An inconvenient commentary: Competing with Al Gore

We live in a connected world thanks in part to former Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore. Dr. McDonnell shares his ambitions for the New Year: to rival Al Gore and win the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature.

"I gave you the Internet, and I can take it away."

-Al Gore

"The good news is we know what to do. The good news is we have everything we need now to respond to the challenge of global warming. We have all the technologies we need, more are being developed, and as they become available and become more affordable when produced in scale, they will make it easier to respond. But we should not wait, we cannot wait, we must not wait."

Occasionally, I take the subway in to work. Compared with driving, it's a very efficient use of time, allowing me to read or get caught up on paperwork. Unfortunately, it is often not an option because I need my car to get around town during the day or for dinner meetings. But if it were possible to do so, I'd commute on the subway every day. It's not that Al Gore and I (with our small carbon footprints) are better people than those who drive to work in their fancy Mercedes-Benzes; it's just that he and I really care about this little blue marble we call Earth.

Not long ago, while on the subway, I received an e-mail from a loyal Ophthalmology Times reader who practices in southern Maryland. He wanted some advice about a patient and sent me a pdf with the details of her history and his exam findings. The other attachments were slit-lamp photos of her cornea. With my Blackberry in minutes I could read her history, review the high-resolution color photos, and respond with my thoughts, all while riding the subway home in the evening. It seemed incredibly efficient to do in a couple of minutes what used to take weeks via mail. It occurred to me at the time that we are fortunate to live in such a connected world, where (thanks to former Vice President Gore), I could access the Internet to help a fellow ophthalmologist while simultaneously helping the planet.

New Year's resolution

Like most physicians, I am somewhat competitive. So although I admire Al Gore for winning his Nobel Prizes (for global warming and the Internet), I would like to catch up to him. My goal for 2009 is to start with the Nobel Prize in Literature. The strategy is to have all of Ophthalmology Times' loyal readers go to and nominate me. My winning the Nobel Prize this year is, admittedly, an ambitious goal but one I think is likely to happen for the following reasons:

What's in it for you loyal readers? If I win, everyone who can prove they nominated me will be flown to Stockholm, courtesy of Ophthalmology Times, to attend my party. Because it stays light all night long up there, and the vodka is excellent, you will not want to miss this event. And every pharmaceutical company employee in attendance will receive a free pen with my name on it. What did Al Gore give you when he won?

My best wishes to you and your loved ones for a safe and prosperous 2009!

Peter J. McDonnell, MD director of the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, and chief medical editor of Ophthalmology Times.

He can be reached at 727 Maumenee Building, 600 N. Wolfe St., Baltimore, MD 21287-9278 Phone: 443/287-1511 Fax: 443/287-1514 E-mail:

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