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Finding nerd joy at IRE'09

By Dawn Fallik


Hell is having your panel at the same time as Barlett & Steele AND Eric Nalder.  Plus, we were hidden behind the kitchen (Mike Berens cooked a couple omelets before figuring out where we were.) But huzzah! A good 35-40 people showed up to hear four uber-nerds talk about 990 forms (New! Expanded!), disciplinary actions and how 31 nurses, doctors and techs all reached into the same Cheetos bag at a Seattle hospital before going to check on patients — without handwashing. Good thing it was before lunch….

Seriously though, there's a certain glow that I get when you start talking about the exciting new Census data, and then members of the audience join in to talk about how the raw data is coming early. (Like this year.) And then we all share stories of quizzing the Census peeps who happen to meander into our paths.  Yes, nerd joy. By the end of the session, Duff Wilson, Fred Schulte, Mike and I still wanted to stay and talk about 'how DO you analyze the quality of healthcare in a fair and realistic way?,' but time ran out. It's hard to explain to family and friends why there's a certain addiction to coming to the IRE and NICAR conferences. But really, where else can I go where I can talk about string functions and fighting for data and chasing public records without fear of scaring off, you know… music writers.  Although, come to think of it, there's probably some really interesting music business data out there.

DAWN FALLIK is a former medical writer for The Philadelphia Inquirer who now teaches full-time at the University of Delaware and freelances for AARP Magazine, Neurology Today and The Boston Globe. During graduate school at the University of Missouri, she was co-director of NICAR and helped teach many CAR boot camps.

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