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.

cmbm-gaza-children-ptsd-feature

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!

Announcing TEDMED 2016 Speakers: Social + Science

What if social and environmental factors are inextricably entwined, not just with the culture of health, but also with its outcomes?

As children, we thought of health as sickness and cure: if we felt ill, we anticipated cough syrup, a visit to the doctor, or perhaps the unpleasant pinch of a shot. But, as we’ve aged, our understanding of health has expanded, as the field of healthcare has itself. Today, we acknowledge that health permeates all aspects of our lives–where we live, what we eat, where we work, how we age, and more. Even the simplest social interactions can shape health outcomes in ways that touch communities across the globe.

In our Social + Science session, TEDMED 2016 speakers help us explore just how social agents affect our health. From the impacts of race and poverty on human behavior to the promising potential of evidence-based medical marijuana and music therapies, this session unlocks unprecedented connections between social and scientific sides of our world. We are thrilled to introduce:


Alia Crum
Mindset Researcher

Alia asks: What if our mindset determines our health outcomes?

Stanford professor, athlete, and psychologist Alia Crum investigates the effects of mindset on core aspects of behavioral health. As the director of the Mind & Body Lab  and the health director at Stanford SPARQ, Alia leads researchers to better define and utilize the roles social and psychological forces play in overcoming chronic disease. Read More…



David Casarett
Doctorly Detective

David asks: What if mainstream healthcare operated more like a medical marijuana dispensary?

David Casarett is a palliative care physician and author who has combined an investigative first person approach   with rigorous, evidence-based medicine to make sense  of marijuana’s therapeutic potential, including its adverse   effects. David is a Full Professor of Medicine at the Duke   University School of Medicine, and Chief of Palliative  Care for the Duke Health System. Read More…


David Williams
Public Health Sociologist

David asks: What if the factors that cause some Americans to be sicker than others were as well understood as the genetic risk of disease?

David Williams has played a visible national leadership role in raising awareness levels about health disparities and identifying interventions to address them. In 2008, David was ranked as the world’s Most Cited Black Scholar in the Social Sciences, and, in 2014, Thomson Reuters ranked him as one of the World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds. Read More…


Johannes Haushofer
Money Behaviorist

Johannes asks: What if we could treat the psychological consequences of poverty?

Neurobiologist and Princeton University professor Johannes Haushofer explores whether poverty has particular psychological and neurobiological consequences, and whether these consequences, in turn, affect economic decisions. Read More…


Ketki Karanam
Musical Decoder

Ketki asks: What if we could harness the personalized therapeutic effects of music?

Biologist and technology entrepreneur Ketki Karanam harnesses music to create solutions to conditions like dementia and autism through The Sync Project. As The Sync Project’s co-founder and Head of Science, Ketki created the platform to personalize the therapeutic effects of music. Read More…


Kristin Neidlinger
Expressive Tech Fashion Designer

Kristin asks: What if wearables could reflect our innermost emotions?

Kristin Neidlinger is the founder of Sensoree, wearable technology with auditory, visual and tactile displays to promote “extimacy” (externalized intimacy) and communicate the wearer’s emotions to the outside world. With a background in dance therapy and the performing arts, Kristin works with futuristic fabrics made of sustainable materials that are embedded with sensitive technologies to enhance proximity and telepathy between human and machine. Read More…

Stay tuned for more TEDMED 2016 speaker announcements in the coming weeks. Don’t forget to stay connected by signing up for our newsletter and subscribing to our blog. Register now to join us in Palm Springs, CA this November 30 – December 2.