Why do doctors practice race-based medicine?

by Dorothy Roberts, guest contributor

Biological scientists established decades ago that the human species can’t be divided into genetically discrete races. Social scientists have shown that the racial classifications we use today are invented social groupings. And historians of medicine have traced doctors’ current practice of treating patients by race to justifications for slavery. Doctors I’ve talked to readily concede that race is a “crude” proxy for patients’ individual characteristics and clinical indicators. Countless patients have been misdiagnosed and treated unjustly because of their race.

So why do doctors cling so fiercely to race-based medicine?

BWSyringe2One reason is force of habit. For generations, beginning in the slavery era, medical students have been taught to take the patient’s race into account. Race is built into the foundations of medical education, which assumes that people of different races are biologically distinct from each other and suffer from diseases in peculiar ways. What’s more, medical students aren’t given much latitude to question the lessons they are taught about race.  Without a radical disruption, these students go on to train the next generation of doctors with the same flawed racial dogmas.

Another reason is that doctors aren’t immune from commonly-held racial stereotypes and misunderstandings. Most Americans believe some version of a biological concept of race, and doctors are no exception. In fact, the entire field of biology has been plagued by controversy and confusion over the meaning of race. It is not surprising that the medical profession would be influenced by racial thinking that has been perpetuated in U.S. education, culture, and politics for centuries.

In addition, there are institutional and commercial incentives to continue practicing medicine by race. Starting in the 1980s, the federal government required the scientific use of racial categories to ensure greater participation of minorities in clinical research and to address health disparities. Unfortunately, this effort to diversify clinical studies focused on biological rather than social inequalities and has reinforced genetic definitions of race.  In 2005, the federal Food and Drug Administration approved the first race-specific drug, a therapy for African-American patients with heart failure, that was repackaged as a race-based pill to enable the cardiologist who developed it to obtain a patent. Labeling drugs by race may be financially advantageous to pharmaceutical companies by providing a marketing niche and an avenue for FDA approval. The biomedical research and pharmaceutical industries have tremendous influence over how medicine is practiced.

Doctors are quick to bristle at any suggestion that treating patients by race results from their own racial prejudice. They disavow any connection to blatantly racist medicine of the past—the horrific treatment of enslaved Africans; unethical medical experimentation on African Americans, such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and use of Henrietta Lacks’ cancer cells; Jim Crow segregation of medical services; and mass sterilization of black, Mexican-origin, Puerto Rican, and Native American women in the 1960s and 1970s.

Doctors argue that they are using race for benevolent reasons or, at most, as a benign way to classify their patients. But race is not a benign category. Race was invented to support racism and it is inextricably tied to racial oppression and the struggle against it. There is no biological reason to divide human beings into white, black, yellow, and red. Race seems natural only because we have been taught to see each other this way. Sometimes, when I speak to doctors about this topic, I can see their physical discomfort with giving up their reliance on race. It feels like asking deeply religious people to give up their belief in their deity. Race is more than an ordinary medical feature—it is part of people’s deeply-held identities, their sense of their place in society, and their view of how the world is ordered. This is why ending race-based medicine will require a great leap of imagination, a new vision of humanity tied to a movement for racial justice.


Global scholar, University of Pennsylvania civil rights sociologist, and law professor Dorothy Roberts exposes the myths of race-based medicine in her TEDMED 2015 talk.

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.

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.

Words of advice for trials & tribulations: Q&A with Stephen Goldner

At TEDMED 2014, forensic toxicologist and attorney Stephen Goldner shared the compelling story of how helping one person turned into a lifelong effort to change (and, in some cases, even save) lives. We reached out to Stephen to learn more about what drives his work.

What advice would you give to other aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs?

People’s minds are constantly changing, and innovators are so driven toward new interests, that they often have difficulty staying focused on the “grind” of daily business building. I strongly suggest finding a mentor. Someone who can provide focus and encouragement during both the good times and the bad times, and who can then make the all-important connections to people and resources at just the right time.

Stephen Goldner, TEDMED 2014.

