TEDMED Day Two: Cookie goes green; gamers do serious science; and a peek inside the FDA

Graphic by Alphachimp Studio Inc.

Highlights from another jam-packed TEDMED day. Kicking things off in a most unusual fashion, NIH director Francis Collins jammed with singer Jill Sobule in an original song

Sam Berns and Francis Collins

called “Disease Don’t Care.” Perhaps an iTunes best-seller some day? He gave proof of the song title by chatting with a 15-year-old progeria patient, Sam Berns, on stage about the complexities of life with the disease.

Mars plant scientist Howard Shapiro talked about improving nutritional qualify of plant foods to help address global malnutrition issues.  On the flip side of that — calories, as we know, not always equalling nutritional quality — Judith Salerno, executive officer of the Institute of Medicine, spoke about “fat as the new normal” – and the woeful health problems that creates.  She appeared with John Hoffman of HBO Documentary Films, who presented a sobering preview of their upcoming documentary,  Weight of the Nation.

A serious issue for sure, but over-medicalization in other areas is rampant and slightly ridiculous, according to Ivan Oransky, executive editor of Reuters Health. Pre-diabetes — yes; attend; pre-cancer, maybe; pre-acne — c’mon.  After all, he pointed all, we’re all pre-death.  Should we spend every moment worrying?

Ultramarathoner Scott Jurek, a vegan like Shapiro, talked about how his mother’s MS inspired him to care for his own health in a big way, and convinced Cookie Monster, who claimed to have similar aspirations, that eating cookies won’t take you far.

The CDC’s Thomas Frieden pointed out the importance of a feedback loop in measuring the success of public health programs. Here’s the Wall Street Journal’s take on the talk.

Epidemiologist and Skoll Global Threats Fund CEO Larry Brilliant sat down for a Q&A with Peggy Hamburg of the FDA. One hot topic: Is the U.S. behind in terms of speed to market of new drugs and devices?

Elizabeth Bonker and Virginia Breen

Seth Cooper of the center for game science at the University of Washington talked about how Foldit, an open-access protein-folding game, reaps the benefits of specialized groupthink. Within weeks, gamers had replicated a protein that researchers had been trying to build for months. Read more on ABCNEWS.com.

David Icke of mc10 offered an intriguing glimpse into paper-thin wearable medtech for both out- and inside of the body, and Virginia Breen had many in the audience in tears as she spoke of the struggles of her daughter, Elizabeth Bonker, to communicate despite being hampered by autism. Elizabeth found a way; she’s a published poet and the mother and daughter together wrote a book, I Am in Here, about their journey.

Blogroll: Medgadget gives a comprehensive play-by-play recap. Med student Ilana Yurkiewicz expounded on Bryan Stevenson’s talk about the importance of shaping, and communicating, identities as people, patients and doctors.  Time.com’s Maia Szalavitz was also inspired by Stevenson’s talk to ruminate on how self-identity can affect personal health.

Great Challenges: Voting underway

The Great Challenges tables in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation partner space have been a hotbed of passionate discussion and lobbying for votes to encourage Delegates to nominate. With so many complex and — well, challenging — Challenges, it won’t be an easy choice.

As of early Thursday, the top three Challenges leading the polls so far were:

#22. Inventing Wellness Programs

#19. The Role of the Patient

#34. The Caregiver Crisis

"e-Patient Dave" and Delegate Sarah Farrell

“This is the only industry I’ve ever seen where strategy and quality don’t start by asking the ultimate stakeholder what they want,” said Dave deBronkart, better known as “e-Patient Dave,” advocate for challenge #19, the role of the patient. deBronkart said it’s a myth that if patients were given choices, they would choose everything and health care costs would rise. He told a rapt crowd of TEDMED Delegates about a Dutch infertility program that gave patients access to a wiki, told them to decide on health care priorities together, and promised to fund them. A number of the top picks were requests that didn’t cost a dime — more empathy, and a waiting room separate from the pregnant patients. “If the consumer is at the center of the health care universe, everything else makes more sense,” said deBronkart.

Helen Osborne, President of Health Literacy Consultings and advocate for challenge #11, making “informed choice” work better, advocated for giving patients the tools they need to be thoughtfully engaged in their health decisions. Some interesting approaches to improving informed choice for patients include using songs, puppets and analogies, said Osborne.
Kedar Mate, Country Director, IHI South Africa Program and advocate for Challenge #12

Challenges #1, achieving more innovation more affordably, and #12, faster adoption of best practices, both touched on similar themes — getting innovative health care practices or products to the people who need them, quickly and efficiently. On best practices, advocate Kedar Mate said, “We know they exist — they’re in the journals and they’re here at this conference. The challenge is getting people to use them. Research says it takes 17 years to go from journal publication to widespread use.” And that’s too slow, said Kedar, Country Director for the IHI South Africa Program, who likened it to having to wait until his new-born son’s 17th birthday for an innovation that could have helped him at birth.

