The Art of Being Present: Unmasking (and Healing) Invisible Wounds

Creative Arts Therapist Melissa Walker

When Creative Arts Therapist Melissa Walker presents her patients with blank, papier-mâché masks to decorate, she is most often met with a skeptical reaction. This isn’t surprising, considering that her patients are active-duty service members who suffer from mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) as a result of exposure to blast-force events. These injuries are strikingly common, having afflicted hundreds of thousands of US combat personnel serving in Iraq and Afghanistan; symptoms include seizures, sleep disorders and cognitive difficulties.

Yet, Melissa’s unconventional approach is a remarkably effective component of a four-week treatment program at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (a program of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center), where she works. The process of making masks gives service members a “visual voice” that allows them to symbolize what’s going on internally. Often, the masks they create help tell their stories more eloquently than words ever could – and that’s only part of what makes them so powerful. By helping reveal and articulate hidden trauma, the masks offer a road to self-healing that the artists say is among the most helpful parts of their treatment.

Creative Arts Therapist Melissa Walker The mask-making program has proven a “low-cost, non-invasive and very effective treatment” for these military service members with “invisible wounds,” Melissa reports. Unfortunately, it’s also “a treatment they don’t believe they will be able to continue at or near their home bases, because of the scarcity of creative arts therapists across the military health system.” She’s hoping that Congress will allow President Obama’s request for $1.9 million in funding to expand the program to more bases to remain in the 2016 budget.

Melissa first observed the power of the art as a symbolic vehicle for communication when, in college, she worked with a special needs child. Watching him “create,” she shares that she “knew there was much more to observe about the process than the surface value of this child’s art product.” She recalls, “I watched his mind work in a unique way as he drew a city scene and spoke softly to himself about the buildings going ‘up, up, up.’ It was in that moment that I knew I wanted to work more closely with individuals than the classroom setting would allow, and began to research how to become an art therapist.”

Creative Arts Therapist Melissa Walker Melissa views mental health as a “complicated challenge.” “I have learned throughout my life and career that the line between psychological health and mental illness is a fine one,” she says, noting her belief that “the majority of our population lacks the understanding of how an individual comes to suffer psychologically, and lacks the empathy necessary to take the time to understand. Unfortunately this has created a culture of stigma that prohibits those who are in need to seek help. I am trying to break through these barriers… to help those suffering to express themselves, and to help others begin to understand their pain.”

Melissa relies on a mantra – “be present” – to help her stay focused on what matters most. “I often take a deep breath on my way into work and tell myself to be present for my patients. The greatest therapeutic outcomes I have experienced were as a result of my (and my patients’) ability to be present in the process and the artistic space. This has become more and more of a challenge as my career evolves and expands into advocacy, outreach, and research realms. But during the moments I am able to remind myself of my reason for being here – when I am fully engaged and invested in healing others – I am most alive in my work, and my patients are most active in their recovery.”

Creative Arts Therapist Melissa Walker

Creative Arts Therapist Melissa Walker Creative Arts Therapist Melissa Walker

Fostering Creativity in Science

How can we, as a society, move beyond outdated, stale perspectives on research and support innovative science? This is a question that will be addressed by two of this year’s TEDMED speakers (both featured in our Catalyzing Great Science session). Each offers out-of-the-box solutions to upend conventional thinking about innovation, and move intriguing ideas past the conceptual stage into the real world, where they can be applied to critical problems in health and medicine.

Roberta Ness

Roberta Ness, innovation expert, urges scientists to take “bold leaps into risky new idea space.”

Innovation expert and physician-researcher Roberta Ness, a former Dean of the University of Texas School of Public Health and currently the Vice President of Innovation for Health Sciences at UT Houston, urges scientists to move beyond fear and take “bold leaps into risky new idea space.” The fear of shattering convention and the anxiety about the potential cost to a nascent career is holding scientists back, she believes. To Support her claim, Roberta cites the obesity epidemic, climate change and emerging infectious diseases as examples of humankind-threatening problems that science is “painfully slow to address,” and which won’t be solved by “step-wise, incremental scientific advances.”

Author of Genius Unmasked and The Creativity Crisis, Roberta advocates training programs to nurture the creative process and teach scientists how to innovate. Asked to name the one person she’d most like to collaborate with, Roberta offers a surprising choice: Henry Ford.

