On the first day of TEDMED, it was made immediately apparent the event would be unlike any conference or speaker series I had been to before. The first time walking into the TEDMED Hive, I was immediately struck by the artistry involved with every display of innovation. The entry sign, naming the Chaos and Clarity theme, was set on a backdrop of paintings made by delegates, and the six-foot tall book covers gave the impression we were walking between stories.
Moving from the Hive to the speaker series, “Making Waves”, it was clear we would be brought into truly inspirational stories. Rabiaa El Garani spoke about her personal connection with survivors of ISIS capture, and how the power of cultural awareness can provide healing in times of tragedy. This theme of cultural awareness would continue through many of the talks. In an interview with United States Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, he discussed the current opioid crisis and how as members of health care, it is our responsibility to understand the cultural context of our patients. Dr. Adams spoke of his younger brother, who faced addiction, and brought the audience into his life, demonstrating the value of personal experience.
At the end of Day 1, a quote from speaker Greg Asbed, one of the co-founders of the Fair Food Program, resonated with me. In his talk with Gerardo Reyes, he reminded us to “recognize the power you all have”. Each speaker drew on their personal story, brought us into these stories of consciousness and commitment, and demonstrated how much power we each have to be agents of change in our communities.
The second day of TEDMED opened with the “Audacious” series, where innovators spoke for two minutes each about technologies and modernizations that would improve patient care and accessibility of health care. Although two minutes sounds short, each talk outlined a key gap in current care. For example, the need for refrigeration of many vaccines makes it difficult to bring to isolated communities, and the way a novel idea could close these gaps. I learned that no matter an individual’s background, innovations in health care stem from advocacy.
The speakers that followed the “Audacious” series, spoke about “Unexpected Connections” and “The Cost of Living”. We heard from speakers like Dikembe Mutombo, an 18 season NBA player who built a hospital in his home country of The Democratic Republic of Congo in 2007. He reminded us of Nelson Mandela’s words, quoting “it is in our hands” when asked why he is so committed to his humanitarian work. We heard from Dr. Queen Dube, a neonatologist involved in developing life-saving technologies for newborns in resource limited settings. She uncompromisingly stated “every baby deserves to live” when outlining her reasons for returning to Malawi after training in the UK.
Day 2 of TEDMED was special because it forced every audience member to reflect on what inequalities and gaps exist in our interactions with health care. The TEDMED speakers and innovators demanded each of us to look at these challenges without compromising and with inspiration.
TEDMED was a unique experience where I became more aware of the health inequities and gaps existing in our local and global communities However, instead of feeling a familiar sense of worry and concern, there is a clear sentiment of hope and inspiration.
It is evident there are people all over the world doing innovative and effective work to improve the health and well-being of every global citizen. As a first-year resident in Canada, it is easy to feel small in the field of health care innovation. It is easy to see the issues facing our patients and colleagues today as too big for us to confront alone. But, it is clear that there is a global community of health care innovators that started where we are. Sherry Johnson, a survivor of child-marriage, stated “lives depend on us to break the silence and speak the truth”. The advancements I learned about during TEDMED made it clear we are a global community, with organizations that support the innovative dreams of residents, health care professionals and patients alike.
Flying home after the third day of TEDMED, I reflect on a question posited by Dr. Steve Pantilat, a palliative care visionary and one of the TED MED speaker, “when you think about the future, what do you hope for?”
Dr. Gaya Narendran is a medical resident in Pediatrics at the University of Calgary. She works from the Alberta Children’s hospital and has a strong interest in research and pediatric public health.
The greatest health care innovation Gaya has seen in recent history
“The greatest health care innovation in my opinion is the idea of preventative medicine, and specifically I would have to say vaccines. The concept of vaccines has grown from the original idea of an inoculated antigen into such diverse things, such as giving elementary school children education on mindfulness and meditation as a "psychosocial vaccine" against increased anxiety and toxic stress. Amazing!”