Like many, I enjoy watching the Masters Tournament, which is held each year at Augusta. But in recent years the tournament has come to mean much more to me than who ends up wearing the famed “green jacket” which is presented to winners along with the Masters trophy. These days, the Masters serves as a reminder of the truly transformative nature of technology and how it can be used to impact people all over the globe.
Let me explain.
It started on a Sunday in 2009 when my medical team and I were treating a sick young girl with a blood stream infection, called sepsis, at Boston Children’s Hospital. I recall clearly her treatment process and the doubts we had on whether or not she would pull through. I’m glad to tell you she did and in the process we learned valuable lessons from her care. Not long after, I received a call from a doctor based in Guatemala. He was treating a girl with precisely the same symptoms but, as an adult rather than pediatric specialist, he was unsure of best practices in the care of this child. Using a video link I was able to share my experience and walk the team through the treatment step by step and, just as was the case back in Boston, the patient survived.
After my experience with the Guatemalan doctors, I began to wonder if there was a way we could scale this type of knowledge exchange to allow more doctors to share their experiences and best practices in care. Each year, nearly 7 million children around the world under the age of 5 die from illnesses like pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria despite the availability of life-saving medical and surgical solutions. One factor behind this staggering statistic is the fact is that we are not scaling knowledge as easily as we could.
But a potential solution appeared while I watched the Masters Tournament that day. As pro golfer Angel Cabrera played through the Amen Corner, an animation of his putt appeared on the screen. It led me to the Masters Website. Designed by IBM Interactive, it provided video clips of Cabrera, as well as the animation of his putts. Moreover, the site provided an interview with Cabrera himself, demonstrating how he approaches the Amen Corner. Golf fans were also invited to chat with each other on the site via social networks.
I was immediately inspired by the potential of this technology. Could we emulate this site in some way and create a social learning experience capable of revolutionizing how medical knowledge is shared? Could we release that knowledge beyond the walls of institutions and schools to doctors and nurses around the globe?
This moment of inspiration, based on the technological platform of the Master’s website, led to the formation of OPENPediatrics.
Created with the help of our friends at IBM, OPENPediatrics connects doctors and nurses who care for critically ill children around the globe. It provides information on demand, so no matter where you are based, you have access to a reliable platform that offers critical information on best practices in pediatric care. It also delivers a social network where clinicians from all over can come together to share effective educational learning techniques. Importantly, just like golf fans found on the Masters website, OPENPediatrics works because it promotes active learning – find the expert, observe the expert, practice on a simulator or avatar and then, when you are done, discuss what you learned and build a knowledge base.
I may never be able to navigate the legendary “Amen Corner.” However, I am convinced that through powerful social networking technology we can unite the global medical community, extend knowledge and improve the lives of children around the globe. We all know technology has the power to make healthcare smarter. It can make medical education smarter too.