Why? In transforming the way automobiles are developed and manufactured, Ford “literally changed the face of America, which is now honeycombed with highways and suburbs,” Roberta says, noting that “contrary to popular belief, his motivation was not mercenary. He yearned for every American to have access to freedom by way of inexpensive, dependable transportation. He built Model T cars to be cheap and to last forever. He believed in radical ideas and he believed that surprising invention should be in service to humanity.”

Elizabeth Iorns

Elizabeth Iorns, Founder of Science Exchange

Elizabeth Iorns, Founder of Science Exchange, also believes that scientific research is in need of a culture shift – one that places less emphasis on “breakthrough” findings that are not necessarily validated, and instead celebrates and rewards reproducible research. Drawing from her experience as a breast cancer researcher, Elizabeth points out that, in the current system, there is little incentive for replication of studies and that a substantial amount of important research findings have, in fact, never been reproduced. Such is the premise for Science Exchange, an online marketplace for outsourcing scientific research and validating results. Not only do these efforts improve reliability, but they also accelerate the pace at which innovation occurs, Elizabeth believes. Science Exchange recently launched a new initiative (called, appropriately enough, “Validation”), that aims to help researchers identify and reward high quality reproducible research via independent validation of key experimental results.

According to Elizabeth, the current view of collaboration in the scientific world is “dysfunctional.” She claims that our tendency to credit only one or perhaps a few people for scientific breakthroughs is a gross misunderstanding of how important research actually takes place. “Most historical breakthroughs are a collaboration of people and they are products of an environment with many influences,” says Elizabeth. “Over time these collaborators are forgotten and the influences missed. Many people know that Rosalind Franklin generated the key x-ray crystallography images that led to the understanding of the shape of DNA, but got little credit. How many Rosalind Franklins were there in history?”

2015 Speakers: A Look Behind The Scenes

Raj Patel

Raj Patel conducts an interview for his film project “Generation Food,” a documentary that will be released in 2016. An author, activist and academic, Raj is breaking through “people’s fear of systemic change by showing how some of the world’s poorest people are saving the planet through food.”

In Food Fix, Raj Patel will introduce a novel “technology” to global farming that can help decrease chronic child malnutrition and ensure food sovereignty. Knowing where to start isn’t easy, he tells us, sharing that “Many people want to change the world, but the ways we’re allowed to do it are trivial. Voting for one party or another doesn’t help. Shopping sensibly or voting with our forks doesn’t do a whole lot. But the minute we stop thinking about ourselves as individual consumers – whose only power is to shop – and think of ourselves as agents and scientists for change, new things start to become possible.”

What sparked Raj’s commitment to ending poverty? He shares the compelling experience: “I was five years old visiting Bombay, and couldn’t understand why a little girl was begging at a traffic light in the monsoon rain. It struck me as unspeakably unfair. As soon as I got back to England, I rented out my toys at kindergarten, and sent the money for hunger relief. It was an early career change. And I’ve yet to find a good reason why she was outside our taxi, and we were inside it.”

Raj Patel at work

Little boys from Bwabwa, Cameroon, make sweet potato donuts

Bwabwa, Cameroon.

Bwabwa, Cameroon



Dr. Dilip Jeste

In his office at UCSD, geriatric neuroscientist Dr. Dilip Jeste specializes in wisdom and other positive attributes of the aging brain.

“I am #Breakingthrough stigma against aging by discovering how late life can be a period of wisdom and growth – a time to thrive, not just survive,” says Dilip Jeste.

Dilip’s goal is timely, especially considering increasing life expectancy rates worldwide. He urges us not to view the aging demographic as a financial burden on the healthcare system, but as a valuable resource. Rather than the pejorative term “Silver Tsunami,” he tells us that it is instead “a Golden Wave of wise, emotionally stable, experienced decision-makers with a generative world view and a great deal to offer the younger generations.”

