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Outside the Lab Digital and computational pathology, Profession

Our Technological Crutches

At the time of writing, my smartphone was continuously alerting me to the fact that “Tim Peake has begun the first ever spacewalk by an ‘official’ British astronaut.” It may seem cynical of me, but I did wonder why there was so much press coverage in the UK on Tim’s space expedition journey, which had started weeks in advance of “lift off”. Was it worthy of continuous news alerts? In any case, it got me thinking about our reliance on smartphone technology to keep us updated. Personally, I can’t help but look at my phone every time a news notification pops up. You never know what it might say or how the news could affect you. But is our craving for instant information a good thing? And are those who aren’t permanently attached to their phones missing out?

I certainly don’t know how I would get by, long-term, without my smartphone. So when this month’s cover feature interviewee (and our Power List Number One) Manuel Sobrinho-Simões admitted that he has never owned one, I was surprised. In an era when the influence and use of digital technology is increasing substantially, including in pathology, how do you survive without it? But that’s not to say Sobrinho-Simões is behind the times; he and his team in Portugal were using molecular pathology techniques and conducting truly translational research back in 1989. In fact, they made numerous genetic discoveries that were later verified (some eight years later) with the most sophisticated molecular techniques available at the time. So perhaps what’s more important than technology is to be able to predict trends and to use the knowledge and the tools that you have to stay ahead of them – wherever that’s possible.

Don’t get me wrong, I continue to be wowed by new technologies – what developers are managing to achieve is incredible. Take the game-changing innovations in molecular diagnostics. Though the optimum use of these techniques in clinical pathology is still be up for discussion, the positive impact that technological innovation has made in this field is undisputable.

Thinking more broadly, I do wonder what impact some less essential innovations might have on society and the way that we interact with each other – as humans. Only today, I read a news story of a chef who banned the use of mobile phones in his restaurant. I thought it was a great move, but it sparked very strong criticism from many members of the public...

As Sobrinho-Simões suggests, perhaps the key is to find a balance between traditional methods and technological innovation. But whether that is the right approach for pathology, only time will tell.

Fedra Pavlou

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About the Author
Fedra Pavlou

After graduating with a pharmacology degree, I began my career in scientific publishing and communications. Now with more than 16 years of experience in this field, my career has seen me heading up editorial and writing teams at Datamonitor, Advanstar and KnowledgePoint360 group. My past experiences have taught me something very important – that you have to enjoy working with, and have respect for your colleagues. It’s this that drew me to Texere where I now work with old colleagues and new. Though we are a hugely diverse team, we share several things in common – a real desire to work hard to succeed, to be the best at what we do, never to settle for second best, and to have fun while we do it. I am now honored to serve as Editor of The Pathologist and Editorial Director of Texere Publishing.

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