ross d. martin

A semi-regular diary of Dr. Martin's musings. Read. Discuss. Act.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Maybe I'll finally get around to posting stuff on the Medical Informatimusicology blog. Here's one...

Sunday, December 13, 2009
World Premier of Spot and Peanut in Lost at Sea!

About six weeks ago, Kym is away on a business trip for the weekend. Son, Taylor, now eight, asks if he can fill up the Jacuzzi tub in the master bedroom. In his hands is a "boat" - several pieces of wood from my workshop hot-glued together. Turns out, he wants to make a movie starring his guinea pigs, Spot and Peanut (aka, "the gigs"). He's written a story about them going on an adventure.

Now, you have to understand, Taylor has clearly inherited the wild imagination gene from his dad. He already has more ideas than he'll ever be able to actually execute on. So I end up both working to encourage his creativity and manage his expectations about what we can pull off. (A few weeks before this episode, he told me he wanted his own website so he could create games and post pictures of his inventions. We settled on a blog:

So when I see what he's up to, I didn't want to say, "No, T, you can't put your guinea pigs on a boat in the tub to make a movie." Instead, we talked about how we might make a movie in a way that was safer for the gigs using some movie magic - green screen. We spent the entire weekend in pre-production - working on the story, deciding on a budget, planning, etc. Over breakfast out, we talked about all the different movies we liked and what made Pixar so good at making amazing movies (it's all about the story). Taylor drew up storyboards for each scene. A few days later, I come home and he's typed out most of the script on our Mac.

Throughout the process, I've been very impressed that Taylor has finally come to understand that the idea is just the beginning of the process. He really got into learning how to use the editing tools and saw the value of working hard to make little changes to make things funnier or move along.

Our goal has been to get this project finished by Christmas so we can share it with the family. We got enough done this weekend, though, to post a cliffhanger of a first episode. I hope you enjoy watching it as much as we did making it. We still have a lot to learn about technique, but it's been great fun!

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Monday, August 17, 2009
Les Paul and the Night Before the World Changed

Les Paul will be forever linked in my mind with life before the world changed. My friend Peter Frishauf invited me to see Les Paul perform with his trio at one of his weekly gigs at the Iridium. I had to go uptown from 42nd street and got caught in an flash downpour that made every cab in Manhattan vanish, leaving me to walk about 10 blocks. My umbrella was no match. But it gave me an excuse to trade my sopping wet dress shirt for a Les Paul t-shirt.

The show was remarkable in so many ways - Les' obviously arthritic hands couldn't play some of the furious riffs of his former years, but his gift for music was still undeniable. Even more, the field of musical gravity that pulled talent from the furthest reaches into his orbit. More than one famous rocker was in the audience that night, there to pay him homage, which he repaid by handing over his guitar and letting them sit in. Suddenly this big, bearded rock star turns into a little boy who has just been handed Superman's cape by the Man of Steel himself and told to try it on for size. I thought he might cry. Instead, he played it like the little drummer boy - repaying a gift he had been given with every ounce of his being.

It was a magical night. It was September 10th, 2001. One last evening of innocence before nothing would ever be the same.

Thank you, Les. I hold onto that memory like a priceless treasure.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009
The American College of Medical Informatimusicology is pleased to bring you an original work written and performed by ACMI's founding member, Dr. Ross D. Martin, MD, MHA, FACMI:

An Interoperetta in Three Acts

Who knew you could learn so much about the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act in under four minutes?

The Story Behind the Song

I had been thinking about writing a song for HITSP, CCHIT and AHIC for a couple of years, figuring it was time to tie a bow around the four other standards songs I've written - for NCPDP ("The Legend of Bob the DERF" - country & western tune about the standards-setting gunslingers of old), HL7 ("The Patient is Waiting" - a rock ballad), MedBiquitous ("The MedBiq Song" - a la Gilbert and Sullivan) and X12 ("The X12 Song" - R&B pop tune). All these songs are available on my MP3 page.
The inspiration for structure of the song, though, is actually about 20 years old. A classmate from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Dr. John Weigand, did a brilliant skit at our annual student talent show, sung by "The Weigand Trio," about his med school experience. It was three songs in one, just like this one; John used cassette recorders to "perform" the three parts at once. It was hysterical. So when it came time to write a song about three components of harmonizing standards, his idea seemed the perfect vehicle. I hadn't spoken to John since med school, so I looked him up on Google, emailed to make sure this was his original idea (it was) and make sure he was okay with me borrowing it (he was).
I wrote HITECH during a quick family vacation in Florida - mostly on the plane rides - back in March. Kym and Taylor are quite happy it's done so they don't have to listen to me running through the same 35-second song over and over again.This was probably one of the most complex songs I've ever written. Each verse had to layer on top of the other, syllable by syllable. Usually, I write lyrics in a little notebook, scratching out lines and words until it's just right. This one was just too difficult to write a verse at a time, so I had to literally do it on a spreadsheet so I could get it all to line up properly. I snapped a picture of it:

Writing the song turned out to be the easy part. The recording was done on a Zoom H2 (what a great little multi-track recorder!). Since HITECH at Deloitte is keeping me busy more than full time in "real life" work, I did most of the recording, videotaping and editing in the wee hours (just like I'm writing this blog post - after 1am). I did the audio editing using Audacity, the elegant and simple open source multi-track software tool, and the video editing with PowerDirector, the software that came with my JVC Everio, a good-enough camcorder. It was the editing that took forever - getting the timing just right, adding the scrolling captions, editing the audio so everything was balanced and the "sound effects" came out reasonably believable.

In the end, there were a dozen things I would want to do better - especially on the vocals front, but I just didn't want to spend any more time than I absolutely had to to get a decent result. So it is what it is and I hope you enjoy the video. Please let me know what you think - either by posting a comment here or on YouTube or by sending me an email. And if you need some real, serious work done around HITECH, my colleagues and I at Deloitte Consulting would be happy to help. Just send the Deloitte HITECH Response Team an email.

