Fostering A Culture Of New Ideas

By Jeff Hall, Editor-in-Chief

My sister gave me a wonderful Christmas present a couple of years ago. Knowing of my fondness for jazz, she went on eBay and bid for a black and white portrait of the great Miles Davis. The striking photo shows a very young Davis (perhaps in his early 20s at the time of the photo) with trumpet in hand and a music chart in front of him. He appears thoughtful and contemplative in the photo, as if he’s pondering where the next note will take him.
The portrait of the late jazz innovator was used as part of an old Apple Computer ad campaign. The simply stated ad tagline in the top right-hand corner of the portrait reads: Think different.
It’s a great mantra that I’m sure was a guiding force behind many of the inventions and innovations that we take for granted today. It requires going beyond what is routine and commonplace in the dogged pursuit of an idea whose time has come. Thinking different requires you to ask a lot of questions. How can we strive to make something better? How can we make a process or procedure more effective? How can we get quicker results? How can we achieve better results?
It’s in this spirit that we publish our annual roundup of innovations in podiatry (see “A New Bag Of Innovations” on page 26). This year’s edition seems to have a heavier slant toward the diabetic foot, but if there’s an area that is in particular need of new ideas and innovations, it’s this one. The statistics concerning the increasing prevalence of diabetes and the associated complications of the disease are extremely grim. If new modalities and approaches to treatment can lead to better results, they should be more than welcome.
Indeed, some of these modalities may eventually emerge as true lifesavers. David Armstrong, DPM, notes within the cover story that Dermagraft may have the adjunctive potential to foster faster healing in diabetic foot ulcers and possibly help reduce the “ … prevalence of lower extremity amputation.”
Particularly interesting are the devices that may be of potential benefit to diabetes patients who have neuropathy. Stephen Barrett, DPM, believes the Pressure Specified Sensory Device can be an invaluable diagnostic tool in determining the degree of diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
Another intriguing device is the FootScan, which Lawrence Lavery, DPM, lectured about at the recent annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association. Even if patients can’t feel problems in their feet, using the device can help them monitor potentially problematic temperature changes in the foot. Not only could this have a preventative impact, but it could help these patients be more active participants in their own care.
Of course, coming up with the idea is only a quarter of the battle. Convincing others of the merits and effectiveness of the idea may be the most difficult part of the journey. Some ideas get lost in overzealous marketing pitches. Other ideas, whether it’s from a lack of marketing know-how or initial cost concerns, may not carry over from academic circles to Joe Practitioner’s office.
Obviously, the more clinical studies you have (preferrably from a variety of objective authors) to validate a new idea, device or procedure, the better. Yet it’s also important to resist our initial impulse to cynicism and facilitate an atmosphere for the birth of such ideas. After all, it seems clear that more and more patients are counting on those who aren’t afraid to “think different.”

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