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Stony Brook Innovation Center Blog

Innovation Holiday

May 11 2016

The most helpful topic for an Innovation Center blog would seem to be examining whether innovativeness can be instilled in people the way installing computer programs enables us to do different things, and if so, how is it downloaded, or learned?  Is there a single Skill Set underpinning all the other attributes that are identifiable in the majority of innovators, short of the few savants floating around, and even there?  Do innovations like the light bulb and Internet arise out of nowhere, or evolve as species do: putting similar things together again and again, and how is that done?  

Only that when she was walking home, her knees still a little rubbery, in the thrilling cold darkness without even a phone for protection, she understood how alive people must have felt before you could reach anyone at any time.  How it must have taken so much effort to connect with people.  Back then, the past was more subjective, she imagines, because things weren’t immediately logged online for everyone to see, the future was more distant because it had to be scrupulously planned.  That meant the present would have been a more intense experience.  The last time life felt like that to her was when she was a child …

Arcadia p. 181-182

I’ve noted and quoted many a classic here, whose “names are feted by the waving grass,” as Stephen Spender put it in “I Think Continually of Those,” another verse or two I also have used, whose homes and birthplaces are national landmarks, and have statues erected in their honor hither and yon.  Lauren Groff is not one of these … yet, BUT … I’d put Arcadia side by side with any of their far more famous works, as among THE best novels EVER written.  You can lay this down as having placed my bet that others, more influential than me, will eventually agree.  Every page exemplifies everything I’ve been writing about; in fact, everything everyone has ever written about, how ‘bout THAT! 
Read one page, and pray that you may communicate that way one day.  Read the rest of the posts, and you just might.  Notice the distinct tempo of the narrative.  I chastised a dental student here recently, who was examining me and spoke in as rapid a clip as he doubtless whizzes through his exams, without ever having learned the quantum difference between talking and speaking. 
When the venerable Yogi Berra quipped that “The future ain’t what it used to be,” we could bite it off with a smile, BUT … when the present no longer is, it gives one pause.  You can limit the degree to which you have lost touch with reality, BUT … what about the person at the desk (or kitchen table) next to you, across the conference room (or bed)? 

Blime, but there isn’t already an Innovation Day: February 16th, fast on the heels of Valentine’s Day, fittingly enough, before the yearning to love and be loved has waned, BUT … it isn’t a Holiday … yet.  I doubt that it is noted on a single calendar. 
Innovation is a big deal.  I mentioned somewhere back, Vice President Joe Biden spearheading conferences about it at all the National Laboratories like Brookhaven to help jumpstart the economy.  It’s high time somebody made it one.  I remember reading about a bloke having taken credit for establishing a Day; I forget what it was.  ‘Twould look mighty good on a resume.  Show some ‘Go Get ‘Em’ from the get-go.
Holidays often require eating or abstaining from certain foods, and celebrate moving away from one place or state of life, as much as to another.  Why not a Digital Fast?  Walk on the grass, not the pavement.  Look up for five minutes every hour, why dontchoo?  Ponder the quote at the top a bit each time, and what’s to become of you when the day is through.
Festivals and parades sometimes accompany them.  Flag Day has some, and I can assure you that few people even know when it is since I was born then.  Bring out the band; picture the floats: cell phones, tablets, and laptops with big circles around them and a slash mark across them; banners proclaiming, “Say NO to Digital!”     

Don’t freak out, fans.  I’m 67ish.  99% of everything I admire in the world was done by people younger than that.  A couple of years ago, I started getting excruciating tummy aches two or three times a year, out of the blue.  True, a rotisserie chicken piece was sitting around a good week before one of them, and a slice of pineapple was on its last leg before another, but an MRI turned up something going on in my pancreas, requiring an Endoscopy with Ultra-Sound and Fine Needle Apiration for further ingestigation.  One of my sons in medical school had recently done rounds with a gastroentologist, who suggested inquiring about having the procedure done with some new-fangled laser microendoscopy tool called Cellvizio, so I contacted the company that makes it, which gave me the names of the only three doctors in New York City, who have it since the only two on Long Island were only using it with patients already hospitalized.  
One of the three, Dr. Benias of Beth Israel Hospital, did me the almost unheard of kindness of calling me after receiving my MRI report and a cover letter asking whether Cellvizio were called for in my case, said it wasn’t, and recommended using a close friend, Dr. Buscaglia right here, who alone is in my health plan’s network.  The way I heard it, deciding between him, the doctor at Mt. Sinai, to whom my local gastroentologist first referred me, and Dr. Buscaglia was like picking Mantle, Mays, or Aaron to bat, down one in the ninth inning. 
When the assistant at my local gastro doctor’s office told me that she neglected mentioning Dr, Benias having advised me to use Dr. Buscaglia in the EUS request, I faxed him a note with the whole picture, adding that I thought he should know.
Where this got sticky is that the Mt. Sinai specialist had told his scheduler to get me in pronto, even if he needed to be overbooked, which they did for four days later before he turned out not to be in network, whereas Dr. Buscaglia’s staff scheduled me a month away.
For all I know, Dr. Buscaglia and his scheduler never saw my fax.  You can’t phone their office.  A call center intervenes, who assures you that they’re passing your message, but who knows whether it is disregarded under the demands of “Managed Care”?  What do call center people or the office ones taking their messages care about Dr. Buscaglia’s connection with Dr. Benias, any more than the person at my local specialist’s office did, who say they have no direct line there, either.  Our fictions reveal truths about ourselves.  Androids were human-like creatures with wires instead of veins before cell phones existed and took the name, turning the people who use them into one and the same.  I’m far from the first to suggest that the wire reality has supplanted the real one.  Franz Kafka wrote two renowned novels about being lost in bureaucracies nearly 100 years ago. 
Adding peculiarity to peculiarity, my local specialist’s office tells me they had a meeting last week with my plan, where they were told that every doctor at Mt. Sinai, where I was originally scheduled, is in network.  Everyone except mine, apparently.  It took me three days to ascertain from the plan that not all doctors had completed the registration process.  Mine knew that my procedure hinged on it. 

I read an article in the New York Times recently about bringing the Patient Relationship back to medicine.  Not until they remove some of the wires and get the blood flowing back will that ever happen.  Not anywhere.  Not in business.  Not in government.  Not anywhere.


Stony Brook University Innovation Center, Stony Brook, NY 11794-3775

Phone: 631.632.7171
Fax: 631.632.8181