Who links to my website?

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Working with YouTube

This is a test video so I can learn how to post.

That was the video. How does it look?

That was ridiculously easy!

Monday, February 16, 2009
Stories from My Father

Joseph Gordon Martin
September 1st, 1930 - January 29th, 2009

Yesterday, we celebrated the life and mourned the passing of Joseph Gordon Martin - otherwise known as "Joe Gordon" to his kin back in Big Stone Gap, VA, "Captain Martin" to his Air Force colleagues, "Your old uncle Joe" to the people he called up on the phone during his long career in real estate, and just plain "Joe" to most of the people who grew to know and love him throughout his life. For me, he was "Dad."

His memorial service, held in the multi-purpose room of the Fairborn St. Luke United Methodist Church (it wouldn't fit in the sanctuary) was not your typical, somber affair. It did begin with a moving presentation of an American flag to my mother by an Air Force color guard in honor of Dad's service to the country he loved. The standing room only crowd (we're thinking around 300 attended) was perfectly silent as taps played.

Then things got to hopping! We sang "How Great Thou Art" with gusto - one of my dad's favorites. Dr. Stuart McDowell, Chair of the Wright State University Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures, introduced a group of students to sing selections from their recent production of Smokey Joe's Cafe. Mom and Dad have been long-time supporters of the theatre department and helped fund a student scholarship there. I had asked Stuart if they might come and sing, hoping for two to agree. Instead, eight singers and a pianist entertained us with powerful versions of "Loving You" and "Stand By Me," the latter song bringing claps and cheers as their joyous vocals filled the room.

We then had a time of sharing tributes by friends and family. I started by asking folks to raise their hand if they had ever:
  • Had a real estate dealing with "your Old Uncle Joe"
  • Attended church with Joe
  • Seen Joe in the Fairborn 4th of July parade
  • Been publicly embarrassed by my father

For each question, hundreds of hands shot up. To me, these questions really summarized the public face of my Dad. Always with a smile and a story or something funny to say.

There was one question I didn't ask - how many of you have ever benefited from my father's generosity? I learned only in the last year or so as he began disclosing some of his financial dealings with me, that he had made so many personal loans to folks when they couldn't get credit or were going through a particularly difficult time. He shared this information with me with some pangs of regret as the current economic hardships have made more than a few of his debtors default. He was watching the nest egg he had put aside for his "first wife" Sonia (as he called her for their entire 52 years of marriage) suffer along with everyone else's and worried that he hadn't been prudent enough. I reassured Dad that Mom would have more than enough to live comfortably for many years and still have some leftover for his kids and for the charities he cared about.

During my sister's beautiful comments, she mentioned his quiet generosity and live-within-your-means style, saying that the world wouldn't be in its current economic state if we all behaved in this way. He gave us a wonderful example to follow - one that I hope I can live up to and that my own son will grow to appreciate.

I wrapped up my own comments with a poem by John Updike, who passed away the same week as Dad:

Perfection Wasted

And another regrettable thing about death
is the ceasing of your own brand of magic,
which took a whole life to develop and market —
the quips, the witticisms, the slant
adjusted to a few, those loved ones nearest
the lip of the stage, their soft faces blanched
in the footlight glow, their laughter close to tears,
their tears confused with their diamond earrings,
their warm pooled breath in and out with your heartbeat,
their response and your performance twinned.
The jokes over the phone. The memories packed
in the rapid-access file. The whole act.
Who will do it again? That's it: no one;
imitators and descendants aren't the same.

That's my dad.

Many others shared stories of his humor, community service and love of life. I'm sure as the service was closing, had my father been standing in the back, he would have been shaking his wristwatch and putting it up to his ear - playfully signaling the preacher that it was time to stop.

Lest anyone imagine him a perfect man, let me assure you I do not. Nor was he a perfect father. I know that there have been at least three reasons I haven't shed tears with his passing. One is that his death was a blessed release from the pain and suffering we were all experiencing as cancer ate away at him. Another is that it is very hard to have a conversation with someone who knew my father without laughing about one of his stories or something he said or did to make a perfect moment - and he would love to know that this is so. We are all so grateful that he took the time to put some of his best stories in a book, The Life and Times of Joe Gordon (to the best of my recollection), more about which is available here.

But there is a third reason I haven't really mourned his passing. My relationship with my father was pretty much the same as everyone else's. He was (mostly) kind and supportive; I never doubted that he loved me or that he was proud of me; if I got into a bind, he would loan me money (with interest); we took family vacations to interesting places. But there was no real connection of the father-son kind. I have a solitary memory of throwing a ball with him when I was about four. No camping trips or father-son outings, though a couple of times he did take my sister, Melissa, and me to Rainbow Lakes - a theoretically stocked mudhole of a lake outside of Fairborn that, in retrospect, seemed more like an abandoned minefield than a place to actually catch fish.

As I've read about Ronald Reagan and the relationships he had with his children, I strongly resonate with those experiences. What you saw was what he was, with no ulterior motives or hidden resentments. But he was not a man with whom his children had much of a personal relationship. Like Reagan, my father was a product of his generation and didn't seem to have much of a capacity to explore his inner self or connect with others at a deeper level.

Helping him write and publish his book was the closest I came to having heart-to-heart conversations as he grew nearer to death and acknowledged some of his fears about what happens next. So in a very real and somewhat sad way, I haven't lost my father at all because the man I knew and the relationship I had with him are pretty much encapsulated in his book. For me, he was his stories. I was rarely, if ever, a character in them, and then played only a bystander role. So if I'm mourning any loss, it is that I know that this is the full extent of my ever knowing and having a father.