Stephen Goldner, TEDMED 2014.

Who or what has been your main source of inspiration that drives you to innovate?

My parents, who quietly insisted that I should do something good for people through my work. Later, I found a master scientist, John Broich, who inspired many people and became my business partner and friend for life. John was a devout seeker of truth, and a data-driven scientist who could see molecular structures in the air and then bring that discovery to life in the laboratory. Another source of inspiration is Alan Kaplan, who created the Food and Drug Law Institute in Washington, DC, and became my mentor when I switched careers and became an FDA lawyer. Alan showed me how to see the many different aspects to matters of law and ethics, and the importance of considering societal consequences.

Most of all, my life-long devotion to humanism has been mentored by someone I never spoken to, and only met briefly twice. I know him from his writings, and his frequent video-talks, even though I have to rely upon translation from Japanese to English. Mr. Daisaku Ikeda, President of Soka Gakkai International has shown me how to turn my personal karma into a day-to-day, moment-to-moment appreciation for finding what needs to be done for people, figuring out what I can do, and then doing it.

Why does your talk matter now? What do you hope people learn from your talk?

Nothing is more precious than life. My talk celebrated helping people find new medicines so they could live. I hope people learn that their simple act of helping one person can turn into a huge mission and help thousands, if not millions, of people all over the world. I hope people see that I am just an “average Joe” who figured something out and then sought out others to join in that mission.

What is the legacy you want your work and/or your talk to leave?

I hope that, somehow, my story will encourage hundreds and thousands of people to endure the entrepreneur struggles and bring their humanistic ideas to fruition.

What is next for you?

Certainly we continue to implement the CureLauncher technology; we’ve done that for more than 11,000 people and multiple clinical trials so far. Things are really interesting at this point in time because I was recently asked to set up the foremost cannabis testing laboratory in the USA. The laboratory, Pinnacle Labs, is based in Michigan and will open on October 15. Once it does, the synergy will kick in. We’ll be running multiple clinical trials for people using marijuana, and collaborating with distinguished medical centers and physicians, and even law enforcement labs, that want to help bring together great science and medicine to show the value of this plant medication.

All innovations need the right time, the right people and the right circumstances to “take off and soar” – so, whatever your dream is, keep on “keeping on” and you will be amazed at all the value you can create in the world.

Indigenous economic health: Q&A with Rebecca Adamson

On the TEDMED 2014 stage, Indigenous economist Rebecca Adamson, founder of the First Nations Development Institute and First Peoples Worldwide and a globally recognized advocate for the rights of Indigenous Peoples, shares how culturally appropriate, values-driven, sustainable development based on indigenous principles contributes to a new concept of health. We caught up with her to learn more.

What motivated you to speak at TEDMED?

Understanding health as an emergent property, and seeing the individual’s health as merely a part of society’s collective health, aligns closely with the holistic approach found within Indigenous Peoples’ worldview. This understanding provided me a natural bridge to make the case that the old medical paradigm that has operated until now with a single, limited, linear worldview needed rethinking. I wanted to show how much the Indigenous worldview has been literally and figuratively handcuffed and prohibited from use. Albert Einstein once said, “You can’t solve a problem with the same conscience that created it.”  I wanted to present how culturally diverse perspectives, especially Indigenous perspectives that emphasize the health of the community rather than the health of the individual, are compelling and relevant technologies for today.

Medical science has determined that healthy individuals emerge from a healthy relationship with a healthy society in a healthy ecosystem. This means that the distribution and delivery of healthcare must meet the needs of the whole society, not merely a part of it. For me, this is a game-changer. As a Cherokee Economist, with a lifetime invested in Indigenous development, my experience with western models has been that they focus on accumulation with little attention to distribution. One of the most crucial aspects of the emergent property of health is that well-being is achieved collectively, meaning that the distribution and delivery of our healthcare actually determines the efficacy of our medical system, our individual health, and the well-being of our society. I believe the Indigenous paradigm lends a new perspective in rethinking healthcare and the medical profession.