Dilip has no plans to slow down. “In 2008, for the first time in my life, I ran for a public election as a Trustee-at-Large of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the largest psychiatric organization in the world, with 35,000 members. The election involved political-style (but fortunately, without negative ads!) campaigning, seeking votes from a large and diverse body of members scattered across the country, giving presentations on why I was the best of the three candidates who were running for the position.” It wasn’t comfortable, he says, calling himself a “heavy underdog” at the start of the campaign. “Many friends and colleagues thought that I was risking my personal reputation by venturing outside the comfort zone of the academic ivory tower. Yet, I felt it was a great opportunity for me to get to know the world beyond academics and also to see if I could adapt myself to public campaigning. I won the election, while enhancing my friendship with the other two candidates.” He didn’t stop there. “After serving as the Trustee-at-Large for 3 years, I ran for APA Presidency, which was an even more demanding campaign. I won and in 2012 I became the first Asian American President in the 168-year history of this organization. It turned out to be one of the most fulfilling years of my life.”



Breakout Labs

Breakout Labs, workplace of Hemai Parthasarathy, Scientific Director of the Thiel Foundation and Breakout Labs and a speaker in our Catalyzing Great Science session.

Through her work at the Thiel Foundation, Hemai Parthasarathy tells us that she is “breaking through barriers between the laboratory and the economy.” At TEDMED, she will reveal what goes on behind the scenes of cultivating a scientist-entrepreneur and providing them with the tools to thrive.

But what about what happens behind the scenes outside of work? Curious to know, we asked her to tell us about the last time she did something for the very first time. Here’s what she shared: “In February, I started training a puppy for the first time. My family had dogs when I was growing up, but I’ve never raised a puppy before and it’s been fascinating to coach a non-human animal mind. Although I did animal research as a neuroscientist, watching non-human animal cognition and its evolution on a daily basis has given me a new perspective on just how fundamentally different and how utterly similar a different species’ brain can be.”



Vanessa Ruiz

Drawing from her love of street art, Vanessa Ruiz wants to break through “the confines of medical education by making human anatomy publicly accessible through art, design, and pop culture.”

Vanessa Ruiz’s company, Street Anatomy, is working on an online collection of top contemporary artists who use human anatomy in their art. She wants to shift public ignorance of human anatomy, saying “Most people know more about the settings on their smartphones than where their organs are located. I am attempting to make anatomy more accessible by showing how it is visualized outside of the realm of education—to break through the lack of interest, aversion to the internal, and perceived complexity. It is a step in making anatomy more ubiquitous and interesting.”

Vanessa Ruiz's office

A look into Vanessa’s office.

“OBJECTIFY THIS," curated by Vanessa Ruiz

In 2012, Vanessa curated a gallery show titled “OBJECTIFY THIS” that uses art as a vehicle for education. “I became more aware of the underrepresentation of female anatomy in medical textbooks and education,” she says. “The male body has always been the educational standard, possibly to the detriment of learning female anatomy. I have found that in art, there is no preference. It all depends on their frame of reference and experiences. I want to continue the theme of OBJECTIFY THIS and bring it to other cities around the world to educate the public on this overlooked issue.”

Transcendence: TEDMED2015 Speakers Share Inspirational Stories of How Personal Struggles Fueled Their Accomplishments

A number of TEDMED2015 speakers and performers have faced personal struggles head-on. Not only have they have risen above painful circumstances, they have utilized them to power meaningful change and improve the world for others. Here are a few of their stories:

Retina image

Actual images from the donated retinas of Thomas Gray.

Retina-Inspired Watercolor

Watercolor painting by artist by Michele Banks, inspired by the images from the donated retinas of Thomas Gray.

While struggling to cope with the loss of their 6-day-old son Thomas, Sarah Gray and her family chose to personally seek out and meet the researchers who received his eye, liver, and cord blood donations. Their journey brought profound peace to the Gray family, and in the process, garnered national and international media attention. Sarah is writing a ‘medical memoir’ about the experience, scheduled for publication next year. She says, “It will be a medical detective story in which I, a mother of twins, one of whom succumbs to a fatal genetic defect, recount the decision to give our infant son’s organs to medical science and my subsequent quest to find out what happened after the donation, taking readers to the cutting edge of research, inside other families’ stories, and what it means to come to terms with loss.”

Sarah recalls a profoundly moving moment, when the researcher who received her son’s retinas confided that she felt guilty about wishing to obtain a specimen of this type, because it is only available after a child dies. “It never occurred to me that a researcher would feel guilty about this, but now I understand why. I actually laughed when she said it. I asked her to never feel guilty about this, because if her study didn’t need my son’s retinas, they would be buried in the ground and not helping anyone. I am grateful that her research gave my son’s life an added layer of meaning.”

Thomas’s retinas have proven very useful—the researcher had been searching for six years for such a sample for her study of retinoblastoma, a deadly childhood cancer. “My son’s retinas were the only suitable specimen of healthy tissue that she has ever received,” Sarah proudly says.

Laurie Rubin

“I think of myself as a three-dimensional coloring book” says inspirational diva Laurie Rubin, whose blindness doesn’t stop her from designing jewelry, applying her own makeup, going skiing, or pursuing life’s other adventures.

Blind since birth, mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin (one of our featured performers) has performed at Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center and the White House, and is co-artistic director, co-founder and resident voice teacher of Ohana Arts Summer School of the Arts in Hawaii. Luminous as her voice and story may be, a thread that runs through her work is her experience of having been bullied as a child. In collaboration with composer (and wife) Jennifer Taira, Laurie released a song and music video, which features the stories of women overcoming the effects of bullying. Laurie also recounts the isolation she felt as a victim of bullying in her memoir, Do you Dream in Color? Though the memoir is primarily filled with thrilling stories and adventures from her life, Laurie finds that it is the day-to-day struggles that she describes that resonate most with her readers. Many wrote to Laurie, telling her they’d expected to read about a blind girl but “came away from it realizing I had just read a book about myself.” With a goal of promoting dialogue and forgiveness, Laurie tells us that, “Our experiences are universal, and we all have more in common than we think in spite of our differences.” Not only that – she challenges those “who feel their weaknesses hold them back to not only dream big, but to gather all the skills and tools they can to achieve their big dreams, no matter how hard it may seem to achieve them.”

Seun Adebiyi

Cancer survivor Seun Adebiyi will be Nigeria’s first Olympian to compete in both winter and summer games.

One week after graduating from Yale Law School, and one week before his 26th birthday, Seun Adebiyi was diagnosed with two aggressive forms of cancer – lymphoma and leukemia. With a grim prognosis, he was given only months to live. His best chance of survival was a stem cell transplant. However, having fully African ancestry, Seun struggled to find a donor. Less than 17% of Africans are able to find a donor to match their blood type and only 8% of registered donors in the US are black. While he was still fighting his cancers, Seun launched a Bone Marrow Donors Registry and organized the first bone marrow drive in his native Nigeria. Now fully recovered, Seun is training to become Nigeria’s first Winter Olympic athlete. He also directs the American Cancer Society’s Global Scholars program, training advocates to advance cancer screening, treatment, and palliative care in under-resourced, low-income countries.

When asked what his clone would do (if he had one), Seun responded: “I don’t need to clone myself. I work full time for the American Cancer Society and part-time for Uber; train for two Olympic sports; and still have enough time to earn a pilot’s license and a massage therapy degree. I’m also an avid student of yoga and meditation, and I enjoy taking mid-day naps.”

Very Personalized Healthcare from 3 of TEDMED’s Hive Companies

Personalized medicine – one of the most important and promising trends in the medical world – tailors treatments to the unique characteristics, genes, and lifestyle of each individual. It’s a fast-moving field, full of innovation and boundary-pushing breakthroughs. This November at TEDMED, The Hive will feature three companies that are helping to accelerate the personalized application to healthcare, each using a very different approach.


Emulate’s “Organs-on-chips.” President and Chief Scientific Officer Geraldine Hamilton says this will soon be followed by a new version, “You on a Chip,” which will provide truly personalized predictive technology.

Emulate Inc. puts living human cells in micro-engineered environments as a way to examine how diseases, medicines, chemicals and even foods will affect health. Their Organs-on-Chips technology predicts human response with greater accuracy and precision than either animal or lab testing because it allows for control of all critical aspects of a living cellular environment, such as tissue stretching, blood flow, breathing etc. As a result, Emulate can advance product testing, design and safety across a range of applications including drug development, agriculture, cosmetics and personalized health. Emulate is now developing “You on a Chip,” using the same technology with individual stem cells to accelerate progress toward a whole new level of individualized healthcare.


InSCyT’s bedside drug-manufacturing system isn’t quite small enough to carry around “in a backpack” but it’s truly portable says founder J. Christopher Love, associate professor in chemical engineering at MIT.

Thanks to the InSCyT (Integrated and Scalable CytoTechnolgoy) platform, we’ll soon have the ability to manufacture bespoke biological drugs in small quantities on demand, anywhere. With applications ranging from battlefield medicine to treatment of orphan diseases, InSCyT will impact health globally as well as on the very personal level. The concept began as a conversation about “what if you could make any medicine you wanted for a patient right at their bedside?” The MIT-led team has already built a portable prototype that, in under 48 hours, can produce dose-scale quantities (ranging from tens to thousands) of drugs like insulin, vaccines, hormones and cancer medications of a quality comparable to approved pharmaceuticals.


A customized drug-delivery device for self-administration of biologic drugs made by Recon Therapeutics, a startup whose culture is best described as “clutch” by Co-Founder Christopher Lee.

Recon Therapeutics used rapid prototyping and 3D printing technology to create its “one-stop shop” for self-administered biologic drugs. The LyoKit Disposable Reconstitution System has many important advantages over existing self-administered medications, making treatments easier for patients. Built from off-the-shelf components, it bypasses the need for refrigeration, can easily be customized for many different drugs, and (because it’s so simple) minimizes the likelihood of user error. The LyoKit also solves key challenges of personalized biologic medications, including unique solubility requirements, unreliable dosing and low patient compliance – freeing up patients taking these drugs to live their lives without fretting over how to take their medicine.

Guiding Evidence for Gun Violence Prevention: Q&A with Daniel Webster

In his 2014 TEDMED talk, 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, examines some surprisingly hopeful possibilities that exist for a controversial public policy conundrum that seems to have no universally acceptable answer. We asked Daniel a few questions to learn more.

I don’t think that the level of gun violence we experience now is here to stay. Nor is it built into American culture or American law.  I believe that within 20 years, the United States can reduce our murder rates by 30% to 50%.

“I don’t think that the level of gun violence we experience now is here to stay. Nor is it built into American culture or American law. I believe that within 20 years, the United States can reduce our murder rates by 30% to 50%.” Daniel Webster, TEDMED 2014

What motivated you to speak at TEDMED?

I felt that I had important perspectives and research to help America address one of its most important and vexing public health problems.  Unless you know the data and have a long-term perspective, it is easy for those who desperately want to see change to think reducing gun violence in America is hopeless.

Why does this talk matter now? What impact do you hope the talk will have?

Recent political gridlock in Washington, DC on almost all issues, including guns, can prevent the vast majority who support stronger laws to keep guns from dangerous people from engaging on the issue, surrendering important policy decisions to people with the most extreme views and vested financial interests.  If people realize that there are policies that can keep guns from dangerous people and save many lives and that those policies are supported by an overwhelming majority of gun owners, things could dramatically change for the better.

What kind of meaningful or surprising connections did you make at TEDMED?

I met Leana Wen– she gave one the best talks that I heard.  Only months later, I was pleased to find that Dr. Wen had accepted the position of Health Commissioner of Baltimore, where I work. She has championed a public health program to reduce gun violence in Baltimore that is run out of the Health Department that I have been involved in evaluating. The program has helped to quell the violence that has taken over many Baltimore neighborhoods since May in the small number of neighborhoods where they are working.

What is the legacy you want to leave?

One of a scientist that has produced solid evidence to show that strong gun laws that are supported by the majority of gun owners save lives. And someone who respects gun owners and knows that that the majority of gun owners favor policies that research suggests would lead to many fewer lives lost.

Is there anything else you really wish you could have included in your talk?

I wish I could have mentioned my latest research findings that show that handgun purchaser licensing laws appear to have reduced homicides and suicides in Connecticut after it adopted such a law while increasing homicides and suicides in Missouri after the state repealed handgun purchaser licensing requirements.

What’s next for you?

I am continuing several research projects examining the effects of background check requirements and firearm restrictions for domestic violence offenders. In Baltimore, we are examining the effects of public health outreach and conflict mediation to reduce shootings, focused deterrence programs directed at those at highest risk for involvement in gun violence, and drug and gun law enforcement approaches.  I’m also deeply involved in studying policy solutions to the epidemic of overdose deaths due to prescription opioids and heroin.

Inventors Who Solve For Complexity


“Have you broken this thing yet? No? Well, then, you are running behind schedule.”

That’s what Peter Janicki, founding engineer of Janicki Industries and a speaker in our Back to Basics session, asks himself when he’s tackling each of the large and complex challenges his 600-person family-operated engineering firm specializes in solving. With a portfolio that includes major architectural projects, transportation, and now sanitation, they’ve created an ecologically sound, inexpensive toilet to help improve conditions in developing countries. Requiring no electricity, plumbing or even water, the toilet is self-contained, derives all of its energy from fecal matter input, and produces only a bit of ash. “It does seem almost too good to be true. That was the only way it was going to work economically,” says Peter.

Peter Janicki, Founding Engineer of Janicki Industries

Peter Janicki, Founding Engineer of Janicki Industries

Peter’s working philosophy – which has contributed to his company’s unique innovations – was shaped at an early age. Peter recalls being 12 years old and spending the day at work with his father in the family logging business. It was a long slog, and the kind of day when many things went wrong. It was also Friday – pay day.

“The entire crew, about 120 employees, were in the shop when my dad walked in. Right there were our own two dump trucks, completely smashed, from crashing into each other. There was dead silence as my dad walked over and inspected the trucks. The radiator and engine block on both engines were cracked. Without saying a word he walked out to his pickup truck and grabbed two cases of beer, set it on the workbench in the middle of the shop and said, ‘Boys, tonight the beer is on the house.’ And he sat and drank and visited with the crew for more than an hour. My dad never got mad at the crew when things went badly.

“This had a profound impact on how I interact with my crew today. I strive to create an environment where the penalty for failure is very small. This creates freedom because people are not scared. Freedom promotes innovation and innovation promotes rapid technology advancement.”

Optimizing for freedom to innovate is the principle that also powers MakerNurse, where co-founder Anna Young (another Back to Basics speaker and a Hive 2015 innovator) operates from a fundamental belief that nurses (and other healthcare providers) can create innovations that improve patient care when empowered with the right tools and unafraid to try. “The everyday ingenuity of people will solve many of the health technology challenges in healthcare today,” Anna shares.

Anna Young, Co-Founder of MakerNurse

Anna Young, Co-Founder of MakerNurse

MakerNurse creates Medical Maker Spaces with tool kits that are, essentially, “miniaturized” world-class medical device R&D facilities to create affordable DIY health technology solutions to customize care.

“The history of medical making runs deep through every part of the healthcare system,” Anna says. “We appreciate the end result, the life-saving technologies, but rarely acknowledge the 15 iterations of prototypes that were developed to get there.” She notes, for example, the balloon catheter, prototyped by Dr. Andreas Gruentzig on his kitchen counter in Switzerland, which led to the development of the interventional radiology department at Emory University. The technology and technique spread and today treats 500,000 people in the US each year.

“Our MIT lab was in the field looking for user innovators in hospitals around the world,” she says, adding that what they found, instead, was that “stealth health makers” were the ones adding the most value to the healthcare system.

“We found stealth medical making in hospitals all over… a stethoscope repaired with overhead transparencies, custom phototherapy masks for NICU patients and a DIY ambulance to transport patients in remote areas,” Anna tells us, noting that “healthcare is better when everyone is empowered to create devices.”

A musical education: Q&A with Inspector Gadje

Not only did Inspector Gadje Balkan Brass bring big sound and soaring melodies to TEDMED 2014, they used their music to educate and inform. As Balkan music grows in popularity, the band pays homage to the often subjugated communities and cultures where it originated. We reached out to the band to learn more about their musical mission and philosophy.

Jerod Harris38151

What motivated Inspector Gadje to perform at TEDMED?

Inspector Gadje Balkan Brass was born from a collaboration with the nonprofit Voice of Roma. Both the organization and the band use culture as a tool in the struggle against racism, spreading the cause of the Roma people far and wide by introducing the music and dance from the Balkans to the modern West and beyond. Performing at TEDMED introduced Inspector Gadje’s music and mission to a new and innovative audience – one that shares our vision for a healthier planet, be it through medicine, music, and/or social activism.   

What impact do you hope your performance will have?

We hope to spark an interest and curiosity about Balkan brass band music and the vibrant culture from which it originates. We respectfully present music from the Balkans while maintaining our own voice in the songs. We hope to impact our audience from head to toe – to tug the ear and the intellect, to reach the heart, and to move the body and spirit. For some, the music will resonate aesthetically, for others it will open broader cultural avenues. We hope our performances illuminate the joy, as well as the cultural struggle of the Balkans – expressed in recent wars and ongoing discrimination against Romani people.

What is the legacy Inspector Gadje wants to leave?

Inspector Gadje Balkan Brass hopes our audience stays engaged with the cultural issues introduced by our performance. We consider ourselves part of an ongoing exchange between the Roma and their allies abroad, and we hope to do justice to the beautiful music of the Balkans, while spreading the message of friendship and respect for the Roma people.

Humanizing Our Healthcare System

It’s difficult to imagine a business more delicate and intimate than healthcare. Yet the reality in today’s corporate hospital world is that many patients feel deeply disconnected and uncared for in a system that often feels aloof, cold and impersonal. The problem is not simple, nor is there a single solution. This daunting challenge is being seriously addressed in the medical world by two champions working to humanize healthcare from the inside—and we’re honored that they’re joining us at TEDMED 2015.

Thomas Lee, Chief Medical Officer for Press Ganey

Thomas Lee, Chief Medical Officer for Press Ganey

One such champion is the quality care pioneer Thomas Lee, who serves as the Chief Medical Officer for Press Ganey, where he leads development of strategies for measuring and improving quality of care. Tom claims that a key healthcare makeover requires recognizing physicians’ empathy as a business asset, and designating patient suffering an avoidable outcome.

Patient experience is an integral quality indicator at Press Ganey, but Tom’s commitment to the concept doesn’t just come from his leadership role there. As a practicing internist/cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Tom recalls how it felt to walk the halls in the wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. “I saw how everyone, down to the custodial staff, took tremendous pride in the work that they had done to save so many lives,” Tom says. “That experience helped me realize that pride and shame were motivators that greatly exceeded financial incentives in their potential to drive improvement in healthcare,” he shares.

Medical progress has produced “marvelous benefits,” Tom notes, but it “also has side effects – chaos, because there is so much to do, so many people involved, no one with all the information, and no one with full accountability. We focus on financial issues in healthcare all the time, but the bigger challenge is bringing organization to the chaos, so that we can improve quality, efficiency, and safety.”

Those same themes – quality, efficiency and safety – fuel the digital revolution in healthcare. However, this effort doesn’t always work out so well. Renowned UCSF internist, founder of the hospitalist movement, and former chair of the American Board of Internal Medicine, Bob Wachter, tells us that “Healthcare’s digital revolution is making some things better, some worse.”

Bob Wachter, Renowned UCSF internist, founder of the hospitalist movement, and former chair of the American Board of Internal Medicine

Bob Wachter, UCSF internist and founder of the hospitalist movement

Bob values the advancement of “the appreciation in healthcare, over the past 15 years that the outcomes of patients is at least as dependent on the quality of the healthcare system as on the smarts/commitment of the physician. I learned nothing of this paradigm in medical school, yet it now is central to my own career and the way we train future generations of physicians.”

Bob proposes that our “healthcare system needs to deliver better, safer, more satisfying care at a lower cost” and points out that “the only way we’ll make that happen is through use of technology.” Still, “our implementation of technology, to date, has been disappointing. I’m trying to break through the hype to allow us to understand how to implement technology tools so as to improve healthcare value and unlock the potential to improve health.”

Hive Companies Reinventing “What’s for Dinner” Share Their Recipes for Start-Up Success

The Impossible Burger

The Impossible Burger is made from … plants?

It’s a creative time in the food world – and not just in epicurean circles. With a focus on addressing injustices to our environment, to people and to animals, several of this year’s Hive companies are serving up alternative meals that are fresh, nutritious and unconventional.

One Simple Solution Addresses Three Big Problems

Daily Table

On the Menu: Excess but wholesome food that would otherwise be wasted by growers, manufacturers and retailers. This wasted food is used to cook up freshly prepared “grab-n-go” meals that are sold along with fresh produce and other grocery items at far lower-than-typical prices at Daily Table, an innovative nonprofit retail store. Daily Table’s mission is to fight hunger and obesity in America by providing truly affordable nutrition to the food insecure.

Doug Rauch, Daily Table’s founder

Doug Rauch, Daily Table’s founder

“I am #BreakingThrough traditional mindsets about nonprofits, hunger relief and food recovery while engendering dignity and building a community’s capacity for health,” says Doug Rauch, Daily Table’s founder. Explaining that the organization is “using one massive problem (wasted food) to solve another massive social issue (hunger/obesity),” Doug – formerly a president of Trader Joe’s – collaborated with “world class medical education centers and nutritionists to adopt nutritional guidelines that will ensure that every product helps our customers feel and be their best. This great tasting, nutritious food is offered in a friendly retail format ensuring that the entire process engenders dignity and a sense of agency.”