If this sounds like a judgment against my dad, it is not. I can think of many, many examples of fathers that make me so very grateful for the one that I have had. Joe Martin was a very good man, one I am exceedingly proud to say was my father, and one who lived a full, no-regrets sort of life that I would be happy to be able to say that I emulated when my own life story comes to a close.

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Sunday, January 04, 2009

Taylor's 2009 New Year's Card

Oh-Eight is a wrap -- and I say Good Riddance!
Dad's 401(k) is now worth a mere pittance
The stock market's tanking; our future looks dark
Our country's transmission seems locked up in Park
I'm feeling most pensive and now as I ponder
The future, I see all the warnings and wonder
If my generation will be the last one
To have childhoods loaded with laughter and fun

But then I remember -- a New Dawn is near
It heralds the triumph of Hope over Fear
Our nation decided to Change its direction
By checking "Obama" in last year's election
Even before he's been sworn in, it's clear
We're returning to principles we once held dear
We now have the green light to lead many nations
From a place of True Strength that eschews isolation

But enough with political pontificating
The New Year is here and it's worth celebrating!
Forget the bad news -- things will turn out just fine
And I have Big Plans for Two Thousand and Nine
Like making more movies on Daddy's old Mac
And adding new lines to our Christmas train track
I'm building inventions with solder and saw
And working toward earning my black belt -- Hai-YAH!

My folks are both making their own big plans too
Dad's joining Deloitte on their consulting crew
Mom the "Nutritioner" makes meals a treat
And counsels her clients on good foods to eat
They're P90X-ing and getting real buff
And love ballroom dancing and other fun stuff
There's much more to tell you before this poem ends
But it's done -- HAPPY NEW YEAR
Dear Loved Ones and Friends!

Click the links for Taylor's New Year's reflections of yore:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008
An Era of Change

This week's NYT Sunday Magazine has an article by Ron Suskind entitled "Change: How Eras End and Begin." In it, he describes a seminal scene in David Axelrod's office as Barack and Michelle Obama confer with eight others about whether or not Barack should pursue the presidency. Michelle says, "You need to ask yourself, Why do you want to do this?"

Barack says, "This I know: When I raise my hand and take that oath of office, I think the world will look at us differently. And millions of kids across this country will look at themselves differently."

Here's the amazing thing about that statement: we don't have to wait for the raising of Obama's hand some weeks from now for the world and our children to see these United States in a new light; that transformation happened on election night after We the People raised our hands by voting for him. Everything I've learned about our President Elect since his campaign began tells me that he would agree and would say it differently today.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Yes We Did!

This is a time to look forward, to move to a new place for our nation in this world. We have an incredible amount of healing to do - healing our economy, our relationships with other nations and peoples, of the sould of this amazing country.

As tough of a race as it has been, the work is just ahead of us. I am humbled to think that today we did what could not be done - one person at a time.

I made calls for Obama yesterday in Santa Monica, taking a few hours off from my business trip here to play a bit part in this massive effort. I spoke with many first-time voters in Colorado and North Carolina - some who had questions about exactly what to do on election day and many in North Carolina who had taken advantage of early voting to make their voice heard. One woman, was voting for the first time at the age of 49. It was the first election where she felt that her vote really mattered. She was right; as of this writing (12:28am ET), the winner of the state's 15 electoral votes is still undeclared - less than 14,000 votes of the more than 4 million cast separate the two candidates.

Many I spoke with were ready to stand in line for as long as it took to proudly - proudly - cast their ballot for Barack Obama. Some were tired of hearing from strangers interrupting their day with another call; but more were encouraging - thanking me for putting time in to make a difference. This is why I think today's results will turn into significant action: People - we the people - are ready to go to work to support our new president and make change a reality.

I will never forget this night.

Now let's get to work...

Friday, October 24, 2008
Happy (Belated) Birthday to Me

Charlene Kingston, an old friend from college days in Ohio reconnected with me via Facebook and Twitter. She sent me a very thoughtful note for my 44th on the 21st that seemed worthy of a post:

The process of living daily life has a changing pace. The rhythms of working life and family provide a baseline of activity that influences our perception of the passing of time. Short-term projects, seasonal activities, and rituals make increasing demands on our schedules temporarily and then fade away. We adjust to the changes, bracing for greater demands, and relaxing when the demands subside. We may have a sense of the fullness of our calendars, but it can be tough to really assess how richly we are living each moment.

Birthdays are a great milestone to measure life. Like a punctuation mark, they break the routine flow of our days. And like reaching the top of a Ferris wheel, they give us a pause, a chance to catch our breath and to see our lives laid out like the geography below us.

For your birthday, I wish for you the clarity of a mountain top, the joys of being surrounded by the people you love, and the contentment that comes from your heart in knowing you are living your life with integrity and deep personal meaning.
Thanks, Charlene... It is good to take a breath at the top of the wheel, take stock, and be thankful.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Venus in Repose

Earlier this evening, Kym, Taylor and I said a long, tearful goodbye to a member of our family – our 1-1/2-year-old miniature schnauzer named Venus. She didn’t die; we gave her to a wonderful couple who we know will take very good care of her. Venus is, without question, the best dog I’ve ever known – not that I’ve been close to many. But experienced dog people have remarked about what a smart, well-behaved and good natured dog she is. Whether or not she is the best dog ever, I can’t say, but she is the best dog we could have ever hoped to own – if only for a season.

You might be wondering why in the world, if she’s such a wonderful animal, we would ever get rid of Venus. I’m wondering that a bit myself as there’s not exactly a black-and-white reason for our decision. It was ultimately Kym’s decision and one I felt was important to respect and agree with. If I try and pin it down to one unifying reason as to why we gave Venus away, I’d say it is this: we really fell in love with her.

