Promoting physician-led innovation at the AMA

This is a guest blog post written by James L. Madara, CEO of the American Medical Association.

Advancements in digital health are rapidly changing health care, allowing physicians to care for patients virtually anywhere at any time. While physicians surely recognize the tremendous potential in digital health, they are looking to professional associations like the American Medical Association to help them make sense of the constantly evolving medical landscape and ensure that these new clinical tools are efficient, actionable and connected.

Physicians play a critical role in this effort, leveraging their clinical expertise and deep medical knowledge to take part in the development of new digital technologies. Across the nation, physicians are working directly with innovators and entrepreneurs and are strengthening their relationships with the tech community. To support them in this pursuit, the AMA has created several opportunities for physicians to connect and work directly with innovators and entrepreneurs.

Why is it so important to have physicians at the ground level of innovation? A practicing internist in Cambridge, Mass., sought a new way for emergency responders to deliver vital information to the hospital so that doctors can respond more quickly when a patient arrives. This internist, YiDing Yu, MD, and her team developed a smartphone app, which they have called Twiage, to relay urgent care information to emergency physicians faster, easier and more powerfully than traditional radios.

Imagine two patients traveling by ambulance to the hospital at the same time – one with a broken arm and one suffering a heart attack. Twiage allows paramedics to send the necessary information so that hospitals can better prioritize patients’ treatment when minutes can mean life or death.

Twiage, which won the AMA’s Innovation Challenge event earlier this year and is garnering national attention, has aided in the transport of more than 10,000 patients since its launch one year ago.

Innovative ideas like this one are changing health care for the better. Twiage is an example of what happens when physicians collaborate with tech developers on simple solutions to improve patient care.

The AMA’s innovation ecosystem is home to many such partnerships and a variety of other initiatives that bring diverse experts together to improve physicians’ processes and therefore patient care and outcomes.

We have partnered with Chicago’s health technology incubator called MATTER, which is home to more than 120 start-ups and an Interaction studio space where entrepreneurs and physicians can collaborate and think creatively about digital solutions to common health care frustrations.

In San Francisco earlier this year, we opened an independent, for-profit development studio called Health2047, bringing together some of the top innovators in medicine, technology and science.

We also recently launched the AMA Physician Innovation Network, which is, like a digital matchmaking website: a place where physicians and entrepreneurs can connect online and collaborate to develop digital health care solutions.

At the AMA, we believe physician-led and physician-informed innovation will drive better products and services and, ultimately, enhance the practice of medicine and improve patient care. Central to this are the relationships between physicians and patients. Patients deserve –– and the marketplace should expect – that physicians have lent their clinical expertise in the development of new ideas and technologies so that they meet the high standards that drive quality care.

This is the best way to ensure that new technologies in medicine deliver on their tremendous promise – freeing up physicians to spend more time with their patients and improving both the quality of care they provide but also their own professional satisfaction.

WHAT IF your community took a truly human approach to homelessness?

This post is third in a guest series from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, about the winners of its 2016 RWJF Culture of Health Prize.

It’s a little after 4 a.m. when two officers and a passenger step out of a police cruiser to talk to a middle-aged woman sitting on the sidewalk in Santa Monica, Calif. She wears very little.

“Good morning,” greets the passenger, kneeling down to speak to her. “It’s Brian from human services. It’s been awhile since we talked.”

Every day from 3 a.m. to 1 p.m., pairs of specially trained officers reach out to homeless individuals on the streets of Santa Monica. On this morning, the team is joined by Brian Hardgrave from the city’s Human Services Division. The trio know many of the people they encounter and asks everyone the same question again and again: “Would you like help?”

Santa Monica’s police street team includes six officers and one sergeant who are focused exclusively on homeless issues. “We use the police strategically to engage these individuals who might not normally seek traditional homeless services on their own,” Hardgrave says.

The unit is one of many initiatives in Santa Monica that addresses the problem of chronic homelessness. In the most recent one-day count taken last January, Santa Monica had 728 homeless people, 60 percent of whom were unsheltered. In comparison, in Los Angeles County—which includes Santa Monica—an estimated 47,000 people experience homelessness on any given night.

