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From the desert to the lab: Dr. Berger

Today is the birthday of our co-founder Dr. Stephen A. Berger, and the perfect time to share his personal story and the history behind the creation of GIDEON.

Steve has been the “beating heart” of the company’s medical knowledge and insight since its inception. GIDEON could not be what it is today and will be tomorrow, without him. Join us on Memory Lane as we celebrate Dr. Berger’s contribution to the medical community.

A TALENTED YOUNG DOCTOR

Steve was brought up in New York and was destined to become either a lawyer or a doctor. Thankfully for us, he fell in love with the latter field. Dr. Berger graduated with a medical degree from the New York Medical College in 1967 and completed his Internal Medicine training there as the youngest in his group, finishing at the top of his class too! 

After this, the Vietnam war erupted, and along with many junior doctors, Steve was conscripted into the US Navy. Despite not being well-traveled at the time, he took this in his stride and developed an interest in Infectious Diseases – something that set him apart from his peers back in New York.

He was assigned to the Sixth Fleet, stationed in the Mediterranean, which eventually took him to Israel. At the time, Dr. Berger explored his Jewish roots, and this is where he eventually made his home.  

LT Steve Berger, U.S. Navy
LT Steve Berger, U.S. Navy

 

After emigrating, Steve found the love of his life – an accomplished medical professional in her own right and currently Israel’s leading pediatric surgeon, as well as the first Yemenite to graduate medical school in Israel. 

While in the country, the Yom Kippur war broke out (1973). This is when this second photo was taken – next to the Suez Canal…and on his birthday!

Dr. Steve Berger, Suez Canal
Dr. Steve Berger, Suez Canal

 

DOUBLE CERTIFIED

The lady who captured Dr. Berger’s heart in Israel was on her way to train in the United States, and so Steve returned to continue his education in New York. 

This is where he completed Infectious Disease fellowships at Montefiore Hospital-Einstein in New York, The New York V.A. Hospital, and the Tufts-New England Medical Center. Here, he got to work with Dr. Louis Weinstein,  “a leading pioneer in the new specialty of Infectious Disease”. Dr. Weinstein was Steve’s Guru and mentor and for all that followed in his career.

To supplement and expand his knowledge base, Dr. Berger went on to train in Clinical Microbiology eventually attaining Board Certification and Licensure in both Israel and the United States – in the fields of Internal Medicine, Infectious Diseases, and Clinical Microbiology. 

During this period, Steve established clinical and teaching programs at the New York Medical College, and was granted the rank of Associate Professor. Dr. Berger then returned to Israel, where he established the country’s first automated Microbiology Laboratory, at the central municipal hospital in Tel Aviv; and devoted endless energy to teaching and research as Associate Professor of Medicine and Microbiology at Tel Aviv University. 

DISCOVERING BAYES

In 1987, Dr. Berger was sent to Brussels for advanced training under the World Health Organization in Operational Methods. Much of this program involved drawn-out discussions of how to organize medical services in primitive environments and hands-on experience with practical statistical methods. In one such session, Steve first came aware of Bayesian analysis.  Intrigued, he asked the presenter if anyone was using the method in diagnosing disease.  Apparently, the tool was largely unknown in the field of Medicine! 

Upon returning to Israel, Dr. Berger began running Bayesian diagnosis simulations but was forced to struggle with the limits of available computer technology.   It was then he met Uri Blackman, the other half of the GIDEON team.

Bayesian Theorem
Bayes’ Theorem

THE BIRTH OF GIDEON

Dr. Berger’s medical and scientific expertise  – combined with Uri’s technical and business acumen  – gave life to the first prototype of GIDEON.  The very first hand-on test involved a “real-life” patient with typhoid fever. Much to Dr. Berger’s and Uri’s joy, GIDEON worked perfectly!

The next three years were focused on gathering as much background data as possible for the world’s most comprehensive Infectious Diseases database. 

