March 2018

“You change or you hide your head in the sand.” -Tony Gilroy

TASK AT HAND: This week I’m thinking about the Ostrich Effect which describes how we can sometimes turn a blind eye to negative information. The name comes from the common belief that ostriches bury their hands in the sand to avoid danger.

Two quick points:

First, the common belief that ostriches bury their heads in the sand to avoid danger is false.

Second, the ostrich effect is a type of willful ignorance; a form of denial.

 

The ostrich effect is a term originally coined by the financial world to describe investors who purposefully ignore or avoid negative financial information. The behavior is a defense mechanism where an individual avoids exposure to information that may cause discomfort, anxiety or pain. Generically, the ostrich effect is termed Information Aversion to describe an individual or group foregoing unpleasant information.

Information aversion can manifest in a myriad of manners ranging from unhealthy relationships (denial in seeing certain unfavorable traits a partner or friend may possess) to a poor work environment (avoiding unpleasant dialogue concerning your occupation for fear of confrontation).

How can we avoid information aversion?

The most common error I see when combating the ostrich effect is the confusion between information aversion and information overload. Too often, we partake in the duplicity of avoiding necessary confrontation claiming information overload. In these cases, we falsely project that there is too much noise for any valid meaning to be extracted. Nonsensical! The issue is we are choosing to avoid information because we know there are items present that provoke anxiety and fear.

When confronted with this possibility, ascertain your pain points. Be honest and elaborate on what aspects may be challenging to confront. A simple pearl to facilitate this process involves tackling these difficult topics in times of peace and prosperity. Contrasting, during periods of  setbacks, the desire to avoid “heaping on more” on the negative makes us especially susceptible to information aversion. By assessing these difficult propositions from a balanced mindset, you allow yourself a greater degree of honesty. It is here where we can reconcile the negative and unpleasant information with your goals and objectives.

 

MEDICINE & MACULA: On Friday March 9, I had the privilege of returning to Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada as visiting professor and guest speaker.

 

I enjoyed 9 years at Queen’s University for my medical school training and ophthalmology residency. It’s hard to believe 5 years have elapsed since. I had a wonderful time connecting with mentors, colleagues and friends and grateful for the opportunity.

I presented Grand Rounds on Endophthalmitis Update: Current Trends & Techniques focusing on our recent endophthalmitis after intravitreal injection publication as well as surgical techniques for this devastating condition. Below is an image of early vitrectomy in a case of infectious endophthalmitis (pardon the blurry image which is due to inflammatory debris commonly limiting optimal visualization).

Then, I had the real pleasure of spending a few hours with the Queen’s ophthalmology residents as we undertook a tour-de-force review of uveitis. Below is a case of posterior uveitis secondary to syphilis.

I was thoroughly impressed by the resident knowledge base and proud to be an alumni of Queen’s medical training!

 

GRATIS: “Putting our heads in the sand won’t stop the inexorable advancement of technology.” Cathy Engelbert

 

My best to you,

David Almeida

david@davidalmeidamd.

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