A network of Santa Monica partners—police and fire departments; city human services, health and housing offices; and nonprofit service providers—collaborates to find innovative ways to help the homeless. A guiding principle is the “housing first” philosophy, which maintains that it is not only more humane, but also more cost-effective, to house people as quickly as possible, and then make sure they receive services to resume stable lives.

Santa Monica was one of the first cities in the nation to develop a registry of the most vulnerable individuals experiencing chronic homelessness. And in 2007, it introduced another innovation—the Homeless Community Court. People who are cited for quality-of-life infractions such as trespassing or public intoxication are offered housing and treatment and, in the process, can clear their records.

Sgt. Jeff Glaser said an officer on his team recently received a thank-you email from a woman he helped. “He changed her life basically by waking her up one morning when she was living on the street,” Glaser says. “It’s those things that make us happy about what we do.”

>Read more about Santa Monica’s journey to a Culture of Health.

The Social Determinants of Health

Sixty-eight years ago when the World Health Organization was formed, they defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” The WHO has never changed that definition, and a growing attention to the social determinants of health – “the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life” – is reinforcing the notion that health is, indeed, so much more than how we feel physically. Whether it’s housing, clean water, fair and safe employment, or basic health care, the ability for all members of a community – and of the nation more broadly – to enjoy these basic human rights is an essential component of creating a healthier society.

As the WHO clearly states, “access to quality housing and shelter and clean water” are basic human rights required for people to live a healthy life. They are also important social determinants of health that many Americans lack. On a given night in January, 564,708 Americans were homeless – defined as someone sleeping outside or in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program – and of those individuals, 15%, or 83,170 people, are chronically homeless, meaning they have been homeless for at least a year, or have experienced four or more episodes of homelessness over the course of the past 3 years, and have a disability, often a severe mental illness and/or physical illness. Addressing and ending homelessness and chronic homelessness is a difficult endeavor; one approach is the Housing First model that prioritizes getting the homeless and chronically homeless in permanent housing first and then providing supportive services on a voluntary basis. When Lloyd Pendleton, a former manager at the Ford Motor Company and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, became the Director of Utah’s Homeless Task Force in 2006, Utah became the first state to adopt a statewide Housing First model, and the number of chronically homeless individuals dropped from 1,932 in 2005 to 168 in 2016. This drastic drop is a huge success and a continued commitment is essential to keep it on track. While the number of people who are chronically homeless in Utah has declined, the number of homeless people in Utah has grown over the past decade, from 11,275 to 12,685 – a 12.5% increase. Although Lloyd has recently retired from the Utah Homelessness Task Force, his commitment to ending chronic homelessness and decreasing homelessness remains strong as he consults with cities on their efforts to decrease homelessness and chronic homelessness.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha examines a patient at Hurley Children’s Center in Flint, Mich. Photo Credit Laura McDermott for The New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/27/opinion/sunday/the-future-for-flints-children.html

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha examines a patient at Hurley Children’s Center in Flint, Mich.
Credit Laura McDermott, The New York Times

Like access to quality housing, the basic human right to clean water is a social determinant of health that will be discussed on the TEDMED stage this year. Being able to turn on the faucet in our kitchen sink, fill a glass with water, and drink it is something many Americans do without much thought or worry. Indeed, it is what many families did in Flint, Michigan, until Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a Detroit-raised pediatrician, exposed the dangerous levels of lead in the drinking water after testing the blood lead levels in the children she treated. The levels of lead in the water were nothing short of shocking – 5 times as high as the level of concern outlined by the Environmental Protection Agency. The impact of this lack of access to clean water is significant – children exposed to lead are at an increased risk for damage to cognition and behavior, while high exposure can lead to irreversible damage to the nervous system. Also shocking is that, in a town just 45 minutes away from Flint, the levels of lead in the water barely registered and were of no cause for concern. This is a stark example of how social determinants – where you are born and where you live and grow – significantly impact your health. But these determinants do not only impact health on the individual level; research suggests that lead exposure in women can lead to DNA changes in their grandchildren. The social determinants that affect our health have implications for generations.