Asked how Daily Table evolved from an idea to the real-live supermarket that opened its doors in Dorchester, MA, on July 4, Doug responded that there were many “learnings.” To name a few: “When I learned that the issue of dignity was the number one reason a person didn’t apply for SNAP or use Feeding America’s services; or when I discovered that hunger in America is a shortage of nutrients, not calories; or when I wrestled with how to create a nonprofit that could generate funding (revenue) through delivery of its mission instead of for the delivery of the mission.” The word that brings it all together, he notes, is empathy. “It all flows from genuine care and empathy. It would be an empty shell without these.”

A Quest to Eliminate the Need for Animal Farming

Impossible Foods (@PatrickOBrown)

The Main Course: A delicious, nutritious, environmentally friendly alternative to meat and dairy that comes directly from plants – but tastes better than the best burger an avowed carnivore has eaten. Next year, Impossible Foods will start selling its “Impossible Burger,” the first product in a line of foods that look, smell and taste like – while also delivering the pleasurable sensory experience of – animal-derived foods (meat, cheese and milk). But amazingly, these products are are created entirely from plants.

Patrick Brown, Founder of Impossible Foods

Patrick Brown, Founder of Impossible Foods

“I am #BreakingThrough technical and cultural barriers to a sustainable, affordable and secure global food system,” says Patrick Brown, a world renowned geneticist, Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, and Professor of Biochemistry at Stanford University. Founder of Lyrical Foods and maker of Kite Hill artisanal nut milk-based cheeses, Pat’s latest venture was triggered by a realization that, even as the demand for meat and dairy products continues to rise, animal farming is “absurdly destructive and completely unsustainable.” He started Impossible Foods and raised $75 million to “reinvent the entire system of transforming plants into meat and milk.”

Only a few of The Impossible Foods scientists have worked professionally with food in the past; however, they have figured out how to extract materials from plants that can convincingly replicate the feel, the flavors and the satisfying texture of foods that people really want to eat. The result is better for animals, of course, but it’s also good for those of us who will be able to enjoy a great burger without the attendant guilt that comes from consuming high-fat foods.

Breaking Through the Way We Think About Food

Aspire Food Group (@AspireFG)

Bill of Fare: Insects. They are a commonly overlooked and sustainable source of protein that, in many parts of the world, are considered a delectable delicacy. Aspire Food Group is working to advance responsible insect farming and consumption by developing culturally relevant business strategies and potential markets for these foods. They are also, simultaneously, educating rural farmers on the best practices of insect farming and helping them break into formal economies where a market for these foods already exists.

Shobhita Soor, Aspire Food Group founding member and Chief Impact Officer

Shobhita Soor, Aspire Food Group founding member and Chief Marketing Officer

Aspire is “breaking through” in many and varied ways, shares Shobhita Soor, a founding member and the firm’s Chief Marketing Officer. “We are #BreakingThrough the way we think about food and protein sources … the way we formalize an informal food economy … and the way we adapt traditional food practices on a global scale,” she tells us.

Shobhita and her partners found their inspiration as MBA students participating in the Hult Prize competition in 2013. Charged to develop a solution to address food insecurity, a member of her team “spoke to a physician who mentioned that he recently saw a patient who consumes insects in her native country, Columbia. Once we started looking into entomophagy there were several ‘aha’ moments, namely the understanding that many insects are highly nutritious and resource-efficient and that there is a real market gap in insect eating.” The realization “that insect-eating is a strong traditional practice for over 2 billion people in the world, but that they remain inaccessible in terms of cost and supply,” was when “we knew we were on to something.”

What’s most disruptive about Aspire, says Shobhita, “is that we are tapping into an extremely under-utilized resource that is familiar to 2 billion people in the world, yet virtually invisible to the rest. We are revolutionizing the way the majority of the world thinks about protein by working to make a traditional superfood more available and accessible through the improvement of its production, preparation and consumption methods.”

Bonus: You’ll have the opportunity to hear more about these innovative companies in the Food Fix session at TEDMED2015, where each of the three leaders will share more about their inspirations and hopes for feeding the world.