Rebecca Adamson at TEDMED 2014

“One of the most crucial aspects of the emergent property of health is that well-being is achieved collectively, meaning that the distribution and delivery of our healthcare actually determines the efficacy of our medical system, our individual health, and the well-being of our society.” Rebecca Adamson at TEDMED 2014

Why does this talk matter now?

Indigenous Peoples are still being handcuffed, figuratively and literally. We are being arrested, shot at and killed for our natural resources. This is going on at the same time that many of our sciences (not just medical) are uncovering the interconnectivity of life – all Life. Holistic worldviews are not exclusive to Indigenous Peoples but the millennia of empirical data on how societies can organize politically, socially and economically for sustainability is being lost. Right now there is an overemphasis on the technological and financial aspects of our society. As medical practitioners, you can really see it in the healthcare system. For example, if we know that health is an emergent property then why is so little or no attention given to the distribution and delivery of healthcare for all – not merely a portion – of society? Sure, we need technology and sure, we need to pay for it – but I wanted to challenge my audience to consider a new way of thinking about healthcare and medicine, one that encompasses society as a whole. Remember the distribution of the whale hunt in an Inuit village, compared to the distribution of cash in the same village? Could you imagine our society if healthcare were to be distributed with the same sophistication as the Inuit whale harvest?  However, if we were to map the distribution of healthcare services in our society today, I fear that it would follow the pattern of hierarchical cash distribution, as opposed to holistic asset or resource distribution, where everyone is accounted for.

The efficacy of traditional medicines is just one part of what Indigenous Peoples can offer the field of medicine. Because the Indigenous worldview is holistic, Indigenous Peoples are brilliant systems thinkers. Indigenous systems leverage and account for the inter- and inner-connections between individuals, community, society and even the ecosystem. Today, we are at a critical point of opportunity where changing the distribution of healthcare is imperative for changing the health and wellbeing of our society. An Indigenous paradigm that values the interconnectedness and interdependence of society can serve as a crucial guide in shifting emphasis from financial gain to collective well-being in the medical field.

What impact do you hope the talk will have?

Our healthcare system today is riddled with problems, that I see stemming from an exaggerated focus on the individual and neglect of the collective wellbeing. I hope my talk will lead TEDMED to focus on the importance of access, distribution and healthcare delivery with the same attention that it dedicates to technology, data and finance. The answers lie in alternative ways of understanding healthcare and medicine. TEDMED has a commitment to diversity that it demonstrated in this incredible gathering of experts, both in speakers and in the audience. I challenge you all to do more. Take the mental handcuffs off. Challenge paradigms that prevent diverse voices and perspectives, as they are the only way we are going to solve the complex issues facing us today. An Indigenous way of thought accounts for the collective – an individual is just one part of a community, just as a plant is one piece of an ecosystem. In the Indigenous paradigm, the health of the individual is dependent on the health of the community. I hope my talk inspires those in medicine to begin rethinking how they approach health care, and to begin considering how our current system can reach society as a whole rather than merely a part.

Please share anything else you wish you could have included in your talk.

Ultimately, I wanted to leave the audience with this question: what do Indigenous Peoples have to share with TEDMED? Remember the distribution of the whale hunt – isn’t that, at its very best, the kind of distribution you would wish for today’s health delivery system? Can you imagine the preventative savings in a health system that reaches everyone? In a society where everyone is someone else’s mother, father, brother, sister, uncle, aunt, cousin… It is the entire society, not merely a part of it, that must survive.

What are some actions viewers can take in support of this cause?

In my talk, I challenged the audience to begin thinking about healthcare from an Indigenous perspective. Now, I challenge them to start working from that perspective – begin exploring how to make healthcare delivery reach the furthermost places in our society; how to begin emphasizing the health of the community over the health of the individual; and how to distribute medicine and healthcare so that it resembles the whale distribution map, and not the cash distribution map. I challenge medical professionals to imagine a society of collective prosperity and health, and to begin a collective discussion on how to achieve that dream.