That probably doesn’t sound like much of an answer at all, so I suppose I’ll start from the beginning. Maybe it will make more sense in context.

Kym had owned a rescue Chiquaqua-mix named Bambi when she was 5 years old.
The dog became sick after couple of months and needed to be put to sleep. I owned one briefly when I was about 12 or 13 – a sheltie named Robbie. I begged my parents for a dog, having no idea what it meant to take care of anything, let alone myself. My sister begged too and eventually they relented. Robbie was pretty hyper, nearly full grown, but still very much a puppy. He hadn’t been housetrained yet and we certainly weren’t disciplined enough to train him ourselves. My parents had made it clear that he was to be Melissa’s and my responsibility, not theirs. When it became obvious that we had neither the inclination nor the temperament to care for a high-maintenance dog like Robbie, my folks stayed true to their word and found a new home for him. Within days he was housetrained and, as far as I know, lived a happy life.

So it’s pretty safe to say that we’re not dog people. It’s not that I don’t like dogs. I actually like them a lot – especially the ones I’m not allergic to – but I understand that they have real needs that shouldn’t be neglected. I take that seriously enough to know that I wouldn’t want me for an owner if I were a dog. I’m too busy, travel too much and just don’t place enough of a priority on caring for a domestic animal to be a dog owner.

When Taylor turned five or so, he started asking for a brother or sister. We watched him with other children – babies especially – and saw how loving, gentle and attentive he was. T would make a great big brother but we knew a little sib wasn’t in the works.

So we talked about getting a dog. Actually, Kym talked about it and I demurred. Taylor was in no way ready for a dog. All the care responsibilities would fall on us and I was not going to devote the time required. Both Kym and Taylor were persistent and assured me that I wouldn’t be a primary caretaker. Whether that would turn out to be true or not, I argued that we are not dog people and we have no true appreciation of what it means to care for a dog.

I held out for as long as I could, wanting to wait forever – or at least until Taylor was eight and more capable of caring for a pet. But I knew that resistance was futile and I finally relented.

Kym had done her homework (as she does with most everything) and figured out that the best breed for us would be a miniature schnauzer. A small dog (about 12 pounds fully grown) but not a wimpy dog – one that would be a good and devoted companion and not destroy the house or the yard. She found a wonderful breeder in northern Maryland who bred and showed only miniature schnauzers. We put down a deposit and promised T a puppy for his next birthday.

Venus was born on March 10, 2007, just seven days shy of T’s sixth birthday. A purebred with a fine pedigree, we picked her up when she was 14 weeks old – already housetrained and ready to be loved. Within days, we knew she was a good fit. As advertised, she was smart, playful, and sweet. She barked only rarely – really only once a month or so and always for a reason – usually squirrels. All she ever wanted from us was to be nearby. She was always at our feet – ready to lick our hands or pick up a morsel that fell off the kitchen counter. Her pepper gray and white coat was soft as cashmere – especially in the summer when she lost her coarser winter coat. We kept her groomed short, which showed off her lean but muscular figure. She reminded us of one of those Mighty Dog dogs in the commercials when she leapt up the porch stairs from the yard.

As predicted, while Taylor clearly enjoyed Venus (mostly when it was past his bedtime and he was looking for an excuse to delay the inevitable), he didn’t take on ownership responsibilities. He’d feed her occasionally, but it was really up to Kym (and on occasion, me) to walk her and make sure she got what she needed. Kym was also completely responsible for the major stuff and I, on the contrary to my initial thoughts, had very little to do with caring for Venus. I did, however, pick up the tab while Kym did all the legwork.

Not that picking up the tab was a small deal. Our $1200 investment in her as a dog was only the beginning of the expenses. Dog insurance, wellness care (an excellent investment it turned out as she got pancreatitis when she was about six months old), invisible fence, spaying, food, medicine, kenneling when we went on vacation… it all added up pretty quickly. Vastly cheaper than a second child, mind you, but certainly not pocket change.

Still, we could afford it and Venus gave us no grief whatsoever, only love. She had a short spell of needing to chew and managed to get hold of a couple of power cords, but that phase quickly passed (maybe the power cords had something to do with it). After that, she was a perfect gentlewoman.

Kym and I both agreed Venus would not have run of the house so she was confined to the kitchen, foyer and Kym's office. Over time I successfully lobbied for her to be allowed in the family room – on our leather couch when we watched TV – as long as she stayed on a little bed we got for her. All she wanted was to be near us.

So far, this isn’t sounding anything like a tragic story and it’s really not. Over time, a couple of things happened that gave us pause. First, Venus got a number of tick bites from the woods behind our house. Lyme Disease is endemic here – as it is most everywhere nowadays. The bites would become infected and require a couple of visits to the vet. After a while it became clear that if we stayed where we live now, this would become a routine issue. The first time one of our frequent tick checks on Taylor proved fruitful – the little bugger on his chest was the size of a small freckle – our concern escalated.

Then a couple of months ago, Venus broke through the Invisible Fence. Taylor was outside at the time – we heard his repeated screams. As I ran out of the house, I thought for sure Venus or someone else had been hit by a car. He was in a complete panic as he watched her run down the sidewalk and disappear.

Though she’s a tiny dog, even at a full sprint, I can’t outrun her when we go for our evening tears around the circle. If she ever wanted to get away from us, she could do it without so much as panting. Turns out that Venus’ jailbreak was purely a crime of passion; her boyfriend, Dusty, a golden lab puppy twice her size, was out for a walk in the neighborhood and she simply couldn’t help herself.

I think that was the trigger for what ultimately followed; Kym saw that, between the ticks and Venus’ ability to break the fence at will, we would need to stop relying on the fence and always walk her. And that process led to bigger questions: Were we really prepared to do this for the next 12 years? Could we provide Venus with the best possible life?