Fair employment and decent work are also important social determinant of health, and as the WHO points out, when working conditions are good, individuals receive financial security and benefit from personal development, social relations and self-esteem, and are protected from many physical and psychosocial hazards. Susie Baldwin knows all too well what can happen when people are victims of unfair and dangerous working conditions. A Public Health and Preventive Medicine physician, Susie’s career has focused on sexual and reproductive health, and supporting survivors of human trafficking through clinical care, research, and advocacy. Fewer than 1% of trafficking victims in the US are are identified, and Susie, who co-founded HEAL Trafficking, works closely with physicians and health care providers to educate them on signs of trafficking to improve victim identification. Once victims have been identified, Susie and her colleagues at HEAL also help to train health providers to properly respond to and work with patients that are survivors of trafficking by creating environments where people feel safe and secure discussing their situation with their health care provider. By using public health interventions, Susie is heroically working to provide the essential support and care necessary to those whose basic human rights have been egregiously violated, while also working to build the systems necessary to support survivors once they have been identified.

So much of our health is determined by forces outside of our immediate control, and individuals like Lloyd, Mona, and Susie play an important part in ensuring that those forces – the social determinants of our health like housing, water, and labor – allow us to live better, healthier lives and not deter us from reaching our fullest potential. We are excited to hear their TEDMED talks in Palm Springs this year, and we hope to see you there!

WHAT IF — in a neighborhood held back by disinvestment and poverty — your community gave kids and families a ‘safe haven’ to revitalize?

This post is second in a guest series from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, about the winners of its 2016 RWJF Culture of Health Prize.

When Cecilia Gutierrez walks through Miami’s Liberty City, she is besieged by children. They want a hug, they want to dance and they want her to help them tend one of 20 community gardens. Gutierrez, president and CEO of Miami Children’s Initiative, in turn encourages the kids to eat healthy snacks, asks whether they did their homework and dances.

The initiative is tightly intertwined with Liberty City, home to more than 160,000 people and one of the oldest black communities in Florida. Once a thriving middle-class area, since the 1960s Liberty City has been hard hit by joblessness, low-performing schools, crime, drugs and poor health. To bring Liberty City back to strength, in 2009 the Florida Legislature created Miami Children’s Initiative to address the neighborhood’s problems with a laser focus. Local residents and businesses along with leaders in health care, education and human services banded together to provide a “cradle-to-college” support system for children in Liberty City, with services ranging from neonatal nutrition to college prep classes.

Today, the initiative is focused on improving schools, health and employment opportunities in Liberty City, a tall order for an area with 16,000 children spread out over 6 square miles. It hopes to succeed by transforming Liberty City block by block, starting with an “impact zone” of 29 blocks surrounding an elementary and middle school, and particularly the three blocks adjacent to those schools, where more than 600 children live. There the initiative runs early-learning centers, after-school and summer programs and workshops for parents. Staffers, working alongside residents, have rehabilitated a basketball court, organized daily trash pickup, set up a bike-sharing program and opened a community center, which many kids describe as their “safe haven.”

Every day, Gutierrez and her staffers go door-to-door reminding residents they are here to help. One of those residents, Alicia Wilson, said at first she and her neighbors were suspicious, but then realized the initiative wanted to work alongside them to transform the area, not tell them what to do. “Miami Children’s Initiative came in and made us want to do better as parents, made us want to do better as people, made us want to do better as a community,” she says.

Within five years, Miami Children’s Initiative hopes to ramp up dramatically, expanding its reach to 250 blocks. Gutierrez figures many of the children in the initiative’s programs today will be in college by then. “That’s when we know that we’ve been successful,” she says, “when there are thousands of kids from Liberty City in colleges and universities across the country.”

>Read more about Miami’s journey to a Culture of Health.

Harnessing the Power of Philanthropy

Thanks to modern transportation, our world is becoming increasingly connected physically. The same is also true virtually, as a result of online platforms and internet connectivity. With this increased connectivity comes the opportunity, and responsibility, to better educate ourselves and help others. This year at TEDMED, we’ll hear from several Speakers and Innovators who are harnessing the power of philanthropy and improving its effectiveness in order to create a healthier world.