In the early days, data were gathered and added to the system manually, from “actual” books and journals.  The Internet has still not been developed. The first version of GIDEON was marketed on floppy discs, mailed quarterly to subscribers (later to be replaced by Compact Discs which incorporated advanced computer programming capability).  Nowadays, GIDEON is updated daily over the Internet and incorporates information from dozens of digital sources worldwide. 

The GIDEON database was later reverse-engineered through a system in which databases are “turned back” into books.  As of 2020, 430 e-books (120,000 single-space pages) present the entire field of Infectious Diseases, with individual titles devoted to every country and every disease. An updated edition of all books is released yearly. 

A WARM RECEPTION

The medical community immediately fell in love with GIDEON.  A number of medical institutions and physicians have continued to subscribe to the program from the very first launch in 1993.

Dr. Berger recalls an event when one enthusiastic Texan shouted, “Wow, this is better than sex!”’ at a medical convention, after seeing a correct diagnosis appear on the computer screen.  Owing to a warm reception of the Diagnosis module, the development of a new Microbiology module soon followed.  For years, an increasing base of users has signed on from all over the world – taking advantage of GIDEON’s unique knowledge base, and tools for research teaching, diagnosis, and pathogen identification.  

Dr. Berger is most proud of GIDEON’s achievements when hearing from scientists and students who have used the resource to fuel new ideas or solidify tried and tested principles.  

ACCOMPLISHED LIFE

All the while, with GIDEON going from strength to strength, Steve and his wife raised three children, and now enjoy five grandchildren, while continuing to pursue their medical careers. 

Dr. Berger opened the first Travel Medicine clinic in Israel and is currently Director of Geographic Medicine at the Tel Aviv Medical Center.  He has published 11 standard texts and 180 professional papers (in English and Hebrew) –  in addition to the hundreds of eBooks available through GIDEON.

In his spare time, Steve enjoys classical music (Schubert and Bach in particular) and science fiction (anything by Isaac Asimov). He also maintains an interactive database that catalogs the world’s largest “collection” of diseases and deaths among famous people – currently exceeding 23,000 people. Check it out at VIPatients – truly fascinating! 

 

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First alpha testing is complete!

Male doctor and female researcher testing GIDEON app

It takes a lot of courage to share a vision with users and critics, but the GIDEON team is in no short supply of that. In our recent alpha testing round, we opened up our brand new interface to medical experts from 25 countries who have very kindly shared their feedback on our successes and shortcomings.

What is alpha?

Quite simply, it is an early release of a major product upgrade. Our first alpha testing round focused on the display of our extensive database in a brand new ‘Explore’ module.

How did we do it?

We opted for feedback gathering mechanisms that support user independence and anonymity. This is different from a focus group, which is prone to leaving some opinions unheard. 

Our Trusted Advisors were a diverse bunch, consisting of 80+ medical professionals – from seasoned experts to students. Some testers have never seen our product before and others have been using GIDEON for years. 

The experience was scary, exciting, and necessary. We cannot thank our Trusted Advisors enough for their insight and valuable time spent exploring our new interface. The feedback has empowered a fruitful fine-tuning exercise, so if you are one of our testers – be sure to check out the implementation of your suggestions in the second alpha release!

Feedback

We are beside ourselves in anticipation of the release of the new interface (date to be confirmed soon) and based on the early feedback we know you are going to love it.

Here is a small sample of the comments we received:

This is a huge improvement. I very much like the general concept. The dark mode is also very nice.

Comprehensive.

Amazing work! So informative and pleasant to use.

Disease comparison is great. What a useful way to compare a differential!

I very much like the ‘fingerprint’ search concept for diseases.

The interface is easy to use.

Maps are amazing!!

Thoughtful, cohesive design.

Links to references are very useful.

What’s next?

We cannot wait to share this new experience with you all. It’s the same GIDEON data that you know and love, but like you’ve never seen before. 

If you are interested in a Bayes-powered Differential Diagnosis that uses one of the most impressive geographical medicine data sets in the world, sign up to test the all-new DIAGNOSE module. The second alpha is just around the corner!