We love Venus, but we also saw that we didn’t give her all the attention she needed. Maybe that’s not right; we gave her all that she needed. We just didn’t give her what she really deserved. We didn’t play with her enough or let her have the run of the house or the yard. She simply deserved more than we were able to give her.

Kym, with her usual care and diligence, eventually found a couple, the grandparents of one of T’s classmates, who were ready for a new member of their family with whom they could share their palatial home in Frederick, MD, just 30 miles north of us. They had owned a miniature schnauzer in the past, were in semi-retirement, and had plenty of grandkids, land and love to share with our little girl.

A couple of visits with them gave us more than enough assurance that Venus would have everything a dog could want – not indulgent love, but the right kind of love and attention – and time.

Kym spent nearly the entire day today preparing for the delivery. She typed up checklists, Venus' daily routine, her wellness schedule – it was amazing to see it all in writing as she documented everything that went into caring for Venus beyond food, water and walks. Her new owners were rightfully impressed as Kym went through every detail. As we left, we asked them to call us first whenever they went out of town so we could take Venus for them. I’m already missing her, but am happy to know she is getting what she deserves.

Many tears were shed, mostly by Kym. She knew she was doing the right thing for Venus, even though it was breaking her heart. T didn’t cry until we got into the car and he finally realized what it meant (in his heart anyway – he has known intellectually what it meant for a few weeks). He was sad that he had lost a playmate – or at least a potential playmate since we often had to ask him to play with her as he rarely thought to do so on his own.

Tonight, Kym apologized for not listening to me in the first place – that I was right, we’re not dog people. But I was wrong. We are dog people. We just know that we shouldn’t own a dog. But we have loved one dog as much as any other dog person. I know because of the tears I am shedding now.

Saturday, September 06, 2008
Yesterday, I had to install a security update on my work PC that required a reboot. I dutifully closed the 20 or so windows of stuff I had open, making sure I had saved each document. Later that day, I went to open a draft of a whitepaper on the use of electronic data sources for drug safety surveillance as a follow-on to BearingPoint's work on the eHealth Initiative Connecting Communities for Drug Safety Toolkit.

No document. No trace. Nada.

I can't recall the last time I've totally lost a document or file. I backup my hard drive, archive email and am pretty religious about hitting the save button (seems my spiritual calling has been downgraded from saving souls to saving documents, but that's another story). But the biggest change that's happened, frankly, is that Microsoft has gotten pretty good at making sure documents don't get lost when their applications crash. They crash pretty often still, but at least when they do, you can almost always pick up the pieces.

I had already put in several hours over three days into editing this paper and was probably less than an hour from finishing. With extreme diligence, I look through every option I could think of to find it. Hidden file searches, Google Desktop, looking to see if I had named it something else accidentally in the process of saving it. In the end, I figured that I had been saving the temporary internet file of the draft that had been sent to me via email. But when I opened it again from the email, another instance of the document - Whitepaper(2).doc - came up containing none of my changes.

The path address for that file was in the Temporary Internet File folder a couple of subfolders down. But when I looked in the TIF folder, there were no subfolders showing - even though I had made sure that all "hidden" files would show.

I gave up, resigned to the idea that I would spend a good part of the weekend rebuilding what I had already done.

My favorite time of the day is that place between when I wake up and when I get up. Things become clearer during that intersticial space between dreams and reality. It's when I'm best at figuring out puzzles whose solutions have eluded me - be they that one last line in the lyric of a song, a business issue or trying to remember where I left my sunglasses.

Today when I returned to my computer, I typed the file path into my Windows Explorer browser and the hidden files appeared one by one. There among the hundreds of temporary files was a beautiful sight - my lost file.

The weekend is saved - or at least it gave me enough time to treat myself to a little blogging...

Thursday, September 04, 2008
Yesterday, I sent this email to a bunch of folks working on creating a new road map for developing pharmacy and ePrescribing-related standards through NCPDP, the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs, a standards development organization. Too often, volunteers like these never get the credit or thanks they deserve for working on something so esoteric and abstract, but that is, nevertheless, absolutely critical in my view to transforming the current healthcare system into something that actually resembles a system. If you're one of those people working on similar thankless initiatives, thanks to you too... and please, please keep up the good work.

To the members of the NCPDP Modeling and Methodology Road Map Task Group –

I got a lump in my throat reading this document today. That’s a good thing.
It took me back to 2005 and the many conversations Jim McCain and I had about how important data modeling will be to the future of NCPDP and our ability to create standards that are more readily interoperable with other healthcare information exchange standards. There wasn’t much of an appetite for these ideas back then – mostly because people didn’t know what the heck we were talking about. But the leaders of NCPDP also understood that we were in danger of building standards that, while effective in meeting current needs, could someday become a “bridge to nowhere” if we didn’t look at how they could be more aligned with standards used in other environments. So the group received the Board’s blessing and got up and running.

I wish I could have been more involved in this most recent work, but from what I’ve just read, you did more than fine without me. Point by point, you’ve articulated a set of rock-solid arguments for why we need to move toward model-based standards and have developed a clear road map for accomplishing that goal. I’m truly in awe of the quality of this document’s contents and how well they articulate a detailed approach to achieving what was an inexact if not impassioned notion three years ago.

What we have now is a way and a plan; what we still require is a means and the will to execute on this plan. NCPDP will be more effective in creating future standards by adopting a model-based approach using open-source tools. But our success in achieving the ultimate goal of creating semantic interoperability within healthcare will be severely limited unless we get the rest of the healthcare standards development community to follow a shared path. That’s why I believe that it’s extremely important that we quickly vet this work and share it with other SDOs – perhaps through our ongoing SDO summit meetings.

