Tampa notes #5

Apr 14, 2007

At the end now, and satisfied after a full conference. Been a blast — even though Erin reports that Malia rolled off the bed the other night and still has a bruised face and a tooth that might be lost.

My session on blogs today went very well. I bracketed that by attending a session on communication about avian influenza and another session on risk communication. Former CNN reporter Dan Rutz (scroll down the page to see his bio) was a speaker for both of those sessions.

At lunch, Texas doctor and USA Today health columnist Tedd Mitchell talked about health messages. Funny and effective guy, but he said “No government agency is qualified to make chage” just a few minutes after he praised the U.S. for being a country in which you can pick up a glass of water on any table and drink from it without worry. Doesn’t square, since the safety of that water is a direct result of government.

Of course, water and city infrastructure is on my mind this weekend as I finish the fantastic book by Steven Johnson. This is the story of epidemiologist John Snow (of pump handle fame) and Anglican curate Henry Whitehead, who together helped refute the theory of miasma as cause of disease. Johnson deftly explains the drama behind London’s deadly 1854 cholera outbreak, and uses that to explain the development of city sewers and water supply lines. I highly recommend this book.

The afternoon free, I sat by a pond to read Ghost Map, and quickly looked up at a splash to see an osprey carry off a struggling fish; I’ve been waiting most of my life to witness an osprey in action, and I missed it because I had my nose in a book. Classic. Later, I worked out in the hotel fitness center, then sat by the pool to chat with conference organizer Mike Lynch.

Dinner tonight was an awards ceremony for the National Association of Medical Communicators, which honored NBC’s Robert Bazell. I sat with the delightful Minnesota couple — say it, they did: Minn-ah-soooohta — Annie and Dale Anderson. Dale is a retired physician who keeps busy teaching people how to get healthy by literally acting healthy. I felt better just talking to him. On the way out, I met Katie Delahaye Paine, who blogs about research and practice of measuring the effectiveness of public relations and social media.

Almost 11pm now, and I’ve got to catch the 5am shuttle to the airport to get home to North Carolina. Erin needs as much time as she can get these final two weeks of her semester at UNC Law. My thanks to Stewart Communications and the American Medical Association for arranging my attendance and participation in this excellent conference.

Anton Zuiker

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