Bertalan Meskó: Of Genetics and Johnny Cash
When it comes to Health 2.0, Web 2.0, and other Stuff 2.0, Bertalan Meskó is The Guy 2.0. Berci and I have been bantering back and forth for the better part of the last two years, and I'm continually impressed by his dedication to improvement the landscape of health online and also his ability to be a normal guy.
Kerri: Berci, you've been a star in the medical blogging community forever (and a friend of mine for several years now), but many patient bloggers may not be familiar with your work. Can you tell us a little about yourself, on a personal level?
Berci: You're the first one who didn't start with a question about web 2.0 and medicine. So I will graduate from medical school in Hungary this August, then I plan to start PhD training in genetics because I've been dreaming about becoming a geneticist for almost 18 years now. But in my second life, I work online and try to help patients, medical professionals how to enter the web 2.0 world. That's why I've been running Scienceroll for 2 years and I also launched the first web 2.0 guidance service at Webicina. This service is totally free for patients. Anyway, I love playing football, squash, I'm a movie fanatic and try to learn to play the guitar in order to sing Johnny Cash songs properly.
Kerri: What is ScienceRoll and what made you start blogging?
Berci: Scienceroll is a medical blog where I focus on personalized genetics, which is my research topic, and the role of web 2.0 in the future of medicine. I launched this blog because I wanted to share my thoughts on science news and articles with people from around the world. Later it turned out it became my best channel so people with the same interest could find me easily and invited me to give presentations at several conferences and beautiful places (e.g. University of Yale or the centre of World Health Organization). Actually, I can travel a lot due to my work on Scienceroll so I feel quite lucky to be involved in the health 2.0 movement.
Kerri: What is your role in Health and Medicine 2.0?
Berci: I feel I'm somewhere between medical professionals and e-patients. I think my job is to help them find reliable medical resources and useful web 2.0 tools from quality medical podcasts to educational Second Life sites. Through Scienceroll and Webicina, I really hope I can provide doctors and patients with tips on how to be productive online, which medical blogs to read and which medical communities to join. To achieve my aims, I created free packages for patients such as the Diabetes 2.0 or Depression 2.0 package in which I list the best blogs, blog carnivals, wikis, podcasts and many other web 2.0 tools focusing on a specific medical condition.
Kerri: How can patients and doctors use the web to their collective advantage?
Berci: Doctors can save time and effort by using RSS so they can keep themselves up-to-date in their fields of interest quite easily. Following hundreds of medical journals and websites takes only a few minutes a day. They should also build an online image for themselves as patients tend to do a search for the name of their doctors in search engines. So their practices should be represented online properly.
Patients can find support information about their medical conditions, or can find doctors via the internet. They can meet each other virtually in Second Life, or share their health stories through community sites. I could also mention the personal health records systems that are also going to revolutionize healthcare.
Kerri: How is it that you are in your early 20's and yet one of the most influential health bloggers in the (dare I say it?) world? What's the key to achieving success as a medical blogger, in your opinion?
Berci: I have 3-rules: openness, consistency and commitment. You have to be open to new things, that's why I try to answer all the e-mails I receive. Consistency is important, because if you blog regularly, readers will come back to check your content. Commitment is the No.1 rule as if you believe in what you write about, sooner or later, it will work. But to be honest, I think I spend too much time online (mostly at night) so I can be involved in several different projects from Wikipedia through medical blogging/microblogging to organizing medical events in Second Life.
Kerri: What do you see as the future of health and medicine on the web?
Berci: I believe e-patients will change the way medicine is practiced and healthcare is delivered. E-patients are patients who find information online, want to communicate with their doctors via webcam or e-mail, blog about their health or just share their stories with other patients dealing with the same medical problems.
According to Pew Internet Research, the number of e-patients is exponentially growing, while the number of web-savvy doctors is not, so there will be a huge gap. I try to close this gap by launching the first university credit course focusing on web 2.0 and medicine for medical students. Now it's in the second semester and I hope no students in Debrecen will graduate in 5 years without finishing this course.
Today's physicians and medical students must meet the expectations of e-patients whether they are open to it or not.
Kerri: I know you don't just sit around all day banging away on your computer keyboard - what else do you do, besides shape the medical blogosphere?
Berci: From morning until the afternoon, I do clinical rotation at local clinics as a part of my last year duties in medschool. In the afternoon, I spend all of my spare time in the genetics lab I've been working in for 2 years. I hope I can publish my research findings this year (my thesis: gene expression patterns of chronic inflammatory diseases). I'm a sport-fan and I like being with my friends so I try to live as normal and full life as possible.
Kerri: Thanks, Berci!! See you for tea sometime this fall. :)