What? It's December 24, 2008 – Christmas Eve, and I just got a present. It's a book, and I can scarcely read a word of it. That's because it's a how-to book on DICOM* written in Japanese. Since I can't read it, there's no point putting in my briefcase to review on the next flight. Instead, it stands proudly on my bookshelf beside a copy of the DICOM Standard in Chinese.
So what? What makes me proud is knowing that I play a role in the maintenance and continued development of a standard that is used all around the world to ensure the interoperability of equipment used to produce, store, display, process, send, retrieve, query, or print medical images (and derived structured documents) as well as to manage related workflow. Because of medical imaging, exploratory surgery has become a thing of the past. Because of medical imaging, injuries, diseases, and many health problems can be diagnosed and treated faster and more effectively than ever before. Because the DICOM Standard ensures interoperability of medical equipment, a hospital can choose the best available equipment within its budget without worrying about compatibility with other brands of equipment it already owns. Also, because of the DICOM Standard, the X-rays that were taken this morning while you were vacationing in Mexico or China or Italy can be sent to your doctor in Duluth in just a matter of minutes and they will look just the same.
Conclusion: Feeling proud of the things you work on is a good way to enter the New Year.
*In case you're not familiar with the term, DICOM is an acronym that stands for Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine. This is the name of a 3300 page standard whose purpose is to make sure that the next piece of medical imaging equipment you buy will work with everything that you already have.