Saturday, September 13, 2014


For the second year in a row, I attended the TEDMED conference.  TEDMED is a corner of the infinite TED universe specifically focused on innovation in health care. 

Innovation is much too small of a word to describe what TEDMED is.

They try to introduce it on their website ("TEDMED is a global community dedicated to unlocking imagination in service of health and medicine. Our goal is to seed the innovations of today, making possible the breakthroughs of tomorrow...for a healthier, more vibrant humanity." 

But even this is incomplete.  One must experience it to understand.

To attend, one must go through an application process.  TEDMED is always searching for the proper mix of delegates that will be allow for stimulating networking and friendships to be made.  This year the event was hosted in two cities, Washington D.C. and San Francisco.  I chose the latter.

There were 80 presenters, 2000+ delegates, 80 start up companies from various sectors of health.  This year's theme was "Unlocking Imagination".

240 page conference program

The presentations were thought provoking and expertly delivered in the classic TED style.  If you have ever seen a TED "talk", you know where I am coming from.

They shared how they were improving the design of hospitals to improve both the health of the patients and the communities they serve by leaving no footprint.  One was looking at diseases in different ways - for example, What role does childhood trauma play in all future diseases?

They challenged our paradigms at every turn. For example, legalization and government compensation for the harvesting of organs to reduce black market activity while saving lives.

They inspired us with virtual reality games to reduce pain in patients.  They gave us a glimpse of a new plastic that amorphically changes shape via electric manipulation to be used in cardiac catheterization.

One speaker was collecting voice samples to "donate" to people (kids and adults) who cannot talk - thereby giving them a voice and a personality.

Several bioethicists asked an uncomfortable audience on how messages to the public about drug use should be altered drastically.  One asked, should doctors be totally transparent? While another shared courageously about physician assisted death or discussed the ethics of genome mapping to tell our future propensity to disease.

My favorite speaker was Abraham Vergehese.  He is the author of several books including NY Times bestseller "Cutting For Stone".  I had the opportunity to meet him afterwards and have him sign a book that I read in 1999 titled, "The Tennis Partner".  I told him how important that book was to me and charged me with the impetus to live each day to the fullest.

After sharing life stories for a bit, he signed my book with the last line from the narrative, "...Get the ball back over the net just one more time."  (never give up!).  He gave me a hug and told me that I made his day (how cool!?!?!?!).

Abraham Verghese and I at TEDMED 2014

The "convention floor" is known as the hive.  The hive is always buzzing with activities.  The start up companies are all there on display with things to play with.  Of course, I had to go to the obligatory brainwave activity detector to verify that the old neurons are still sparking once in while.  And, like last year, contrary to most people's opinion, I do indeed have a brain that is functional....I will leave it at that.

Verifying that I do indeed have a brain.

The hive is where it all happened.  The space was designed very deliberately to maximize our experiences. There were several areas for lounging, networking, working, watching presentations, eating, etc.  There were speaker meet-ups where you can have very in depth conversations with the speaker and other curious fellow delegates.

Another area was called the campfire where they served gourmet smores and had a vast array of topics to talk about about current and future trends in health care.

The attendees were medical students, PhD. students, biomedical engineers, heads of various prominent medical school departments, angel investors, artists, employees of tech, medical devices and marketing firms.  I was "wowed"by practically everyone I met. I was humbled my the creativity and intelligence of my fellow delegates.  I was inspired for their zest and zeal to change the world from their specific niche.  I met people from all over the world - US, Israel, Canada, UK, Australia, South America, Hong Kong, etc.

I WAS THE ONLY DENTIST.....too bad....I would encourage some of my fellow colleagues, (especially the thought leaders) to consider coming in the future.  I wasn't lonely, but I was the only dentist!

The over arching theme:  No matter what new technology is becoming available to better treat the patient's physical maladies, nothing can help a patient's psyche more than a healthcare professional (Physician, Nurse, Dentist, etc) that genuinely cares and connects with his/her patients on a human level.

Thanks to all the TEDMED-er's involved in putting on such an amazing experience and allowing me to attend once again!


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Thanks for reading!  BK