Road to the Symposium Blog – April 12th 2018

By Kristin Feeney

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us,” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of an OHDSI groupie. I wandered into the OHDSI Symposium in 2015. I watched presentations from Patrick Ryan, Jon Duke and George Hripcsak and the rest was history. I knew immediately you all were my people: a whole world of people who shared my desire to improve patient outcomes through large scale analytics.

Since 2016, I’ve had the esteemed privilege to be a member of the Symposium Working Group. Behind the scenes, I’ve championed coordinating panel discussions and contributed significant effort to fundraising campaigns to make an OHDSI “free lunch” a reality.

As I reflect on the road behind us and the road ahead, I find myself falling into a textbook OHDSI habit – using Greek mythology to explain our journey. The legend of Pheidippides or Philippides details the story of the famous Greek messenger who was sent from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens to announce the Persians had been defeated. The story says that Philippides ran the entire distance without stopping and burst in, exclaiming the victory before succumbing to the exhaustion of his feat. The legend of his journey is what inspired the modern sporting event of the marathon.

As a 4x marathon runner (and a Bostonian eagerly looking forward to this coming Marathon Monday), I’ll be the first to admit that marathons are not for everyone. Marathons require significant preparation, self-sacrifice and grit. It’s a substantial commitment of time and a fair amount of physical pain for that unbelievable rush – the opportunity to push your physical limits to achieve a tremendous goal.

Helping to plan the OHDSI Symposium is no different. Each year we assemble a new plan to reach our goal. Community members sacrifice hours of their own time and dig deep into their own organizations and expertise to help bring the day to life. The resulting program showcases the tremendous power of our research network – advancing the rigor of observational research methods, showcasing the results of ongoing studies, providing demonstrations of the latest technology and sharing in a community dialogue that pushes our limits and sets new goals for improving patient outcomes.

I’m sure the danger to using this reference is that someone’s going to suggest we rename the Symposium Working Group “Philippides” as tribute. Joking aside, it’s important to embrace this metaphorical journey. It’s a true testament to the power of our incredible network and the way we, as a working group, are pursuing yet another feat of greatness.

2018 serves to be the best year yet. We started the year by going truly global. There’s plenty more in store. I can’t promise anyone’s as good at OHDSI Karaoke as Peter Rijnbeek but we’ll sure as heck try to raise the bar and push the envelope. Get ready for more enhancements and a whole lot of fun. Can’t wait to see you all in the fall!

Check out Mui Van Zandt’s blog entry here: