TEDMED Blog

TEDMED Speakers: Exploring the Weird and Wonderful

TEDMED 2014 is less than two weeks away! We’re excited to highlight the second to last session and its speakers, who will be part of TEDMED 2014 this September 10-12 in Washington, DC and San Francisco, CA.

Sometimes, progress happens unexpectedly – in ways you’d never looked for and may not even be able to explain. This session’s wildly creative thinkers will be sharing stories of “Weird and Wonderful” discoveries that came out of the blue, defied expectations, and achieved remarkable results.

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Explore our stage program for more details on these and other speakers – and don’t forget to keep up with TEDMED by following @TEDMED on Twitter.

The Upside of Human Nature

From our primal instincts to the unfolding mysteries of how our complex brains evolved and work, humans are amazing and often unfathomable creatures. But if we don’t yet understand everything about ourselves and our surroundings, it’s not for want of trying. Scientists, artists, clergy, and indeed all of the curious among us haven’t given up trying to discern what makes us tick.

This session of TEDMED will explore what we’re learning about the human body and our inner worlds, what elements aid our bodies’ ability to heal, and how what we think of as our external environment is critical to our well-being and, in the end, is a large part of who we are.

Join us September 10-12 as these speakers, and many others, help us unlock imagination in service of health and medicine.

Art of Motion Dance Theatre
Modern Repertory Dance Company
Drawing from contemporary and classic legacies, as well as from yoga and eastern philosophies, AOMDT creates vital works inspired by earthly and imaginary worlds.

Julian Treasure
Sound Evangelist
Julian Treasure is chairman of The Sound Agency, a consultancy advising worldwide businesses on how to design with sound, especially in public or branded spaces.

Mariana Figueiro
Illumination Researcher
Brazilian-Cuban architect and scientist Mariana Figueiro researches the effect of light on humans, including alertness, performance, and cognition.

Jeffrey Karp
Bio-Inspired Innovator
Canadian Jeff Karp’s research focuses on stem cell engineering, biomaterials, and medical devices inspired by nature.

Emery Brown
Anesthesia Neuroscientist
Computational neuroscientist and anesthesiologist Emery Brown explores one of medicine’s big mysteries—exactly what happens to your brain under anesthesia?

Uzma Samadani
Brain Trauma Detective
Uzma Samadani is cofounder of Oculogica, a neurodiagnostic company specializing in detecting brain injuries using a non-invasive, bedside eye-tracking technology.

Debra Jarvis
Irreverent Reverend
For writer, ordained minister, and hospital chaplain Debra Jarvis, humor is a powerful balm, even for the sick and dying.

Zsolt Bognár
Concert Pianist
Concert pianist Zsolt Bognár, who frequently performs on NPR and has garnered critical acclaim, will perform a work by Schubert.

Tiffany Shlain
Interconnected Filmmaker
The work of filmmaker, author, artist, and Webby-awards founder Tiffany Shlain catalyzes deep thought about the future and how we want to live it.

Jen Hyatt
Global Social Entrepreneur
Jen Hyatt is the founder and CEO of Big White Wall, a digital behavioral health service including peers, professionals and evidence-based third party providers.

Peggy Battin
End-of-Life Ethicist
Philosopher and bioethicist Peggy Battin has worked for decades to defend the right of terminally ill individuals to have greater control over the timing and manner of their deaths.

Inspector Gadje
Balkan Brass Band
With up to 15 musicians, San Francisco-based Inspector Gadje brings a big sound to the beautiful and bumpin’ brass band music of the Balkans.

Click here to see the entire TEDMED 2014 stage program, and here to join our event – just 16 days away! – in Washington, DC or San Francisco, CA.

Stay up-to-date by following @TEDMED on Twitter.

TEDMED Speakers on the Power of Play

What do kids have going for them that adults could co-opt for innovative progress in health and medicine?

The “beginner’s mind,” for one, meaning a lack of preconceptions; an ability to stay with the moment; an attention to meaningful life details and the ability to daydream fruitfully. Kids enrich these powers through play.

It’s a good thing that playing is not limited to childhood. In fact, speakers in this session of TEDMED 2014 will reveal the extraordinary power of play for all ages – to fire up creativity, learn through hypothetical experience, and even strengthen brain connections.


Cole Galloway
Pediatric Motor Learning Scientist & Designer
Neuroscientist and physical therapist James “Cole” Galloway thinks differently about the role of self-motivated mobility in shaping who we are in early life.


Gerardo Contino

Cuban Musician

Gritty, witty and streetwise, the Havana-born Gerardo Contino, “El Abogado de la Salsa,” sings timba—a progressive, raucous style of salsa.


Jill Vialet
Recess Champion
Jill Vialet, founder of the non-profit organization Playworks, believes in the power of play to bring out the best in every kid.


Kayt Sukel

Edgy Science Writer
Kayt Sukel tackles interesting and often taboo subjects in her writing, including love, sex, out of body experiences, and adventurous single mother travel.


Carla Pugh
Haptic Educator
Surgeon and education pioneer Carla Pugh wants doctors to fine-tune their haptic skills as a standardized part of their clinical education and daily practice.


Rupa & The April Fishes

Rock Star Hospitalist / Rebel Musician
Rupa & The April Fishes seek to celebrate beauty in pluralism and reinvigorate appreciation for living music with their diverse, global sounds.


Howard Rose

Health Games Designer
Howard Rose is president of Firsthand Technology, which specializes in real-time, interactive 3D games that aim to revolutionize how people learn, work and play.

Click here for details on this session and others, and to find out more about the many intriguing and playful activities at TEDMED 2014.

Apply today
to attend this September in either Washington, DC or San Francisco, CA. Stay updated by following @TEDMED on Twitter.

TEDMED Stage Program by the Numbers

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As we count down the days until TEDMED, we present a numerical look at the speakers for TEDMED 2014.

Some fun facts:

This year, we’re particularly proud that 45 of our speakers – 51 percent – are women.  As we ramp up to an eventual global presence, we’ve invited speakers from 20 nations and five continents.

They also represent a wide variety of interdisciplinary brilliance:  22 MDs, 26 PhDs (10 overachieving MD/PhDs and one hyper-overachieving college dropout), lawyers, architects, economists, journalists, entrepreneurs, an extreme athlete, acrobaticalists, global musicians, comedians, actors, dancers, photographers, and a man who gets a lot of mileage out of his pink tutu.

TEDMED Speakers: Tackling the Taboo

We’re just a few weeks out from TEDMED 2014! Next up – we’re sharing details on “Don’t You Dare Talk About This,” which will be presented on Day 2 of our bi-coastal event. You can’t solve a problem if you refuse to talk about it; to accelerate progress, we need to discuss controversial issues that may make us uncomfortable.

Session 5:  Don’t You Dare Talk About This

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This line-up of inspired risk-takers may just change the way you think and talk about the world’s most taboo health and medicine topics.

Learn more about these and other TEDMED 2014 speakers by exploring our stage program, and apply to attend today. Stay up-to-date by following @TEDMED on Twitter.

Later this week, we’ll be outlining our next session, “Play Is Not a Waste of Time,” about the extraordinary ways play can enhance health and medicine.

TEDMED Live Streaming To Reach 100+ Global Locations

More than 100 organizations around the globe will host TEDMED Live Streaming, a simulcast of the entire TEDMED 2014 stage program, with an estimated total audience of more than 100 thousand viewers.

TEDMED seeks to host an inclusive global dialog among all cultures and walks of life to create a “big picture” for science, health and medicine. It’s the first step toward inspiring breakthrough thinking and insights for the health of our planet’s 7 billion people. To that end, TEDMED will broadcast its entire program from the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC and the Palace Theater in San Francisco, CA, both live during the event on September 10-12 and on-demand through September 16.  The live streaming is available at no cost to qualified academic institutions, teaching hospitals, government organizations and non-profits organizations.

Screen Shot 2014-08-18 at 3.23.59 PMAffiliates to date include the World Health Organization, Research4Life, Clinton Foundation, Millennium Villages Project, Sustainable Development Solutions Network, American Public Health Association, Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates, Society for Participatory Medicine, +SocialGood, the National Institutes of Health and BroadReach Healthcare, among many others.

Affiliates can use the live streaming in many ways to facilitate conversations and collaborations:  Via a group event in a conference room, during a large community gathering or on individual devices.

If your organization would like to access TEDMED Live Streaming, click here to find out more and apply.

TEDMED Speakers: Stealing Solutions to Medicine’s Toughest Problems

shutterstock_22354027In four short weeks TEDMED 2014 officially kicks off and we are excited to continue highlighting our sessions with you. Next up, we are pleased to present “Stealing Smart,” a session during which speakers will share inspiring stories and ideas about how we can adapt solutions from other industries, and from other fields both inside and outside of medicine, to solve the most intractable problems in health and medicine. This session is dedicated to the idea that sometimes we need to look outside the realm of health to solve the complex issues within.

There’s still time to join us at TEDMED in Washington, DC or San Francisco, CA to experience how these dynamic thought leaders are accelerating health and medicine by “stealing smart.”

Brian Primack, Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh, will shed a provocative new light on the health impacts of existing and possible future relationships between certain popular media products and human behavior.

Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, Professor of Medicine in the Division of Cardiology at UCLA Medical School, will provide a surprising perspective on how human wellbeing, including mental health, can be improved with insights into animal health.

Ramanan Laxminarayan, Director of the Center For Disease Dynamics, Economics, and Policy, will discuss an unusual yet imminently practical approach to conserving antibiotics.

Engineer and entrepreneur Drew Lakatos is the CEO of ActiveProtect, a wearable technology company focused on reducing injury with smart garments that monitor mobility, detect falls, and intervene prior to impact.

Neuroscientist Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the NIH and a world leader in the neurobiology of diseases of reward and self-control, will apply a lens of addiction to the obesity epidemic.

Dominick Farinacci, trumpeter and protégé of Wynton Marsalis, will perform. He leads the Lincoln Center expansion in Doha and has played music in the lobby of the Cleveland Clinic.

Leslie Morgan Steiner, journalist and author, will bring the audience along on her journey to learn the truth about a successful medical surrogacy industry on the far side of the world – and how it could provide a model to help solve problems in the U.S.

Abraham Verghese, Provostial Professor and Vice Chair for the Theory and Practice of Medicine at Stanford University’s School of Medicine, will share compelling insights into the impact of language on health.

Zachary Copfer, former microbiologist and now an MFA in photography from the University of Cincinnati, will share awe-inspiring images in which the world of medicine is the medium as well as the message.

With the goal of creating “spare parts” for human implantation and disease models, Nina Tandon founded Epibone, the world’s first company to grow living human bones for skeletal reconstruction.

Both a forensic toxicologist and an attorney, Stephen Goldner is the Chairman and CEO of CureLauncher, a free, consumer-friendly resource that connects patients to clinical trials based on their unique goals and conditions.

TEDMED 2014 Session Three: Achieving the Seemingly Impossible

Find a way.” – Diana Nyad

What lies on the other side of self-imposed limitations? Lab tests at your neighborhood pharmacy that use a single drop of blood. A breathtakingly simple way to stop HIV/AIDS in its tracks. A completely counter-intuitive way to address doctor shortages in developing countries. An endurance feat so extreme that it redefines the phrase “will to succeed.”

Speakers for Session Three of TEDMED 2014 will make you rethink the limits of what is possible.

Flat Out Amazing

Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of Theranos, will share the amazing medical insights and technology that have put her on the cutting edge of high-tech diagnostics.

Gail Reed, founder of Medical Education Cooperation with Cuba and editor of MEDICC Review, is a former journalist who will spotlight a completely counterintuitive program to relieve the global shortage of physicians in poor countries.

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Marathon swimmer Diana Nyad will share lessons of her world record-setting solo 110-mile swim from Cuba to Miami at age 64.

Marc Koska, inventor of a life-saving syringe, will share the struggles, setbacks, breakthroughs and ultimate triumphs of this technology’s 30-year odyssey from “great idea” to “globally adopted reality.”

Foteini Agrafioti, a biometric and personal security engineer, will share how your EKG and emissions from your ear may be an alternate kind of fingerprint for you.

Kitra Cahana, one of National Geographic’s youngest photographers, will tell a moving and inspiring story of a medical catastrophe that turned into an unexpected journey into realms of spirituality and imagination.

Click here to register for the event in Washington, DC or in San Francisco, CA.

TEDMED Themes: Nine Parts of Imagination

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 9.38.20 PMAs TEDMED convenes its first ever dual-location event September 10-12, speakers will lead Delegates in exploring nine overarching themes with the ultimate goal of unlocking imagination, both individually and collectively, to address the toughest conundrums and most exciting innovations happening today.

Session One: Turn It Upside Down

What lies beneath the obvious? What could we be doing better, if only we looked more closely or from a completely different angle? Speakers will address insights that flip beliefs and question standard operating procedures in health and medicine.

Speaking and performing for this session will be:

Erica Frank, Professor and Canada Research Chair in the School of Population and Public Health, and the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia

Farah Siraj, Jordanian singer and songwriter

Elliot Swart, co-founder and CTO of 3Derm Systems

Jared Heyman, founder of CrowdMed

Sonia Shah, investigative science journalist and historian

NANDA, acrobaticalists

Ted Kaptchuk, Director of Harvard Medical School’s Program in Placebo Studies and Therapeutic Encounter

E. Bimla Schwarz, women’s health expert and scholar of evidence-based data

Danielle Ofri, attending physician at Bellevue Hospital and Associate Professor of Medicine at New York University School of Medicine

Thomas Goetz, health journalist, science writer, and entrepreneur

Heather Raffo, actress, playwright, and librettist

Session Two: We Just Don’t Know

This session celebrates science’s eternal quest to understand as much as we can about the workings of the universe, while realizing that the more we know, the more we realize we don’t know. The speakers in this session illuminate the thrill of even incremental discoveries and the wonder of exploring new terrain.  They are:

Daniel Webster, Professor of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research

Rosie King, Emmy Award-winning spokesperson and educator

Elizabeth Nabel, President of Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Ben Folds, leader of the rock band Ben Folds Five

Gary Conkright, CEO of PhysIQ

Amy McGuire, Associate Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Ethics and Director of the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine

Tig Notaro, stand-up comic

Jeffrey Iliff, Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine at Oregon Health & Science University

Applications are open to join TEDMED 2014 in San Francisco, CA or Washington, DC. To apply, click here.

