[Lo prometido es deuda, la entrada del blog de hoy es una entrevista realizada al Dr. Marcel Salathé, autor de uno de los trabajos que publicamos en el blog hace una semana sobre la aplicación de la epidemiología digital]
Suizo de nacimiento, actualmente Marcel Salathé realiza trabajos de profesor de biología y adjunto a la facultad de ciencias informáticas e ingeniería de la Universidad de Pennsylvania. Entre sus méritos académicos figura un doctorado en Suiza, labores de investigador postdoctoral en la universidad de Stanford y numerosas publicaciones en revistas médicas de primer nivel que incluyen entre otras New England Journal of Medicine y PLoS ONE.
Además, se trata de un personaje polifacético; gestiona el sitio web www.salathegroup.com, dedicado entre otras cosas al estudio de las redes sociales y las conductas sanitarias, es pintor con más de 800 obras vendidas hasta la fecha, ha sido músico en una banda llegando a ser telonero de Lenny Kravitz, y ha creado la plataforma www.plantvillage.com con el objetivo de ayudar al perfeccionamiento de la agricultura doméstica.
Os recomiendo que paséis por las webs anteriores para tener más información y seguir en las redes sociales el trabajo que actualmente desarrolla junto con sus colaboradores.
Y sin más preámbulos, os dejo la pequeña entrevista realizada;
PREGUNTA: First of all, one question about you, How did you happen to choose social behavior and infectious diseases outbreaks as a field of study?
RESPUESTA: I've always been fascinated by nature so it was natural for me to study biology. I became fascinated with evolutionary biology and did a PhD with someone who studied the evolution of HIV - this is how I came in touch with the field of infectious diseases. Over the years, I started to realize that the impact of social behavior is extremely important for infectious disease dynamics, but understudied.
P: In the last 5 years, you have published some articles relating social network interactions , opinion clustering and outbreaks. Have you seen a reaction from the Health national organizations?
R: Yes, the work is being increasingly recognized. The relevance of social networks for disease dynamics has been recognized by health organizations for a while. Now, there is great interest in measuring health and disease dynamics with online data, and we're working together with organizations such as the US CDC to develop methods and tools to improve disease surveillance.
P: Do you think we are now better prepared to handle an infectious outbreak due the amount of information that we can access online?
R: I think so. Because information can flow so quickly, we can get our hands on an outbreak very quickly and spread important information at the speed of light. However, there's always the danger of misinformation which can spread too. I think there is still a lot of work ahead for this field before we can truly unlock the potential it holds.
P: In your opinion, are the field doctors aware of the importance of social networking and its uses in medical projects?
R: It's growing slowly but steadily. Some doctors are very active on social media themselves, others want to have nothing to do with it. But my sense is that in general, there is a shift happening, and while some people may still personally chose note to participate in social media themselves, they admit that it's not just a fad, but a fundamental change in human communication.
P: Any advice you would like to give to those doctors that are starting their careers in clinical epidemiology?
R: Keep an open mind with respect to what's happening in the digital domain. Mobile phones and social media are already having a huge impact on epidemiology, and given the speed at which these things are developing, the changes that are coming will be dramatic. I don't see traditional epidemiology and digital epidemiology at odds with each other - rather, I think the opposite is true; they are complementing each other wonderfully.