Sunday, March 29, 2009

Google Quick Tip #18

Quick - what's the capital of Estonia? What time is it there?


Google can help you find answers to these quick questions most of the time. Simply type in the words of your topic, such as:

capital of Estonia
time in Estonia

Other question and answer topics you can find include:

The national language of a country (ie, language in Belgium)
The type of national currency of a country (ie, currency of Tanzania)

The population of a country or city (ie, population of Jakarta)

The numbers are from different sources, but can give you a ballpark figure. To get more detailed answers, you should use more definitive resources, such as

See this previous posting to find out how to convert values using Google.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Turning the Pages of Historical Medical Texts

At the National Library of Medicine in Washington D.C. there is an electronic kiosk that allows visitors to browse the pages of historical medical textbooks. This Turning the Pages project is available now online for you to browse on your computer.

The interactive books are quite beautiful. For example, you can flip through the pages of Andreas Vesalius's De Humani Corporis Fabrica (On the Fabric of the Human Body). This book is revered as "one of the most influential books in the history of Western medicine."

'It was conceived and written by 28-year-old Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564), a professor at the University of Padua. Vesalius was both a gifted dissector and a learned scholar whose great contribution was to apply to anatomy the critical methods developed by the Renaissance humanist scholars."

Below is one of the famous images from Vesalius's series of skeletal men. This one shows a skeleton "contemplating human mortality."

Some features to point out when browsing any of these online books:
  1. Click on a page to advance to the next page. Click on the left page to go back a page.
  2. Unless you can read Latin, I suggest you click on the speaker icon to hear the narrator describe content on the pages you are viewing.
  3. Use the magnifying glass icon to zoom over the text.
  4. Hover the mouse over sections of the page and you can read curatorial notes describing the content.
  5. Click the "T" icon to the left of the page to see the transcript of the audio for that page.
  6. You can also print a page if you wish.

Even if you're not a historical book fanatic, I encourage you to browse these pages. It's a privilege to be able to see the details of a book written in 1543.

Monday, March 23, 2009

YouTube Education Channels

With YouTube, who needs TV anymore?

It seems like anything and everything can be found on YouTube. Missed the Top 10 list on David Letterman last night? No problem, it'll probably be up on YouTube in a day or two. Heard about the amazing two-legged dog named Faith, but you missed her appearance on Oprah because you were busy working? Run a quick search in YouTube on faith two-legged dog oprah and, voila, your wish is their command.

Of course, if you want to see a video of your neighbor playing a nose flute on his porch, I'm sure you could find that on YouTube too.

To satisfy more than just your fluffy entertainment bug, YouTube thankfully has additional "Channels" that include educational videos amongst the many channel topics:

(1) Click on the Channels link to the left of the search box on YouTube
(2) Select Education in the left menu
(3) The top set of videos are under the category of Channels from YouTube EDU; click on that link to get to a full listing of broadcasts from educational institutions.
(4) You can run a search within the YouTube EDU search box (ie, type in medical school) and in the list of results, you can watch a video of Dr. Calvin Chou of UCSF lecturing on the physical exam and bedside manners.

You can also search the regular YouTube search box with words such as UCTV medicine to find videos from the University of California Television broadcasts. Or search on the words education medicine to browse videos pertinent to medical education.

The next time your boss walks into your office while you're watching YouTube, you can show her that it relates to work and is part of your research.

Watch, learn, and enjoy!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

MedlinePlus - a Superb Health Resource

If you already use MedlinePlus, congratulations for turning to one of the best, in my opinion, health resources on the Internet. If you've not used it before, my goal is to convert you to praising its virtues!

MedlinePlus ( is a resource that debuted in 1998 put together by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM). Each and every resource on this site has been reviewed by the NIH and NLM. There are absolutely no advertisements on this website. Resources include health websites, news and research articles, drug information, medical encyclopedia and dictionary, organizational directories, images and videos, tutorials, clinical trials information, and multi-lingual patient handouts.

#1 Reason for using MedlinePlus instead of Google to search a health topic on the web: It saves you time!

As soon as I learned about MedlinePlus 3.5 years ago, I trained myself to go straight there, instead of Google, to get more information on a health topic if I'm not using a formal database, such as PubMed. Because each result in a MedlinePlus search has been pre-screened by the NIH and NLM, you can be confident that the information is accurate and trustworthy. The annoyance of having to guess what's reliable health information on a Google search is squelched when you use MedlinePlus.

Here are tips on how to best search MedlinePlus:

(1) Browse the Health Topics link to get a good overview of how the site is organized.

The page of any topic that you navigate to, ie breast cancer, will have a table organizing information into the categories of Basics, Learn More, Multimedia & Cool Tools, Research, Reference Shelf, and For You.

(2) When you use the search box to look for information, use the topics listed in the left menu of the results page to narrow your results.

Choosing a listing that has (National Library of Medicine) will get you to the same summary page on a topic as you found by navigating in the Health Topics section.

(3) Use the Drug & Supplements, Medical Encylcopedia, and Dictionary links to search any specific drug or medical term.

The results on these links can usually get you to your specific topic quicker than if you searched a term in the general search box.

(4) Use the Directories link to find doctors, dentists, hospitals/clinics, health care providers and facilities.

This feature can be especially helpful when you need to find specialists in a particular region of the U.S.

(5) The Other Resources link gets you to a list of medical organizations listed alphabetically and also by health topic.

This is helpful when you need to find any organizations that could help you or your patient find out more about resources on a specific topic.

(6) The Multiple Languages link provides health topics in over 40 languages!

For example, if you have a Hmong patient who needs literature about childhood immunization, MedlinePlus will provide that for you.

On the right side of the MedlinePlus homepage are four specialized resources:

Interactive Tutorials - this page provides extremely well-made and easy to follow tutorials that cover health topics and medical procedures.

Clinical - the NIH database of clinical trials. This is definitely a key resource when you need to find information on clinical trials.

Senior Health - the information is specific to older adults. The text size and color contrast are easily adjustable to be more readible. There is even a "Speech" option to have the text narrated to the viewer if they are having trouble reading the words.

Surgery Videos - this is an extensive collection of one-hour pre-recorded webcasts of surgical procedures. This can be helpful if you are interested in learning about a procedure or can stomach the details of an upcoming surgery that you or someone you know may be undergoing.

REMINDER: Use MedlinePlus as a starting place to find health information on the web instead of Google.

Try it out and let me know if I've managed to win you over!