Our global interconnectedness became shockingly apparent during the recent Ebola epidemic when what happened in seemingly remote corners of the earth directly impacted people in the largest developed cities in the world. As the director of the Wellcome Trust (the second largest global charitable foundation after the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), 2016 TEDMED Speaker Jeremy Farrar is on a mission to ensure that the world is prepared for future epidemics and global pandemics. By empowering governments to use science and technology to rapidly respond to the spread of infectious disease, the Wellcome Trust is working to ensure that governments, civil society and the private sector are prepared to properly prevent the spread of disease, making sure philanthropic dollars are most effectively used to address one of the most pressing public health issues of our time. But it’s not just large foundations that are eager to support the important work taking place in research and humanitarianism; Christian Braemer and his colleagues at Benefunder have developed a network that helps individual philanthropists support researchers at top institutions. By vetting programs and researchers, Benefunder makes it easier for individuals to invest their charitable contributions in efforts they can be confident will make best use of those dollars. From researchers like the 2015 TEDMED speaker who is working to merge technology and health in order to improve lives, to researchers working to create vaccines for Ebola, Benefunder’s network helps push important work forward.

Image provided by DataKind.

Image provided by DataKind.

Another way to leverage our interconnectedness and philanthropic endeavors is to ensure data and technology are linked to humanitarian efforts, and Jake Porway of DataKind is doing just that. By harnessing the abundance of data that exists in today’s society, and using the same techniques that big companies use to increase their profits, DataKind is helping mission-driven organizations improve the health and wellbeing of individuals around the world.  As Jake tells TEDMED, “We are living in the midst of a data revolution that is transforming the way we understand and interact with each other and the world.”

Image provided by Sarah Outen.

Image provided by Sarah Outen.

Benefunder’s ability to connect donors with important work in sectors such as health, technology, environment, arts and humanities; DataKind’s work to improve the way social change organizations solve problems; and, Wellcome Trust’s work to provide significant funding to issues of the greatest importance, are all examples of how groups of committed individuals can influence real change. But sometimes an adventurous soul can power her own humanitarian and philanthropic efforts, and Sarah Outen is doing just that – on boat, bike, and foot.  At the end of 2015, she completed a four and a half year expedition in which she rowed, cycled, and kayaked over 20,000 miles around the world, beginning and ending at Tower Bridge in London. She harnessed this extraordinary adventure for good by raising thousands of dollars for charities focused on breast cancer awareness, sailing programs for kids regardless of physical ability, motor neurone disease research, and making clean water available for all.

At TEDMED, we are passionate about leveraging our ever more interconnected world to ensure that we are activating positive change and helping people live healthier lives. We can’t wait to hear from the inspiring Speakers and Innovators who are finding new ways to increase the impact of philanthropic funds and the effectiveness of social good organizations.  Join us in Palm Springs from November 30th – December 2nd to hear talks and meet other inspiring individuals!

What If We Built a Healthy America Like This?

This guest blog is by Joe Marx, a senior adviser and senior communications officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Across the nation, a sea change in health is happening. In small Native American communities and sprawling metropolises, rural regions, and small- to mid-size cities, people are coming together and connecting the dots between health and all the other aspects of our lives: education, jobs, housing, food, parks, community safety. They’re acting on the knowledge that our health and well-being are greatly influenced by a web of social factors, such as where we live and the strength of our families and communities.

At the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we believe that seeing and acting on these connections does more than make individuals healthier. It helps our communities prosper and thrive, and by extension it raises the health of our great nation as a whole. It’s a movement taking shape that we call a Culture of Health.

Copyright 2016 Tyrone Turner. Courtesy of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Copyright 2016 Tyrone Turner. Courtesy of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

In a Culture of Health, hospitals are a voice at the table on ways to prevent violence in our communities. Schools serve as neighborhood “hubs” where people can get health and social services. Social workers give those at risk of hunger prescriptions for free fresh vegetables and fruit. Artists are social entrepreneurs and changemakers, helping communities overcome racism and the roots of inequities that shouldn’t, but often do, determine how long and how well we live.