Workgroup 15 – Sample Management and Activity Reporting Transactions for Safety – will be starting work on developing draft standards for drug sample data so samples can be managed through electronic prescribing systems and included in medication histories. It’s a fairly small and simple domain relative to others and it may be a good environment in which to work through the soup-to-nuts modeling process so that we can further refine it. We would need a modeler to join our task group, but would welcome the opportunity to demonstrate this capability.

If I go on much further, they’ll have to cue the orchestra to begin playing “America the Beautiful”, so I’ll just offer one more thought: The main reason I felt so compelled to blather on about your work is because I’ve experienced the gratitude of a patient whose life was saved or made better because of something I did back when I was involved in direct patient care. Sadly, people won’t be coming up to you in the street to give you hugs because of how you changed their lives. That’s too bad because this work will ultimately impact more people than any individual doctor, nurse or pharmacist ever could. I just wanted to let you know that someone sees it, understands its relevance, and wants to thank you deeply.

Thank you, thank you.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008
William F. Buckley, Jr. - 1925-2008

Newsweek's cover story on the death of the voice of right wing political commentary prompted me to read again a copy of a letter of thanks Mr. Buckley wrote to my grandmother, which I keep framed in my office. Though I may not have agreed with his political views and probably have more affinity to his son, Christopher Buckley (still waiting for the brilliant Little Green Men to come out as a film - too bad his father will no longer be around to play the main character), I can't help but appreciate his skill as a writer. But judge for yourself...

June 8, 1967

Mrs. Joseph A. Martin
Box 518
Big Stone Gap,

Dear Mrs. Martin:

Your gift has given us heart. It's too early, as yet, to know for sure whether we will make it, but if enough others respond as generously as you have done, the prospects are good. We can only hope.

And hope, also, that you have some idea how much you mean to us. Not only concretely - your contribution will mean the survival of the magazine if, as I say, there are others as generous as you - but also spiritually. We write sometimes into a void. We see, of course, the effect we have in some specific instances - an article read into the Congressional Record, a student debate based on some of the things we write, letters from practical politicians who are moved by some of the analyses we publish. But our donors are, for the most part, a silent lot, in the highest traditions of philanthropy. But when the magazine staggers under the load, you come in from the shadows, and help us up from our knees. Perhaps someone once behaved towards you in that way, in which case you will know the measure of our gratitude.

Yours faithfully,

Wm. F. Buckley, Jr.

It reminds me of Lincoln's letter to Mrs. Bixby, when he had to inform her of the loss of five of her sons to the war. Form letters just don't cut it...

Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Announcement of New Position at BearingPoint

BearingPoint sent out a press release today announcing my new role as Director of Health Information Convergence within the Healthcare and Life Sciences Segment of the organization. I thought that title would be pretty decriptive of what I will be doing in this new phase of my career. But, perhaps more importantly, the title maximizes my opportunity for involvement while minimizing my accountability for anything approaching tangible results. If I'm successful (not that there's really any way to measure success), I might have a shot at becoming BearingPoint's Chief Paradigm Officer...

On a less silly note, I'm very excited about the new job and have already found opportunities to make myself useful. Below is a brief description of what I see my role becoming over time, which is followed by the press release.

What I’m Doing at Bearingpoint

I worked for Pfizer for six years beginning in 2001. My last four years there focused heavily on Health Information Technology (HIT) standards and policies and the relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and Electronic Prescribing (eRx), Electronic Health Records (EHRs), Personal Health Records (PHRs), and the emerging Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN). About a year ago, my commercially focused informatics group merged with one from Research & Development, giving us a much-needed opportunity to build a more consistent approach to HIT across the organization. And it gave me the chance to look at ways that HIT policies and standards affect the R&D side of the organization.

The recent changes at Pfizer (continual announcements of reorganization, adapting to scale, and “transformation”) made it increasingly difficult to focus on external environmental activities that, while truly transformational, were really in support of the long-term redesign entire pharmaceutical industry, not just Pfizer’s. While Pfizer was very supportive of the work, in the context of the short-term focus of the organization, it was difficult to justify some of the larger initiatives that wouldn’t return any direct value to Pfizer for several years. I was being courted by several consulting firms that were familiar with my work and history and made the decision to pursue one of these opportunities with BearingPoint.

Like many of its competitors, BearingPoint, is involved in many different industry sectors. In healthcare, we have deep relationships with many Life Sciences companies (including Pfizer) and with hospital systems, Integrated Delivery Networks (IDNs) and others as systems integrators and strategy consultants. We implement large-scale systems like Cerner, McKesson, Epic, etc. We also do a lot of work for HHS and serve as the Project Management Office for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC or ONCHIT). From this vantage point, BearingPoint has asked me to find ways to make use of all these points of involvement and create synergies between them.

Matching patients to clinical trials through Regional Health Information Organizations (RHIOs) is but one example of this kind of opportunity. My ideal scenario would be to build a coalition of entities – including various RHIOs, IDNs and a core group of Life Sciences companies – to collaborate on common methods for health information exchange related to clinical research. In this way, we can help defray some of the long-term costs related to enabling these capabilities while tying them to real-world implementations.

One more specific example is the work I’ve been doing over the last few years on HL7’s Guideline Expression Language, GELLO. I’ve been working with a number of collaborators to develop open source authoring tools for creating standardized clinical expressions GELLO that can be used for many purposes in clinical care – including matching patients to clinical trials. Materials on this work are available at There is a video in particular that goes over its use in prior authorization that may be of interest.

The Press Release

Jodi Cohen
Director, Global Communications

For immediate release

BearingPoint Names Dr. Ross D. Martin
Director of Health Information Convergence

McLean, Va., April 25, 2007 – BearingPoint, Inc. (NYSE: BE), one of the world’s largest management and technology consulting firms, today announced the appointment of Dr. Ross Martin, as director of Health Information Convergence in the Global Healthcare and Life Sciences practice (HLS). He brings more than 15 years of experience in healthcare as an obstetrician, urgent-care physician, health information technology (HIT) journalist, managed care and medical informatics consultant, and for the last six years, medical informatician at Pfizer.