Become our trusted advisor

GIDEON API is in beta!

How do you get ‘customer’ data if you are a hospital or a research institute?

You could build a dedicated team for conducting surveys and crawling research papers, even develop your own IT system for storing and accessing this data. How often would you need to revise this data? Monthly? Quarterly? How comprehensive do you think it would be? 

If you are one of the many medical professionals pressed for time and/or money, the above may not be an easy solution to maintain, and when people’s lives are at stake there is no room for failure.

Imagine your organization had access to infectious diseases data collected from all over the globe, from thousands of patients, across hundreds of countries, updated every single day. That would be pretty amazing, right? With GIDEON it is a click away. We offer your organization access to data on hundreds of diseases, drugs, and bacteria, from across the world, dating back from as far as the 1920s – we do the legwork so you can conduct your expert analysis. 

To fully realize the benefits of our comprehensive database, we have developed the GIDEON API so you can leverage a direct feed of continuously updated information between our service and your established processes and tools. The service is now being offered to all our institutional subscribers free of charge.

With a service as broad as GIDEON, we understand that taking on an API integration can be a daunting task, even for a seasoned IT professional. To help make this invaluable feature more accessible to our customers we have written extensive guidance detailing every API call, including examples on the output you should expect. You can access the guidance through this link: API

We are confident building a deeper connection between our service and your systems will empower your analytics and reporting capabilities, bringing new insight to your existing and emerging data trends. Please take a peek at our documentation and let us know when you are ready to give it a go!

2020 is going to be an important and exciting year for GIDEON. We look forward to sharing many more announcements of enhancements and new services throughout the year.

Securing access to GIDEON

This GIDEON website is now available at https://www.gideononline.com and the GIDEON app at https://web.gideononline.com

In a post-Snowden world, large internet companies, especially Google, have been pushing to encrypt all website connections via SSL. For the end user the change is slight, as for SSL protected websites the URL switches from http:// to https://. The green lock icon signifies that all traffic between the browser and the server is encrypted and is much harder to snoop on.

We’ve had requests to provide secure access to the GIDEON web application as far back as 2010 from a government customer. By offering SSL access to both our website and web application we hope to provide additional peace of mind when using GIDEON.

 

User Interface Refresh

Over the years GIDEON has added new features and now we’re making changes to improve access and simplify the interface.

We are rolling out a refresh of the GIDEON web app user interface that focuses on simplification.

These changes include:

GIDEON search for tick
Improved search

  • Type down: Search terms appear as you type.
  • Suggestions: Subjects related to the items you’re typing appear to easily reach the content you want.
  • Unified search and diagnosis: Specify if you’re looking for a diagnosis by choosing a sign or symptom from the Clinical Presentation list.

 

 

Enhanced User Interface

  • Select diseasesScreen size utilization: Content is centered and resized to take advantage of larger screen real estate.
  • Easier to select Diseases, Drugs or  Vaccines to compare.
  • Switched maps from Flash to HTML 5: HTML 5 browsers are more ubiquitous than flash plugin, and maps will now work on iPhones and iPads.
  • Improving interaction on mobile devices: lists have been optimized to work better on mobile devices. These are steps we’re taking to make GIDEON work easily wherever you are.
  • Reduced popups: screen popups have been replaced with CSS popups which allow a one window experience on tablets.

 

 

 

Removed rarely used functions

  • Infectious Diseases and Microbiology focus: Toxicology module removed since beta demonstrated little usage of the content.
  • Travel streamlined: Travel in Infectious Diseases is focused on GIDEON content removing content available directly on CDC website.

 

We would love to receive feedback on these changes.

 

 

Updates added for Google Chrome and Apple Safari browsers

Due to a number of requests, a few updates to the GIDEON code were made to enhance compatibility with the webkit based browsers: Apple Safari and Google Chrome. Essentially this improved marking signs and symptoms in these browsers and enhances the GIDEON experience on the Apple iPhone.

Please let us know how this is working for you.

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