These reflections are real examples drawn from this year’s seven winners of the RWJF Culture of Health Prize. Each year, we present the Prize to honor the unique and innovative approaches of communities that have made great strides toward ensuring all residents have the opportunity to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives.

While each community embodies unique strengths and history, many face common challenges, including poverty, education gaps, lack of affordable housing and transportation, and disparities in residents’ access to health care and healthy food.

Prize-winners are endlessly creative in the ways they tackle these challenges. They imagine infinite possibilities where others might see only limitations.

Take, for example, Cecilia Gutierrez, president and CEO of Miami Children’s Initiative, which is working to improve schools, health and employment opportunities in the Liberty City neighborhood—an area hard hit by joblessness, low-performing schools, crime, drugs, and poor health. The initiative’s “cradle-to-college” support system offers services ranging from neonatal nutrition and early-learning centers to after-school programs and college prep classes. As the fruit of all that labor, Gutierrez imagines a day when thousands of kids from Liberty City will be in colleges and universities across the country.

“That’s when we’ll know that we’ve been successful,” she says.

Copyright 2016 Tracie Van Auken. Courtesy of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Copyright 2016 Tracie Van Auken. Courtesy of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Or Alderwoman Marla Smith, of Pagedale, MO—one of 24 contiguous municipalities in St. Louis County that collaborate to improve health, education, economic development and housing in their shared school district. She imagines a time when Pagedale, long-abandoned by businesses, will be “popping” again—when the discount supermarket, bank and cinema that opened in recent years are joined by a health clinic and a restaurant and residents can gain a greater sense of social connectedness and well-being.

Smith is talking about so much more than a fun night out when she says, “Who wouldn’t want to go have dinner and go to a movie?” She’s expressing a vision of better health for the community.

For every challenge communities face on the road to better health for all, there’s a “What if” question that may lead to a solution. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing more stories of creativity and innovation from the 2016 RWJF Culture of Health Prize-winners. Perhaps one of these stories will spark your own ideas around the questions: “What if MY community gave every resident the chance to thrive? And what can I do to help us get there faster?”

Engage with RWJF at TEDMED 2016

Last year at TEDMED, we kicked-off a conversation with our partner, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), around building a Culture of Health – a movement to improve the health and well-being of everyone in img_2000America. Our discussion last year focused on Making Health a Shared Value, one action area of the RWJF Culture of Health Framework, and this year we’re excited to explore another action area – Creating Healthier, More Equitable Communities. This conversation will be inspired by your perspective and input about what makes your communities – the places where you live, work, learn, and play – healthy, and the role we can all play in making them healthier, and more equitable.

From now throughout TEDMED 2016 and beyond, we look forward to creatively exploring RWJF’s 2016 TEDMED What If? question: “What if we valued our community’s health as much as our own?”

We’ll start this conversation with a pre-event #healthycommunities social media campaign – so join us on Twitter @TEDMED and @RWJF to share your thoughts about the importance of #healthycommunities and pictures of healthy places in your own community. We’re starting today, so look for these prompts and share your responses – we’ll incorporate them into an installation in The Hive onsite in Palm Springs!

How could grocery stores better support a Culture of Health? #healthycommunities

How would you reimagine playgrounds to build a Culture of Health? #healthycommunities

How could parking lots be used to create #healthycommunities?

How can transportation policy better support #healthycommunities?

Also, stay tuned for a ten-part Blog Series, curated by RWJF, showcasing the real and tangible ways that communities around the country are implementing programs focused on health and equity. Featuring each of the seven RWJF 2016 Culture of Health Prize winning communities, and several guest posts from TEDMED community members, this series is sure to inspire us all to improve the health and equity of our own communities.

img_2011Continuing what we hope is a robust and dynamic conversation and engagement on-line leading up to TEDMED, a Creating Healthier, More Equitable Communities Lunch will take place in Palm Springs on Thursday, December 1st. Over lunch, the entire TEDMED Delegation will gather as a community to explore programs, activities and policies that play a vital role in creating healthier, more equitable communities and help to build a Culture of Health around the country.

We can’t wait to hear from you and learn about the big and small ways that you are improving the health and equity of your community!

A prescription for… art?

It’s safe to say that, when we think about personalized medicine, one of the last things that comes to mind is music. But, should it? These days, music streaming apps aren’t only organized by genre; you can easily find curated playlists that are designed to put you in a certain mood, or help you reach a goal (how about some “Cure those Monday morning blues” or “Songs to wake up happy,” anyone?). Many of us regularly use music as a tool to help us focus on the task at hand, or to pump ourselves up before a challenging workout.

Image courtesy of ShutterstockThere’s nothing particularly surprising about the fact that music affects how we feel. But, do we really understand what it does to our brains and bodies? The physiological and neurological effects of music are largely a mystery – one that Ketki Karanam, Head of Science at The Sync Project, is eager to solve. The Sync Project – whose Advisory board members include artists like Peter Gabriel, as well as neuroscientists and machine learning experts – is designing the first large scale data collection and machine learning models to understand these effects. It will identify how music’s structural properties – like beat and tempo – can affect our biometric rhythms, such as heart rate, sleep patterns, and brain activity.

The goal of the initiative? To identify potential music therapeutics that would serve as an alternative to drugs for health issues like insomnia, pain, and anxiety. Like Ketki, the relationship between music and medicine has also been a lifelong interest for Richard Kogan, who has led a distinguished career as both a psychiatrist and a concert pianist. A professor at the Weill Cornell Medical College, Richard has developed a series of renowned lecture-recitals, in which he examines the influence of psychological and psychiatric factors on the creative work of great composers, like Schumann, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, and Gershwin. In part, Richard is motivated by a desire to destigmatize mental illness by highlighting savants with mental disorders, whose symptoms may have inspired their creative processes.


Scarred for Life, Ted Meyer

For both Ketki and Richard, music and medicine are inseparable. But does the relationship between the two extend beyond music, to other forms of art? According to artist and curator Ted Meyer, it does. Having been diagnosed with Gaucher disease, a rare genetic illness, at age 6, Ted spent years in hospital rooms creating paintings that depicted the loneliness, fatigue, and pain he experienced. Decades later, after a new drug was discovered to treat those symptoms, the subject of Ted’s art has changed. Today, his 18 year old project, “Scarred for Life,” chronicles the trauma and courage of people who have lived through accidents and health crises. Using this mixture of personal stories and a love for art, Ted has set out to improve the doctor-patient relationship. As an Artist in Residence at the USC Keck School of Medicine, Ted curates patient-artists whose work ties to the medical curriculum; for example, an artist with asthma for a class on the respiratory system. Ted hopes to expand this program to other medical schools, with a goal of teaching future doctors to look at their patients beyond their diagnoses, and view them as complex, whole human beings.

We are delighted that Ketki, Richard, and Ted will each be speaking on the TEDMED 2016 stage, where they will share their discoveries and unique insights about the relationship between art and medicine. We invite you to join us this November 30-December 2, in Palm Springs, CA, to learn more from them and other extraordinary speakers.

The Hopeful Future of Precision Medicine

Many of us have experienced the pitfalls of a “one-size-fits” all approach to medicine, where physicians prescribe treatment for the “average patient” instead of the one sitting in front of them. By not accounting for the variability in genes, environment, and lifestyle that are often so closely tied to health and illness, treatments end up falling short and sometimes do more harm than good. Fortunately, the “precision medicine” movement, which takes into account the patient’s unique characteristics when prescribing treatment and prevention strategies, has gained traction in recent years.

In 2015, President Obama funded the Precision Medicine Initiative to ensure that researchers could focus on creating efficient and effective ways to integrate more personalized treatment plans into the current healthcare and medical system. This year, we’re excited to have some of the front-runners in the precision medicine movement on the TEDMED stage!

Photo credit: Bryce Vickmark. Image provided by PanTher Therapeutics.

Photo credit: Bryce Vickmark. Image provided by PanTher Therapeutics.

