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Keep in Touch

It is exciting and fascinating to experience the way science is unfolding at such a logarithmic rate. Technological innovations inspire a sense of wonder, especially for me as they are related to my original profession as a physician.

Although many types of technology were developed and then abandoned because they didn’t really accomplish what was anticipated, other kinds related to both diagnosis and treatment have grown and expanded in the most incredible ways. For collecting data or transmitting factual information, the latest technologies are of great value to humanity.

As a child, I remember visiting my father’s family farm in Iowa, where they relied on the party line telephone for communication. At that time, we could never have imagined that human-to-human communication would achieve the speed, convenience and worldwide reach that we now have available.

However, when communication goes beyond the cognitive, when it needs to serve a purpose other than the transmission of facts, that’s when I have concerns about our growing reliance on technology. Physical touch is very, very important. It has a deeply rooted biological basis. Human-to-human touch builds relationships; it’s a crucial bonding mechanism. To put one’s hand on a patient in distress, to hug a child—that kind of emotional communication depends on our basic biology. I would be very sad if our species, with all its emphasis on and fascination with technology, lost that.

Technologies are not the creations of gods. They are simply tools we have invented to facilitate meeting our needs. If all we needed was technology, then why do politicians still reach out to shake so many hands?

Edyth Schoenrich, MD, MPH ‘71, a former senior associate dean at the School, is now director of the Part-time Professional Programs and associate chair of the MPH Program.

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