Four and a half hours away from Las Vegas, in the heart of the Utah desert, where the stone slot canyons glow red at sunset, I’m finding inspiration. I’m out of my comfort zone, away from my known world. My cell phone doesn’t get a good signal and the wifi isn’t working. I’m a foreigner here in an unearthly landscape of glowing space rocks, desert cacti, lizards, and sandstone formations. The tiny flies and bigger bugs that swarm the candlelight at night are the only things that remind me I’m not alone. It’s quiet here. I have time to think.
I walked along the stony ridges and desert outcroppings with my guide Guillermo yesterday morning. He’s an archeologist by training and an amateur paleontologist. The ground that we walk over can tell us so much about where we have been, he said. We just have to take the time to uncover, layer by layer, the stories that it has to tell.
I learned that I also change the landscape just by being here. For example, the cryptobiotic crust—a combination of single-celled bacteria and algae to multicellular lichens, mosses, and fungi—can take up to 50 years to regrow after a single footstep. Tread carefully, he tells me.
Yet the terrain felt less foreign and fragile last night, not only because I had walked the earth, touched the soil, and smelled the burning pinyon pine.
The hotel had made a bed for me on the rooftop of my room. I lay there and saw the stars, infinite numbers of them, swarming, moving and twinkling. The moon rose from one corner of the room and moved slowly to the other. Why can I see so much more, like I’m seeing the night sky for the first time?, I asked. Guillermo mentioned something about lack of city lights and pollution. That made sense. Yet I wonder how much I have missed simply because I hadn’t taken the time to look.
What does this all mean for Medicine X? In my mind it is a constantly evolving vision. But the desert, the stars, and the moon remind me to take it all in. There is so much for me to learn about the landscape of emerging technology and its potential impact on medicine, patients and the patient-healthcare team relationship. I’m excited to uncover the stories of how people are using social media, the Internet and mobile technologies to solve real world health problems. Medicine X and this blog are my chance to take the time to look deeply and shine a light on the most interesting and innovative people and stories. I’m eager to begin the work.
We are all here on a journey together for a reason. If you are reading this, you are part of that journey. Write me, tweet me, call me, talk to me. I want to learn from you and be changed by you. I can’t wait to see where we end up in less than a year from now when we welcome our guests to the first Stanford Medicine X conference!