An immediate goal of the Precision Medicine Initiative is to apply this approach to catalyze cancer research. While we have learned more about cancer prevention, detection, and treatment in the past 2 decades than we have learned in the previous centuries, we still haven’t found a treatment that doesn’t harm the patient in the process. The TEDMED 2016 Hive company PanTher Therapeutics is working to change this. As their CEO Laura Indolfi puts it, “it seems very counterintuitive to have a whole body treatment to target a specific organ.” The company is studying the precise delivery of existing, already proven chemotherapy agents directly onto the tumor using flexible plastic patches for consistent, slow release over time. PanTher is completing pre-clinical testing prior to initiating human trials for patients with pancreatic cancer, but hope to apply the same technique to treat other forms of cancer in the near future.

Another goal of the Precision Medicine Initiative is to harness the power of data to highlight trends about disease and health, in search of more effective treatments. This is precisely what Andrew A. Radin and his team at twoXAR are working on. The TEDMED Hive organization has produced efficacy signals in preclinical studies in multiple diseases. To date, twoXAR has completed over 75 disease prediction models and has 9 drug discovery collaborations, including both rare and common conditions.

Ultimately, the Precision Medicine Initiative aims to translate this method of prevention, treatment and care across all fields of health and healthcare. One area where precision medicine could have a measurable impact is in the study of neurodegenerative diseases, due to the relationship between genetics and neurodegenerative disease. The TEDMED 2016 Hive organization Denali Therapeutics is researching the genetic causes and biological processes underlying neurodegenerative disease and using this information to create targeted treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ALS and other neurodegenerative diseases. Led by Chief Medical Officer, Carole Ho, Denali’s research team has identified multiple drug targets that could lead to breakthroughs in the treatment of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

TEDMED 2016 Hive organization Frequency Therapeutics is looking to uncover the body’s hidden biological potential to heal itself. Led by Co-Founder, President and CEO, David Lucchino, Frequency Therapeutics is developing small molecule drugs that activate progenitor cells within the body to restore healthy tissue in a precise and controlled way. With recent discoveries in stem and progenitor cell biology, Frequency Therapeutics is creating therapies that could reverse sensory hearing loss by targeting specific hair cells within the inner ear. Their approach is promising not just for the almost 1 billion people across the world who are affected by hearing loss, but for the potentially large impact on other diseases as well.

Image provided by Charles Chiu.

Image provided by Charles Chiu.

Using the precision medicine approach would also enable us to prevent the spread of disease much more efficiently. With the recent Ebola and Zika outbreaks, many are wondering how we can stop the spread of similar outbreaks in the future. Charles Chiu, an infectious disease physician and researcher, is pioneering the clinical implementation of a tiny next-generation sequencing device from Oxford Nanopore Technologies that could drastically change the way we respond to the next deadly bug. This device “can detect all pathogens – virus, bacteria, fungus, parasite known or unknown – in a single test,” says Chiu, and can do so in a matter of hours and in remote, low-resource settings. By using this device, we could decrease the time it takes to find diagnoses, which would help curb the spread of outbreaks and enable clinicians to provide timely and effective treatments for their patients.

Thanks to these extraordinary innovations, the future is looking brighter already. From preventing pandemics; to defeating neurodegenerative diseases; to curing and preventing hearing loss; to accelerating drug discovery; and creating a new therapy for cancer, each of these TEDMED Speakers and Hive innovators are working to ensure that the goals laid out in the Precision Medicine Initiative become a reality for generations to come.

With these exciting breakthroughs just around the corner, we are excited to hear more about these inspiring innovations as these Speakers and Hive entrepreneurs take the stage at TEDMED 2016. Register today to join us in Palm Springs, CA, this November 30 – December 2.

Healing Trauma in Unexpected Ways

Many of us have dealt with, or are dealing with, some form of trauma. This year at TEDMED, three Speakers will take the stage to share how they are helping relieve the effects of trauma using what some view as non-traditional healing methods. Whether it’s examining how marijuana can treat neuropathic pain, using guided imagery and drawing to heal psychological trauma, or using spoken word to heal the emotional wounds of war, the TEDMED Speakers described below are passionate about relieving suffering and improving lives.

