All Politics is Local…Or How I Learned to Be Humble

I now know the contact high Olympian athletes experience after donning their shiny patria-gear and rubbing shoulders with their compatriots ’round the globe in the ceremonial opening parade. I’ve seen a practical pou-pou’s platter full of health ministry folks here on my Tromso sojourn, which includes not only members of the G-20 but representatives of most former Eastern Bloc fiefdoms that once possessed such gold-winning, young gymnasts. It is tres encouraging to know that democracy and innovation are flourishing in these countries once relegated to the communist dustbin, like Poland and Hungary. Maybe it’s true what Travel and Leisure says about Krakow: that it’s the new Prague and one of the hippest stop-offs on the planet. Who ever thought we’d see a Czech Minister of Information that had no secret police connections, in our lifetime? Instead of being an old and jowly shadowpuppet senior with a wide-brimmed hat, she was instead young, bon vivant and remarkably well-coiffed from head to toe.

My most profound takeaway from the Trans-Euro e-Health Summit is that “global community” is not just hip jargon used to sell Coca Cola Light to our neighbors in Kuala Lumpur. The concept of a borderless world, knitted together tighter than a Norwegian ski cap is real and it’s now. This is evidenced by the fact that I was phalanxed by no less than four countries at all times during my many meeting sessions. HIT peeps from Sweden, Bulgaria, Belgium, Switzerland, Scotland and Greece were my most frequent seatmates. They taught me quite a bit and I’m not talking about eHR installation and the promise of patient data mobility. I got the opportunity most Americans do not: to leave our mirror, mirror on the wall, we’re the greatest of them all culture and journey to a universe where being from the Land of Uncle Sam causes no great excitement and in fact, can even be a liability. Talk about working a tough room!

Warning: These colors don’t bleed but they just may scrape on contact. A number of people grabbed a peek at my nametag and wondered aloud with great perplexity why someone from the US was even at the event. At least I had a cohort in conference ribbing seeing as the event host (one Norway) is not as of yet an EU member, having given a thumbs-down in both the 70’s and 90’s. Ahem. All of this grushting is not to say I wasn’t greeted warmly by many delegates after turning on my 400-watt charm (uber props to my new Swede St. Olav friends in the rural North and the fantastic Karl Jurgen Schmidt from Deutcheland! Wouldn’t dream of walking the Artic Cathedral towbridge path and discussing cross-border telemedicine with anyone else. For him, I will be sure to learn how to say You Rock! in German:redhead:)

Despite a few bumps for me on the formerly unchartered road of global diplomacy, this conference was a valuable indoctrination into a new work and personal climate. I learned that there is a whole world outside my Beltway window and that the Financial Times, not just the New York Times, should be read every day for proper world perspective, Bertoscolini-watch and the updated scorecard for ratification of the EU constitution . Drats! And here I thought the Economist and the Scotsman made me continental enough. Looks as if I’ll have to add a 596th newspaper to my morning must-review Internet feeds.:mrgreen:

Thanks to my new compatriots for enlightening my world view and for not discarding me straightaway because of my Made in the USA label. Should you ever find yourself in America, I’ll be sure to take you to Steak and Shake and out to our biggest stadium movieplex. Popcorn’s on me! Until then, I’ll see you next year in sunny, sandy Seville.

Humbly in Your Debt, (And ever grateful you introduced me to Italian frocks, Scandinavian cloudberries, Belgian chocolates and Artic moosefur)

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