Why Big Data is a Big Deal

SriniVas Sadda, MD

President & Chief Scientific Officer

The work of the Doheny Imaging Reading Center (DIRC) here at the Doheny Eye Institute can be very personally meaningful –for patients we treat here, and for those patients around the world whose images we analyze.  The impact of a well-read image, and a precise diagnosis, can be profound. I’m grateful we can provide our expertise at DIRC globally, thanks to the ease of image transfers over the internet.

Now I am coming to appreciate an even greater potential to the work at DIRC.  Doheny is among the institutes able to provide significant data sets based on the number of images we receive and read.  Ophthalmologists, like all medical doctors, make decisions about treatments and allocations of resources based on practice. If a doctor sees only a handful of patients each year with a very unusual issue, it can be difficult to determine the best care. Big data cures that. By aggregating and sharing large amounts of data on patients with similar conditions, doctors can learn more than they might from only their own patients, or in their home hospitals. The much larger data sets can evidence patterns, provide good predictors of outcomes, and guide treatment in ways that can save time, vision and money. All three are critically important in eye care.

Big data is a personal interest of mine, and I look forward to sharing news here about how our understanding of eye disease can be enhanced, and our research accelerated by providing and collecting big data at Doheny.

Impact on Future Practice

It is worth briefly noting that a special session at the August annual meeting of the American Society of Retina Specialists in Boston, Transition to Clinical Practice, was a great success. The course is designed to provide our youngest colleagues with opportunities to ask questions and hear their new peers offer insights in a relaxed setting.  A panel including myself and Dr. Lisa C. Olmos de Koo and Dr. Dean Elliott (both former retina faculty here at the Doheny Eye Institute), as well as Drs. Judy E. Kim and Gaurav Shah led an interactive session on a variety of topics which are of great importance to an early career ophthalmologist, but really are not addressed during the course of one’s medical training. These important and practical topics include finding the right job, contract negotiations, common patient care issues, and finding ways to stay active academically, billing and ethics.  Feedback on the session was excellent: 71% of participants said they’d adapt their practice based on something they heard. Thanks to our colleagues who generously shared their insights.

Pan-American Agenda, and Adventures

I return from summer vacation with a renewed sense of how precious vision is.

The opportunity to engage with colleagues from throughout the Americas at the Pan American Congress of Ophthalmology was a highlight. We at Doheny, and our former fellows practicing there now, keep the connections in mission relevant and current. Following the meetings, my family and I enjoyed sightseeing in Peru. We visited Machu Pichu, and were fortunate enough to make a trip to the Galapagos Islands. This lifelong dream fulfilled, I enjoyed the visual wonder of the flora and fauna of this unique place on our earth. How lucky to have seen it, and be reminded that experiencing the world with our eyes is a gift I hope to preserve for all.

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