Three-time TEDMED speaker David Agus headlines Israeli Presidential Conference

By Marcus Webb

TEDMED’s Chief Storyteller, Webb reports from Jerusalem, where he is attending The Israeli Presidential Conference along with a number of TEDMED community members.

TEDMED 2011 and 2013 speaker Dr. David Agus is a prominent speaker this week at the semi-annual Israeli Presidential Conference, taking place at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem.

On Wednesday, David addressed the 5,000 registered attendees at the June 19-20 event, offering an upbeat view of the future of health and medicine in the mid-day general session.

Commenting on the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that placed limits on what can be patented, David said:  “The U.S. Supreme Court has democratized our DNA and allowed all of us to use it. This will herald a democratized approach to medicine.”

David added that he is an optimist about the future of health, saying that new technology and a new culture of patient activism will drive improvements.

“Your body talks to you all the time,” he said.  Pointing to a series of new diagnostic tools that are advanced yet affordable, he added:  “We now have the ability to listen.”

In a separate breakout session, David predicted that medical intervention – designed uniquely for each patient, based on family history and on personalized diagnostic data — will replace today’s “one size fits all” prescriptions.

“[Diagnostic] medicine is [still largely] an art today,” he added.  “The hope is, through technology, we’re going to make it a science.”

David’s next book, “A Short Guide to a Long Life,” is due for publication in January 2014.

A two-time TEDMED speaker, Dr. Larry Brilliant, will address the Presidential Conference on its closing day.

Also present at the Presidential Conference this week are TEDMED 2013 speaker, United Hatzalah founder/president Eli Beer; and TEDMED Chief Storytelling Officer Marcus Webb.

Convened by Israel’s president Shimon Peres, the June 19-20 Presidential Conference is a TEDMED-like gathering featuring multi-disciplinary perspectives on tomorrow’s challenges and opportunities.

Headliners – to name just a few — include leaders from:

  • Government (Mr. Peres; Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu; former president Bill Clinton; former PM Tony Blair; Prince Albert of Monaco);
  • Technology (Microsoft international research head Dr. Jeanette Wing);
  • Economics (Larry Summer; Martin Wolf);
  • Science (Harvard psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert; Dr. Leroy Hood, founder, Institute for Systems Biology);
  • Business (Cisco CEO John Chambers);
  • Nonprofits (Natan Scharansky, head of the Jewish Agency for Israel);
  • Education (Hebrew University president Menahem Ben Sasson; Teach for All founder Wendy Kopp);
  • Energy (Prof. Brenda Shaffer);
  • Armed services leaders (first-ever female Major General in the IDF Maj. Gen. Orna Barbivai);
  • Clergy (Reform Judaism president Rabbi Rick Jacobs);
  • Social activists (Ms. Ayaan Hirsi-Ali, author of “Infidel”);
  • Historians (Dr. Edward Luttwak);
  • Media (Maurice Levy, CEO of Publicis Groupe);
  • And the arts (Barbara Streisand, Robert DeNiro, Sharon Stone).

A highlight of the Conference’s first session on Wednesday was the presentation of the President’s Award, Israel’s highest civilian honor, by Mr. Peres to former president Clinton, who was lauded as a strong friend of the Jewish state.

At least two prominent TED presenters also have high-profile roles at the Presidential Conference this week, including behavioral economist Dan Ariely, author of “Predictably Irrational,” and Daphne Koller, co-founder of Coursera.

Mr. Peres, who launched these Presidential Conferences in 2008, offered his own thoughts on leadership throughout the morning’s first session.

“The real power of our time is not [coercive] power but the strength of goodwill,” he said.  “You would be surprised by the people who don’t like laws, how fast they move to volunteer.”

For this reason, suggested Mr. Peres, as well as due to the deep uncertainty in so many fields regarding the right directions and policies, today’s most effective leadership proceeds from consensus.

“Leaders today should not lead [in any dictatorial sense],” he stated.  “They should agree to be led by the people.”