Where Do They Get Their Ideas? Hive Organizations Share Their Stories

The Hive at TEDMED is all about ideas, bringing creativity to science, and finding new ways to solve seemingly intractable challenges. With so many important stories to share, we can’t get them all into one blog – be on the look out for weekly posts for more inspiring stories over the next few weeks.

We Felt a Deep Obligation to Do Something

GirlTrek @GirlTrek

GirlTrekThe program: A health movement that aims to get 1 million Black women to commit to and practice a habit of daily walking and then train them to lead walking teams, audit walkability, and advocate for safety, fitness and healthier lifestyles in the highest-need neighborhoods in America.

“My co-founder and I graduated college, had successful careers and traveled the world … only to return to our communities, to family dinners where we couldn’t turn down smothered pork chops, were embarrassed to go for morning runs and watched family members suffocate under the weight of their health conditions.

We felt a deep obligation to do something. Starting a nonprofit organization is risky and difficult and exhausting. We had the skills and connections. I was the former director of a large education nonprofit and Vanessa managed digital products for CNN. We did it because there were no other national not-for-profit organizations addressing the root causes of disease and inactivity for Black women.

For years we talked about practical solutions to the health crisis. In 2011, we publicly set personal health goals and invited our friends and family to walk with us. 2000+ women joined us in the first national walking challenge. With widespread support, we took the leap and left our jobs!”

– Morgan Dixon, Co-Founder @MorganTreks

Looking to Nature

Gecko Biomedical Labs @geckbiomedical

The product: A self-healing wound closure system for minimally invasive surgeries.

Adhesive Glue Gecko Biomedical“In 2009 Dr. del Nido, chief of cardiac surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital, contacted us to develop an approach to seal holes inside a beating heart.

To address the problem of internal wound closure, we envisioned a glue- coated patch that can be placed into the body part that requires repair, including the beating heart. The patch would be pushed up against the hole; once it was in place, the adhesive properties of the material would be activated, generating a flexible bond compliant with a wet, dynamic environment. Then, over time, the patient’s own cells could migrate over and into this material and create a tissue bridge as the material completely disappeared.

We had materials that were degradable, elastic, and biocompatible, but to solve this problem, we also needed to ensure that the glue would not dilute or react with blood or other body fluids, and also would resist washout prior to curing.

We couldn’t figure out a way around it so we turned to nature for inspiration. We looked at creatures on the land and in the sea that exist in wet, dynamic environments, and we found something pretty cool. There are sandcastle worms in the sea and slugs and snails on land that have viscous secretions that stay put like honey on a plate; even with rain or surf hitting it, the secretion stays in place.

And then if you look carefully at these viscous secretions, you find they contain hydrophobic components that can repel water. So, we thought, what if we develop an adhesive like that, that is entirely hydrophobic? You put it inside the body, onto the tissue surface to repel the blood away. And then, because it’s viscous, it remains in place, even in the presence of flowing blood. Following a highly iterative process, we created a material that addressed all of these criteria.”

– Maria Pereira, Ph.D., Head of Research at Gecko Biomedical

Rethinking New Diseases: Q&A with Sonia Shah

Sonia Shah, an investigative science journalist and historian, challenges conventional understandings about the real causes of pandemics. We caught up with her to ask a few more questions.

Why does this talk matter now?

The way we understand the origins of new diseases shapes our response to them—responses that will become increasingly relevant in this age of emerging and re-emerging pathogens, from Ebola to cholera. This talk is based on my forthcoming book—“Pandemic: tracking contagion from cholera to Ebola and beyond.”

Sonia Shah at TEDMED 2014

Sonia Shah at TEDMED 2014

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

I met the comedian Tig Notaro, whom I’ve admired for a long time. We shared a table at a book signing—I did not expect that! I’m a science journalist!

How can we learn more about your latest work?

My book comes out in February 2016, and it’s available for pre-order now. I’ve also collaborated with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to create an app called “Mapping Cholera,” which provides an interactive visualization and narrative about the 1832 cholera outbreak in New York City, which I spoke about in my talk, and the 2010 cholera outbreak in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. And you can find more updates at soniashah.com, too.