Martin will be responsible for cultivating opportunities in BearingPoint’s HLS segment (hospital, physician, payer, government and life sciences) to accelerate information flow among healthcare stakeholders through HIT. Martin brings key skills to the firm’s strong position in the ePrescribing area of the life sciences industry, and he supplements the firm’s complement of physician consultants across all sectors of BearingPoint’s HLS segment.

Most recently, Martin was the director of Healthcare Informatics at Pfizer Inc. where he initiated and led many of Pfizer’s efforts to influence national standards and policies for electronic prescribing, electronic health records, personal health records, online medical education and the emerging Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN).

Martin serves on the Consumer Empowerment Workgroup of the American Health Information Community and on the boards of the National Council for Prescription Drug Programs and the HIT Standards Panel. He has conducted in-depth field research in eRx and advocated for and led a cross-industry volunteer team in the creation of a standards-mapping guidance document enabling the exchange of electronic prescriptions between inpatient and outpatient settings in the U.S.

“We are thrilled to announce the appointment of such an accomplished medical professional,” said Phil Garland, senior vice president and head of the Global Life Sciences practice. “Martin’s experience in health informatics, policy, business and clinical medicine combined with BearingPoint’s deep industry expertise will allow us to help build a more consistent approach toward HIT across pharmaceutical organizations.”

“I am excited to join BearingPoint’s Global Healthcare and Life Sciences practice and look forward to contributing even more to the transformation of both the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries through the convergence of clinical research and clinical care,” said Martin. “By working with BearingPoint colleagues embedded throughout healthcare and other industries, I hope to help leverage our unique position as a global company capable of both developing and implementing the array of strategies necessary to build synergies among life sciences companies, healthcare providers, payers and other stakeholders.”

Martin earned a Bachelor of Science degree in political science from Wright State University, received his medical degree from the University of Cincinnati and earned a masters degree of health services administration from Xavier University. He also held a National Institute of Health fellowship in medical informatics at the Harvard/MIT Division of Health Sciences & Technology.

About BearingPoint, Inc.

BearingPoint, Inc. (NYSE: BE) is one of the world's largest providers of management and technology consulting services to Global 2000 companies and government organizations in 60 countries worldwide. Based in McLean, Va., the firm has over 17,000 employees and major practice areas focusing on the Public Services, Financial Services and Commercial Services markets. For nearly 100 years, BearingPoint professionals have built a reputation for knowing what it takes to help clients achieve their goals, and working closely with them to get the job done. For more information, visit the Company's website at


Some of the statements in this press release constitute “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements are based on our current expectations, estimates and projections. Words such as “will,” “expects,” “believes” and similar expressions are used to identify these forward-looking statements. These statements are only predictions and as such are not guarantees of future performance and involve risks, uncertainties and assumptions that are difficult to predict. Forward-looking statements are based upon assumptions as to future events or our future financial performance that may not prove to be accurate. Actual outcomes and results may differ materially from what is expressed or forecast in these forward-looking statements. As a result, these statements speak only as of the date they were made, and the Company undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007
Charting a New Course

I sent this email to my co-workers at Pfizer last Friday. The responses I've received over the last week have been touching, sad, rewarding and profound. I have made many friends and am honored to have worked with such quality people.

Dear Pfizer Colleagues –

This is a very difficult message to write. After experiencing six remarkable years with Pfizer, I have decided to close this chapter of my career and begin a new one outside of the company. BearingPoint is in the process of aligning their Life Sciences and Healthcare practices and they have asked me to lead the effort in building their strategy around the convergence of clinical research and clinical care. My last day with Pfizer will be March 16th.

I’ve been discussing this possibility with my managers for several weeks now. In many ways, this change of venue is less a departure from Pfizer’s Healthcare Informatics team and more an extension of it. There are many times when it is easier to influence the external environment from an external vantage point. In this new capacity, I hope to become a strong ally and partner with Pfizer as it maintains its leadership position as the most forward-thinking pharmaceutical company in the realm of healthcare informatics. There is much to be done in the coming decade if we are to reap the potential benefits of bi-directional information flow and I look forward to laboring with all of you to make it happen.

I am deeply grateful for the many friends and mentors I have had the pleasure of knowing in the years since joining Pfizer in 2001. I have been privileged to work with colleagues from US Planning & Business Development, Pfizer Health Solutions, Business Technology, the Pfizer Strategic Investment Group, Worldwide Marketing, Medical Humanities and Pfizer Global Research and Development. With each new initiative, I gained increasing respect for the caliber of people who have built Pfizer into such a remarkable organization through their professionalism and passion.

More than anyone, though, I am indebted to Steve Labkoff, who recruited me into Pfizer so he could "clone himself" and move to a new position. A few years later, Steve became my manager. He has worked tirelessly to help me succeed in my efforts to increase the value of our medicines by influencing health information technology standards and policies. He advocated for my move to Washington, DC – a move that has significantly impacted the way others view Pfizer’s leadership and commitment to healthcare’s transformation. He protected me and my radical notions so they would have time to mature and gain acceptance. He reined me in when I ventured too far from the course. I doubt that I will ever receive the same level of commitment and support from a manager again.

The hardest part of this decision, in fact, has been the prospect of leaving Steve, David Isom, and my colleagues in PHI. Though we formed this team just a year ago, we quickly established a strong bond and rapport, both of which have only grown stronger over time. You will all be missed.

Unless BearingPoint hires another Ross Martin in the next couple of weeks, beginning March 26th I assume my new email address will be ross.martin @ You can always keep track of me through my personal website at where you can download songs, send email, read random musings on my blog or check out my son’s latest New Year’s poem (which is now available – a mere two months late – by clicking on "taylor jay").

