Physician perspectives: William Yates

Our latest physician perspectives interview is with neuroscience expert, William Yates, about the interaction between pharma and physicians and the aim behind his social media efforts.

It’s been predicted that the prevalence of neurological and psychiatric diseases will rise dramatically over the next thirty years, particularly in developing countries. It’s no surprise then, that pharma heavily researches and develops new treatments within these areas. The World Health Organisation believes that neurosciences today are among the fastest developing areas of biomedical science.1

To find out more about the neurosciences, our latest physician perspectives interview is with William Yates, research psychiatrist at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research (LIBR) in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The LIBR is a state-of-the-art fMRI facility investigating mood, anxiety and traumatic brain disorders. Dr Yates shares with us his views on the challenges with translating neuroscience research into better care for brain disorders.

“…neurosciences today are among the fastest developing areas of biomedical science.”

Dr Yates is also a keen social media user, with an active Twitter account and blog called Brain Posts. We find out whether his way of working as a physician and psychiatrist has changed since the rise in social media. Take a look at the interview with pharmaphorum’s Hannah Blake below to find out what he said…

Interview summary

HB: Thank you for taking part in our physician perspectives series, Dr Yates. To start, please can you tell us a bit about your medical background?

WY: I completed my medical degree at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska. I have completed a residency in family medicine and in psychiatry. Additionally, I obtained a masters degree in preventive medicine with a focus on psychiatric epidemiology.

I have worked primarily in academic psychiatry at the University of Iowa College of Medicine and at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, Tulsa. I served as Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, Tulsa for ten years. More recently, I have been a research psychiatrist at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research (LIBR) in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This is a state-of-the-art fMRI facility investigating mood, anxiety and traumatic brain disorders.

HB: Can you tell us a bit about your blog, Brain Posts, and your inspiration behind setting it up?

WY: I became interested in social media very early. I started a Twitter feed @WRY999 before starting my blog Brain Posts. My Twitter feed started out as primarily as a log of my scientific reading. I posted links to research I found interesting to provide me a way to go back later to things I had read. For example, Twitter allows me to search for a topic area, i.e. autism and it will produce a list of all my autism Twitter posts and links.

“Practitioners typically have limited time to sort through the great volume of research related to brain disorders.”

My Twitter feed grew pretty rapidly and so I added the Brain Posts blog to expand the detail and breadth of my research reviews. Twitter provides a great resource to drive traffic to my blog. My blog is non-commercial but serves as a stimulus for me to continue to stay current on clinical neuroscience research.

HB: What are the challenges with translating neuroscience research into better care for brain disorders?

WY: I see the biggest challenge as identifying the most important and relevant research that has implications for clinical care.

Practitioners typically have limited time to sort through the great volume of research related to brain disorders. One of my aims is to do some of this sorting for them. My blogs typically involve reviewing ten to twenty abstracts before choosing a specific manuscript to review and comment on for a blog post. I only review manuscripts that have free full-text access so that my readers can download the full manuscripts for their own review.

HB: What recent developments in the neuroscience arena do you find most exciting?

WY: I find functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and genetics to be the most exciting developments. fMRI is providing our first look into the circuitry of brain processes and brain disorders. Genetics is finally making some headway into the understanding of psychiatric and neurological disorders.

Both these advances will aid development in psychopharmacology. For example, at LIBR one of our investigators examined fMRI in depression before and after treatment with a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. This type of research provides insight into changes in circuitry above what we know about receptor pharmacology.

HB: Brain Posts recently reached two million page views – congratulations. Why do you think your blog has been so successful?

WY: I think it has been successful for several reasons. First, I think it serves as a valuable free educational resource. Second, Brain Posts is written on the Google Blog Posts platform and so post topics show up pretty high on Google searches. Additionally, my Twitter feed drives quite a bit of traffic to the blog site. Finally, I have learned that to be read and to grow you need to post frequently. I try to post at least 100 new posts each year and I am approaching 500 total posts.

“Genetics is finally making some headway into the understanding of psychiatric and neurological disorders.”

HB: How do you find the engagement between physicians and patients has changed over the past decade?

WY: Physicians continue to be challenged by the time they have for individual patient interaction. I think successful physicians are using a multidisciplinary approach to improve the quality of care and engagement. Additionally, I think physicians need to continue to keep abreast of the role of medical informatics including internet, smartphone and tablet application. I have recently started reviewing medical apps for imedicalapps.com. This site allows physicians to be informed on apps that may have significant effects on medical care and patient engagement.

HB: Has your way of working been affected by the rise in social media?

WY: I work primarily in the research arena but do provide some direct patient care. I encourage patients to be smart about what internet and social media resources they use. I am more likely to direct patients to specific websites and apps as educational resources.

One area I have recently been exploring is using social media metrics as a type of research tool. For example, Google Trends is a free tool that allows users to examine trends in Google search terms over time and geographic regions. This new type of social tool provides insight into medical and pharma topic trends and will be more important as social media grows.

HB: How can pharma better interact with physicians in your opinion?

WY: Pharma can continue to act with physicians by providing access to advances in medical research. Pharma might consider sponsoring or at least acknowledging blogs and Twitter feeds that provide high-quality information for physicians and other medical professionals.

“Pharma can continue to act with physicians by providing access to advances in medical research.”

The internet, smartphone and app developments in pharmacology, i.e. Epocrates, are powerful tools for physicians to be informed prescribers. I think it is in the best interest of pharma to support physician education and utilization of these types of tools.

HB: How do you see neuroscience research evolving over the next decade?

WY: I think neuroscience research will become much more multidisciplinary over the next decade. For example, historical pharma research will expand to include advances in imaging and genetics in new drug development.

One of the biggest challenges in medical research in the next decade will be funding the research that is now possible. National Institute of Health funding has been stagnant or declining. Pharma is challenged to fund expensive neuroscience research.

Some of the challenges will be overcome through expansion of smaller pharma tech startup companies. Smaller companies may be incubators for the development of novel new approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of brain disorders. Traditional pharma companies may address some of their challenges by partnering with startups after startups demonstrate some evidence for novel therapeutics.

HB: What will they mean for patients with brain disorders?

WY: What I hope this will mean for patients with brain disorders is earlier identification and improvement in treatment and outcome. Early identification of risk for brain disorders may allow for development of new prevention strategies prior to clinical onset. Genetic advances may allow for patient-specific targeting of the most effective treatments. For example, genetic testing of brain cancers may allow for specific immunological and chemotherapy approaches that reduce adverse effects and increase survival.

HB: Thank you for speaking with us, Dr Yates.

References

1. http://www1.imperial.ac.uk/medicine/research/researchthemes/neuroscience/

About the interviewee:

William R. Yates, M.D. is a psychiatrist interested in neuroscience research. He currently works at as a research psychiatrist doing research diagnostic assessments at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He is Professor of Research in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, Tulsa.

Dr. Yates is active in social media related to neuroscience research. His Twitter feed @WRY999 has been ranked as the world’s fifth most prominent neuroscience feed by wefollow.com. His blog Brain Posts has passed two million page views and can be found at www.brainposts.blogspot.com. His motto for his Twitter feed and Brain Posts is “Translating Neuroscience Research Into Better Care for Brain Disorders”. Dr. Yates is a writer for imedicalapps.com where he reviews smartphone medical apps targeted for physicians and other healthcare providers.

How do you see neuroscience research evolving over the next decade?