Speaking up for the voiceless: Q&A with Rupal Patel

Speaking at TEDMED 2014, Rupal Patel, founder of VocalID, described her work developing a technology that creates personalized, enhanced voices for the speech impaired.  We got in touch with her to learn more about what drives her work.

What advice would you give to other aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs?

Follow your passion and choose impact above all. Everything else will follow.

What was your main source of inspiration?

Several years ago, I was at an assistive communications conference in Denmark. I had just finished giving a talk on how we each have our own unique vocal identities. As I walked into the exhibit hall, I saw a young girl and a grown man having a conversation using their devices. Different devices with the same voice. Then I noticed the same voice coming from all around me. We would never dream of fitting a little girl with the prosthetic limb of a grown man, so why give them the same prosthetic voice? That was the pivotal observation that, a few years later, resulted in a research grant aimed at creating the underlying technology behind VocaliD.

Every day, we receive stories and emails from individuals wanting their own unique vocal identities. It is within these stories and shared experiences that we draw inspiration. Every day they push us to innovate, creating personalized voices that are better than the last.  Simply put, they inspire us.

“For all the worry about how technology is depersonalizing us, here’s a way that technology can make us all a little more human. Where you can connect to yourself, and to a stranger.” - Rupal speaking at TEDMED 2014.

“For all the worry about how technology is depersonalizing us, here’s a way that technology can make us all a little more human. Where you can connect to yourself, and to a stranger.” – Rupal speaking at TEDMED 2014.

Why does your talk matter now? What do you hope people learn from your talk?

I want voice donors to know that they don’t have to lose to gain. I want to educate the public about text-to-speech (TTS), augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), and raise awareness of various voice disorders and their causes. I want to break stereotypes and create unique vocal identities, where end users feel empowered by their voice and not afraid to use it.

What is the legacy you want your work and/or your talk to leave?

I aspire to create a technology that enables people to be heard through their own voice. When technology and humans are seamlessly integrated, there is the opportunity for a multiplier effect in terms of impact. Every voice deserves to be heard, even those who use devices to communicate. These unique vocal personas are powered not just by technology, but by everyday speech donors of all ages and backgrounds who empathize with recipients who need a voice. That’s a powerful mix of community, technology and empowerment.

Do you have a call to action for your viewers?

Sign up to be a Voice Donor and begin recording your speech at VocalID’s Voicebank! You can also check out, donate and spread the word about our Indiegogo campaign. Through this crowdfunding campaign, you can help us in our mission to ensure that everyone has a unique voice.

Music as Medicine: Q&A with Gypsy Sound Revolution

Gypsy Sound Revolution, led by drummer Cédric Leonardi and fellow Gipsy Kings alumni, mixes rumba with Indian raga. They play a unique fusion of Indo-Gypsy music that is both meditative and joyful. We followed up with them to learn more about their project.

"Music is borderless. It is the ultimate expression of love." Gypsy Sound Revolution at TEDMED 2014.

“Music is borderless. It is the ultimate expression of love.” Gypsy Sound Revolution at TEDMED 2014.

 What motivated you to perform at TEDMED?

As a performer, you want to reach as many people as possible with your art form. Music is increasingly accessible digitally and also thrives using many methods of delivery.
Somewhere along the way, it became a business. A big business. Performing at TEDMED was our way of delivering a message and access to the healing power of music. Music came out of the caves of India as medicine. Invoking the divine, but with a modern vernacular, we have seen lives transformed through the joy of our music. TEDMED was a potent forum to express this and continue the medicinal conversation globally, reaching as many people as possible.

What is the legacy you want to leave?

We hope our legacy shows the way for our children to live authentic lives, fully expressed and joyful using the path we have forged with our music. To touch the hearts of people and share the joy of living together on this planet. Music is borderless. It is the ultimate expression of love.

