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Train of Thought...
April 2003 - Changing seasons

As I pen these thoughts the leaves on the trees outside my apartment are turning golden and starting to drop. As they fall, the beauty of the tree's inherent structure is again being revealed. The cool shade of the summer is giving way to dappled light playing on the ground. The seasons, they are a'changing.

Autumn is here with its riotous colour and cooler days. It is time to prepare for winter, to take stock and to savour the memories of the summer past. It is time too to enjoy the last of the summer bounty. In short, it is a fabulous time of year.

As the trees expose their branches one is reminded how few straight lines there are in nature. Branches curl gracefully from the trunk. Some produce many more branches, some none; some leap skyward to form a secondary trunk, others die off. This structure defines the tree whether it is a handsome Oak or a soaring Poplar.

The presentations we will enjoy next weekend in Adelaide will be like those trees. Hidden beneath the posters and behind the slides will be a logic and thought structure that is likely to have twisted and turned from the time the idea was but a germ to the fully fledged product before us.

Research is something many consider is beyond them. "You have to have an academic brain and lots of resources to do research," they say. Others are in situations where neither time nor priority is given to research, by those running the labs. Others again believe they have nothing to contribute.

I have previously addressed these issues in this column and can only reiterate that the asking of a question may make you a fool for 5 minutes, but not asking the question makes you a fool forever.

Where do the ideas for research come from? They surround us if only we would open our eyes. They are not restricted to the academic environment of our major teaching hospitals. One of the posters with which I am associated grew out of a letter that I was asked to post on the web-site. Rather than simply post it, I sent it back with the challenge to turn it into a poster for the meeting and the challenge was taken up. Another of the posters resulted from a basic question as to how we could replace our aging Wright nebulisers. A question borne of necessity rather than academic brilliance.

Our nebuliser poster quickly turned into quite a different proposition once we started asking questions. Like a tree it quickly branched in many directions, some branches being short and single and others having multiple branches - and yes there had to be a major pruning operation! While the end result is very different to what was envisioned, each twist and turn of those ideas contributed something.

Ideas are everywhere. Seeing them is an attitude. Seize a question and turn it over, turn it inside out. Allow the idea to develop like the branches of a tree. Some ideas will assuredly die off; others will grow stronger. Our ASM is the time to be asking questions; to be exploring and testing ideas. Some will go nowhere; others will generate new and better ideas.

Finding the time to work on the idea is a matter of priority. A culture of Continuous Quality Improvement is nourished by the asking of questions, by the challenging of our practices. Again, our nebuliser project grew out of a practical need. Few would argue with need for such investigation and the assigning of a high priority to it. We must use this as a way of nurturing the culture of questioning and challenging - in short of research. The leaders amongst us must work towards quarantining time for research as well as for study. They must support it. The health of our Society depends on it.

Enjoy the meeting and take the opportunity to develop the eye that sees ideas. You must then cultivate those ideas and allow them to branch and develop. With a receptive mind this will happen naturally - do not stifle it with buts and ifs. You have nothing to lose, but everything to gain. I for one will be happy to help you test any ideas at the meeting.

'til next time,

Kevin

April, 2003

kevin.gain@health.wa.gov.au

 

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