Thank you, thank you, thank you.



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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Thought I'd do some coindropping and coin a new word - veritocracy - a societal system based upon trust and value that is created through information transparency. eBay, I would argue, is a veritocracy because the market of exchange that exists is based upon trust. But the trust upon which it operates is not a blind trust. I am willing to wire money to a complete stranger on the Internet because I can see this person's history as a seller. Through a thousand prior sales, I can see the seller's track record of fast, honest and courteous dealings and know that I'm not going to get gouged. Even better, eBay itself has enough trust in its own system that I'm protected from fraud even if the seller does renege on the deal.

While I might trust that eBay seller enough to wire them $1,000 for a rare collectible on PayPal based upon their reputation as a seller, that trust doesn't necessarily translate to other types of trust. I wouldn't drop my son off at the seller's house and assume he or she is a good babysitter. In fact, the seller, for all I know, could be a pedophile who kidnaps children and stows them in the basement. As long as the seller honors the eBay rules of engagement, the seller can maintain a reputation as a "model citizen."

As deplorable as child molestation may be, it may not be a bad thing that these two domains are judged separately and one can be a model eBayer while keeping private other proclivities (note an article about eBayer revenge here). Eventually, we'll see personal trust histories on childcare, friendship, dating and the like (some of this is already happening) and the Semantic Web or similar technology will make it possible to have a composite credit record of social behavior. It's a little like Big Brother, but the Big Brother isn't some government monolith lording over us - Big Brother is us.

A good thing? A bad thing? I think it will be a valuable thing overall as we'll be able to apply value to all sorts of intangibles that currently aren't acknowledged except in villages where people spend an entire lifetime in one place and the histories of behavior are inescapable. Transparency like this tends to lead to better behavior (though what is considered good behavior may be very different in our global village over the hamlet).

More to say about this. But time, time, time...

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Thursday, April 27, 2006
The MedBiq Song

Last night, I briefly performed at the 2006 Annual Conference of the MedBiquitous Consortium in Baltimore, MD. MedBiq is a standards development organization whose mission is to create a technology blueprint for professional healthcare education. I been serving on their Executive Committee for a few years, so when they found out that I had written a song for NCPDP's annual conference last year called "The Legend of Bob the DERF", they felt a little neglected. So I promised them a song too. (HL7 made the same request for their meeting coming up in September. At this rate, I figure I'll be able to put out a new CD - "Dr. Martin Does the Standards" - in a year or two.)

Here's the way I introduced the song and the lyrics. You can find a copy of the MP3 here.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is indeed an honor and a privilege to stand before you today and offer up this little ditty – a trifle, really. I recall with delight the day our own Dr. Peter Greene requested that I pen a musical work worthy of the institution that bears the name MedBiquitous.

MedBiquitous! Why, one requires a graduate degree to simply utter the word! No doubt, a banal pop song or a hippie folk tune or – God forbid! – a Country Western ballad would never suffice. For MedBiquitous was not slapped together by coin-counting merchants in the back alley of commerce – or hacked by pocket protector donning computer geeks locked deep in the fluorescently lit bowels of some faceless monolith – no! MedBiquitous was conceived in the hallowed halls of academia – even more, within the dome of Johns Hopkins University itself.

Clearly, there is but one musical genre sophisticated – yet playful – enough to satisfy the need of an institution of such noble birth and regal bearing – the operetta!

So I do hope that Masters Gilbert and Sullivan are shining down on us now as we present to you the world premier of “The MedBiq Song”. Maestro, if you please…

The MedBiq Song
(To the tune of “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major General” by Gilbert and Sullivan)

If you want quality in CME activities to demonstrate
Or virtual reality for surgery to simulate
Or methods for ensuring that your Med Ed content's shareable
You'll find that there are many ways to do this that are terrible

If you need messages for transferring credentials proving licensure
Or means for tracking competence in ways you've never done before
Before you write me off and say this guy is just a dumb buffoon
Keep listening – I promise that you'll have your answer very soon

If you are posting all your healthcare publications on the Internet
But find that, when you search for them on Google, crap is all you get
Don't give up hope or sing the blues
Don't hang yourself or make a fuss
You'll be a hero if you use
Our standards from MedBiquitous

Yes, we have SCORM and LOM and XML and RSS as well as MEMS
And several more ridiculously complicated acronyms
That seem to have the solitary purpose of confusing you
Or making me seem smarter than the people I am singing to

But what we really seek are fundamental changes in the quality
Of everything related to all Med Ed methodology
We do this out of altruistic duty to posterity
(Though making loads of money in the process would be fine with me)

So if I've managed to persuade you or have piqued your curiosity
Please take to time to analyze MedBiquitous more carefully
And hurry down to Baltimore
Where all this stuff is happening
Whatever Med Ed has in store
You'll find our standards just the thing

Our task is great – we cannot do
This work alone, so join with us
Or kindy make a check out to
The order of MedBiquitous

© 2006 Ross D. Martin, MD, MHA
15 January 2006

Monday, April 24, 2006
The Earth is the Sky
(a song for Earth Day 2006)

The Earth is the Sky
The Earth is the Sky
Gaze into her deeply - she tells you no lie
The Earth is the Sky
The Earth is the Sky

The Earth is the Sea
The Earth is the Sea
All life flows out and returns faithfully
The Earth is the Sea
The Earth is the Sea

The Earth is the Sun
The Earth is the Sun
Her core warms us all and her warmth makes us one
The Earth is the Sun

The Earth is the Earth
The Earth is the Earth
Sun Sea and Sky can't replace all her worth
The Earth is the Earth

The Earth is the Earth is the Earth is the Earth is the Earth IS

(c)2006 Ross D. Martin, MD, MHA
Earth Day 2006