We cherish the poem, “What will matter,” by Michael Josephson, as a reminder of the fragility of life and the speed with which it passes:

Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end. There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours, or days. All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass to someone else.
Your wealth, fame, and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance.
It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.
Your grudges, resentments, frustrations, and jealousies will finally disappear.
So, too, your hopes, ambitions, plans, and to-do lists will expire.
The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.
It won’t matter where you came from or what side of the tracks you lived on at the end.
It won’t matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant.
Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.
So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?
What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built; not what you got but what you gave.
What will matter is not your success, but your significance.
What will matter is not what you learned, but what you taught.
What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage, or sacrifice that enriched, empowered, or encouraged others to emulate your example.
What will matter is not your competence, but your character.
What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many will feel a lasting loss when you’re gone.
What will matter is not your memories, but the memories that live in those who loved you.
What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom, and for what.
Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident. It’s not a matter of circumstance, but of choice. Choose to live a life that matters.

What’s next for you?

Taking our music and message around the world in 2015. We are also finally going into the studio. We are very much a live band– we believe live interaction with people is the true purpose of music. However as TEDMED live-streaming proves, there are many more people that live streaming can reach in all kinds of obscure pockets of the world. The internet has brought us all closer so its time we stopped resisting and we have started to the process with the conundrum: how do you bottle magic? We will have at least three tracks recorded soon.

Any action items for viewers interested to get involved in the kind of work you do? How do they join the revolution?

We are starting a philanthropic initiative to support the communities of our Rajasthani musicians with a US based Indian company, HP Investments. The project will include music camps for children to keep the music traditions of this original gypsy tribe alive, as well as taking care of the necessities like water and power in their villages. Its a humbling and glorious experience working with musicians who go home to their villages without water and power after they have travelled the world with us. We are one– we have a responsibility to help each other beyond.

Better Than Dr. House: Q&A with Jared Heyman

In his TEDMED talk, entrepreneur Jared Heyman revealed how crowd wisdom can help solve even the most elusive medical mysteries. We got in touch with Jared to ask about what inspired his work, and for any tips he has to share with other innovators.

Jared speaking at TEDMED 2014

Jared speaking at TEDMED 2014

Why does your talk matter now? What do you hope people learn from it?

Hyper-specialization in medicine has created a world where no doctor can possibly know everything, yet we still hold onto the “Dr. House” archetype – the idea that a physician should be an omniscient genius who can single-handedly solve even the most challenging medical mystery. The reality is that crowds are wiser than even the smartest individual in the world, so long as the right mechanism is in place to aggregate their collective intelligence. That is the biggest takeaway from my talk.

What advice would you give to other aspiring innovators and entrepreneurs?

We all have an inner voice that guides our life path, yet it’s often drowned out by the noise of others’ expectations of us. Take some time off to listen to that voice, whether through meditation, a weekend retreat, or an extended sabbatical if you can afford the time and expense. I took off two years to travel the world and listen to my inner voice, and I emerged from it with a crystal clear vision of what my next company (and my life) should become.

Who or what has been your main source of inspiration that drives you to innovate?

My inspiration to start CrowdMed was my little sister Carly, who spent 3 years with an unsolved medical mystery that nearly killed her. Over the period, our parents brought her to 16 different medical specialists and racked up over $100,000 in medical bills, desperately seeking a diagnosis. Each doctor would treat her symptoms as best they could, but none could identify the root cause of her illness. We’d later discover that she had a rare disease that affects just 1 in 15,000 females. Her doctors had never heard of it, much less seen it.  

Having spent years studying “the wisdom of crowds”, I knew that intellectually diverse online crowds could help solve cases like hers much more quickly than individual experts, but existing online tools like medical forums and social networks just weren’t built to aggregate their collective intelligence. I therefore created an early prototype of what eventually became CrowdMed, and using this system, a hundred people came up with her correct diagnosis in just few days and at negligible cost. That’s when I devoted myself full-time to founding the company.  

Do you have any recommended reading for people who are interested in your topic and want to learn more?

The Wisdom of Crowds, by James Surowiecki.