New Metrics for Measuring Health Are Coming

ThomasGoetzA noted authority in the design and communication of healthcare data and information, Thomas Goetz is cofounder of Iodine, a health technology company with a mission to turn medical research data into clear and actionable tools for ordinary people to make better decisions about their health. Goetz, who holds a master’s degree in public health from University of California, Berkeley, is also the former executive editor of WIRED and author of two books: 2010’s The Decision Tree: Taking Control of Your Health in the New Era of Personalized Medicine, and 2014’s acclaimed The Remedy, recently chosen as a Best Book of the Month by iTunes and Amazon. His 2010 TED talk on visualizing medical data has been viewed more than 400,000 times.

TEDMED: What’s the most remarkable innovation you are seeing in health tech or medicine, and what is driving it?

Goetz: It’s the growing awareness that healthcare and medicine are consumer services, not just industries. We’re becoming aware that there is a consumer, often called the patient, who should be served. The tools of healthcare technology should be designed and optimized for that consumer experience, rather than for the goals of an insurer or provider or hospital. The shift that is happening is a step beyond patient-oriented; it’s consumer-oriented healthcare.

For instance, in every process or service that exists in healthcare we’re starting to ask, “Is that service actually incorporating the feedback of the consumer? Is it serving the consumer well? Is it designed to be the most smooth and least disrupting experience possible for individuals?” These questions have not traditionally been taken into account in healthcare. That’s a promising development, and one we’re trying to drive at Iodine.

What’s driving this innovation is a couple of things. One is that, through the Affordable Care Act and other changes in insurance, the consumer is now exposed to more of the cost of their healthcare. They’re asking, “What am I getting for my money?” Some organizations see that as an opportunity. The patient hasn’t been putting money into the system and now they are in ever greater amounts. That’s kind of the stick.

The other influence is more of the carrot: People are realizing that using the tools of good design and good customer service is a good business strategy in healthcare. There has always been a mantra that healthcare is different, medicine is different. But that’s not true. Healthcare has largely been a negative experience for people. People want to have a positive experience. They want satisfying and rewarding experiences in healthcare, instead of fear, uncertainty, and death.

TEDMED: What’s the most important factor for entrepreneurial success in health tech—and is that different from your own key to success?

Goetz: Traditionally, entrepreneurs have succeeded in healthcare by finding a niche or a need and creating incremental improvements. That’s changing. There is growing awareness that healthcare technology is potentially as vulnerable to the same kind of seismic shifts and exponential growth that has occurred in other industries. Now that wave is coming to healthcare.

That’s very aligned with my own interests and background, which has been charting the impact of technologies in industry. And that is what I’m trying to do now: leverage the exponential forces of data and analytics to turn those into something that benefits healthcare as it has in so many other industries.

TEDMED: For entrepreneurs with needle-moving ideas in global health, what are the keys to finding collaborators and supporters across specialties, industries, and geographies?  

Goetz: A strategy I’d recommend is to attempt to see what has worked in other areas or to find analogies that lay out a platform for success so that you don’t have to make up everything all at once. Adapt and implement a platform that has worked rather than build a whole new process in addition to creating a new market.

That said, it’s also true that a lot of these global health opportunities leverage different technologies, such as leapfrog technologies like the mobile infrastructure. Those can be significant advantages to a global health strategy.

TEDMED: In 2020, you’re asked to give a TEDMED talk about the biggest transformation you helped bring about in your field. What is it?

Goetz: I hope that in 2020 I’ve been part of a driving shift to where people’s real life experiences are captured and considered as valuable as the traditional bodies of evidence and research. I hope that we can define a new way of creating science and a new way of helping people make better decisions based on not just the sterile environment of laboratories, but on what works for real people in the real world.

It is part of what Iodine is working on. We have always thought of the physician, rather than the patient, as the authority who can measure experience. We’re going to start acknowledging that patient-reported data is potentially more accurate and has its own inherent value. The EHR’s reign as a primary document of patient experience will end. It’s going to be recognized as a great representation of the provider experience, but not the definitive document of patient experience.

What’s great about traditional metrics and what is being measured by the EHR is that there is a list of things we measure such as blood pressure and all sorts of levels in the blood. We need to collectively determine what are the new metrics that can be captured and that are valid when coming directly from the patient. Some of those will be the same metrics and some will be brand new metrics.

There could be much better and more pervasive measurements that take into account real people’s real world experiences. That shift is already starting, and in six years my predictive powers say that could be much more widespread. I hope to be a part of it.