Image provided by David Casarrett.

Image provided by David Casarett.

One of those speakers is David Casarett, the director of the Duke Center for Palliative Care, whose recent work has focused on medical marijuana – something David originally thought was a joke. But after researching the topic for his book, Stoned: A Doctor’s Case for Medical Marijuana, he realized that for many patients, there’s nothing funny about it. David spoke to people who use marijuana – often obtained from specialized clinics – to treat seizures, post-traumatic stress disorder, and neuropathic pain (caused by nerve damage), which is notoriously difficult to treat. David sees potential not only in the use of medical marijuana to treat certain ailments but also in the way medical marijuana dispensaries have figured out how to deliver effective patient-centered care.

James Gordon, a Harvard-educated psychiatrist, has spent much of his life listening to and lessening the suffering of those who have experienced severe trauma – from runaway homeless children, to people living with life-threatening illnesses, to survivors of Civil War. In 1991, he founded the Center for Mind-Body Medicine (CMBM) with the goal of creating a “worldwide healing community where people use practical mind-body skills to move through suffering and confusion toward a more hopeful, healthy, and confident future.” CMBM describes mind-body medicine as the use of meditation; guided imagery; yoga and exercise; self-expression in words, drawing, and movement; and, small group support to deal with the trauma and stress we all experience.


Photo credit: The Center for Mind-Body Medicine.

Jim and his team started their work in the US teaching mind-body medicine to health professionals so they could integrate it into their practices in hospitals and clinics, schools and community-based programs. Soon Jim turned his attention to some of the darkest and most troubled places on the planet. CMBM began working in Mozambique, South Africa and Bosnia, and in 1998 – when war broke out in Kosovo –  Jim traveled there. Ultimately, CMBM’s faculty trained 600 Kosovar health workers and educators and the CMBM program became a pillar of the nation-wide Community Mental Health system. In the years since, Jim and his CMBM team of 160 have created what is likely the world’s largest, most effective program for population-wide psychological healing. The local teams they have trained have worked successfully with more than 200,000 children and adults in Gaza and Israel and with tens of thousands more in Southern Louisiana after hurricane Katrina, in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, with US veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and long-traumatized American Indians on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Peer-reviewed scientific research has demonstrated that these programs reduce post traumatic stress disorder by 80%. Everywhere they are offered, they enhance resiliency and bring healing and hope. Articles in The New York Times and The Washington Post and a 60 Minutes segment which features Jim’s work with war-traumatized children in Gaza and Israel convey the life-transforming power of his work, and his book, Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey Out of Depression shows how these techniques can be used by all of us who deal with our own forms of trauma and stress.

Image provided by Emi Mahmoud.

Image provided by Emi Mahmoud.

Another Speaker at TEDMED this year, Emi Mahmoud, uses self expression in words to help herself and others heal the traumatic wounds of war. Born in Sudan, Emi grew up in Philadelphia and graduated from Yale University earlier this year, where she studied Anthropology and Molecular Biology. It was at Yale that she began to excel in Spoken Word Poetry – a form of oral poetry performed live on stage – and in 2015, she won the Individual World Poetry Slam competition. Her poetry and performances are powerful, heartfelt and heart wrenching forms of expression, many of which are focused on Sudan and its people – often members her own family – who have become victims of the Civil War and famine that have plagued the country for decades. Addressing the fears and trauma of life in Sudan, and life as a refugee, is something Emi is passionate about. She has worked with the Yale Refugee Project and the Darfur Alert Coalition to help raise awareness about genocide worldwide, she teaches spoken word poetry to young people around the world as a way to empower and help them deal with the trauma and hardships they face, and she advocates for global education – in September of this year she delivered a powerful spoken word performance at the launch of the UN’s Report by the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity. Her spoken word poetry is most powerfully felt when seen, so watch more of her performances via the links on her TEDMED page, and prepare to be moved.

We are honored to have these three compassionate, impressive, and inspiring speakers at TEDMED this year. Join us in Palm Springs to hear their talks live!