Health Horizon. The horizon serves as a metaphor for the distant goal of optimal health and implies our continuing progress toward that goal.
Researchers who presented at the first MMVR understood that the everyday application of their ideas would take place in the future. Eleven years later, MMVR participants can see their work improving health care in immediate and measurable ways. These researchers enhance medical education and procedural training with increasingly life-like simulation and haptics. They refine accuracy in clinical diagnosis and therapy with better imaging tools and more selective interpretation of imaging data. They promote economic efficiency and better sharing of medical resources by linking medicine to information technology advances. As the second decade of MMVR commences, we have in many ways reached the horizon visible in 1992.
Next Med. Beyond the initial reference to “what's next in medicine,” the term “NextMed” is intended to describe the vigorous exchange of ideas and experience between physicians in all specialties, scientists in widely varying disciplines, educators, commercial entities, and others. Although MMVR focuses on data-related applications, “NextMed” invites conference participants to speculate more broadly: What modeling and simulation techniques would benefit biotechnology and genomics? What nanotech discoveries would transform robotics or networked health care? What novel materials would revolutionize medical imaging and surgical simulation? What unforeseen interactions would shift us closer to optimal health? These ideas represent the new (and perhaps elusive) horizons that now appear before us.
When discussing optimal health, we should remember that it is not a universally defined and concrete ideal. Most people agree that freedom from disease, greater longevity, and minimized senescence are desirable. However, genetic therapy, bionics, and germ line engineering—the likely means to these ends—are controversial. In his book, Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution, Francis Fukuyama cautions us against blindly wielding the new tools that science creates. He counsels us to prudently consider each step taken in the name of health “progress” and to guide ourselves with intelligent debate on the consequences of human intervention.
And this is where the true value of MMVR lies: as a forum for creating, assessing, and validating certain tools for better health, MMVR supports the necessary universal dialogue on what the future of health can and ought to be. In this role, MMVR will continue to prove useful as it moves forward into its second decade.
We thank the Organizing Committee for its vision, the many researchers who share their enthusiasm and hard work, the exhibitors who demonstrate their achievements, and all who come to learn with us.