Don Rucker, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer at Siemens and advocate for challenge #1, talked about another hurdle to getting innovations out into the world. “The FDA should be accountable not just on safety but also on availability of new treatments,” said Rucker.

Rucker wasn’t the only advocate talking about the role of government in the public’s health. Challenge #17, private rights versus public good, generated some interesting discussion. Topics included making the healthy choice the easy choice, and what to do next to make sure people take advantage of that choice, as well as defining when an unhealthy choice by one person makes for an unfair burden on the rest of society.

Michael Roizen, Chief Wellness Officer for the Cleveland Clinic

Making the healthy choice easier also came up as a solution from Michael Roizen, Chief Wellness Officer for the Cleveland Clinic and advocate for challenge #8, managing chronic disease. Cleveland Clinic revamped its vending machines for employees and offers financial incentives for healthy check-ups.

Making prevention popular and profitable, challenge #3, was another popular topic among Delegates and TEDMEDLive viewers alike. “We’re trying to take prevention and put it in your local shopping mall,” said Mary Jane Rotheram-Borus, PhD, Director of the UCLA Semel Institute Global Center for Children and Families and pioneer of the UCLA Family Commons program, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Rotheram-Borus is not an advocate, but a self-proclaimed big fan of prevention. The Family Commons program is training and equipping “mentor moms” to spread the word on prevention, and support other families in building a healthy life.

That’s just a small slice of the great conversations we heard today. Join in the fun at #TEDMEDChallenges on Twitter, and don’t forget to cast your vote here and make your voice heard.

TEDMED Partner spaces: Saddle up to the Inspiration Bar, experience schizophrenia and try Touchless Technology

The Social Hub was abuzz today with good conversation, good food and great opportunities to interact with innovative experiences, technologies and thought leaders in the partner and contributor social spaces.

Healthcare today is unsustainable — but we can change that, according to Siemens Healthcare, a trendsetter in medical imaging, laboratory diagnostics and health IT. Escalating costs, the growing burden of chronic disease and an aging population explosion all conspire to create an untenable healthcare landscape. What’s the solution? It lies at the intersection of higher quality and lower cost.

In the Siemens space, Delegates guessed at where the United States and other countries land along the cost-quality curve — at a surprising disadvantage, as it turns out. Innovation and new technologies, like advanced imagery that allows for more personalized, less wasteful medicine could move the system in the right direction, said Donald Rucker, MD, Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Siemens Medical Solutions. Siemens also showcased “touchless interaction,” a tool surgeons can use to navigate their way through less-invasive but complicated surgery on a video screen that can be manipulated with the swipe of a hand from across the room, using the Kinect sensor currently used on X-boxes.

Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has a 125-year history of improving health through innovation — from band-aids to creating sterile environments for surgery. They’re here at TEDMED for the innovation, collaboration and “diversity of thinking, which has been a part of Johnson & Johnson’s culture for a long time,” said Michael Sneed, Vice President of Global Corporate Affairs. “People come here with their minds open. They’re not shy about coming up and talking to us.”

The J&J space at TEDMED is about more than just talk, though. We tried out some immersive experiences designed to help truly understand what patients are going through. It may not be pervasive in medical school curricula (yet), but empathy is a critical skill in health and health care. Among the exhibits:

  • A 3-D, immersive program that lets you experience what it’s like to live with schizophrenia. The experience is rattling, and really comes to life with smells of rotten coffee, a simulation of wind on your face and disturbing hallucinations. The program is deployed in mobile units to providers and emergency first responders who support patients in crisis, to help them understand and better counsel these patients.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis gloves, which simulate hand movement constrained by the stresses and limitations of severe rheumatoid arthritis. With the gloves on, try opening a jar or opening a ziploc bag — both everyday, but near impossible tasks with the gloves. These are intended help providers and those who design products better understand how rheumatic arthritis patients can handle necessities like pill bottles.

The Inspiration Bar offered fascinating discussion with Cleveland Clinic innovators, physicians and researchers. Topics this week include the healing impact of art and music, myths and facts about chocolate and red wine (sign us up!), an interactive session on “Wellness Coaching” from Chief Wellness Officer Dr. Michael Roizen, and the truth about diets.

At today’s talk on lessons learned from treating some of the greatest athletes in the world, led by Dr. Thomas Graham, Vice Chair of Orthopedic Surgery, we learned that perhaps the ultimate American innovator developed a novel process in 1968. In the first year, he achieved 75% adoption of his method, and that climbed to 100% at the four-year mark.

Was he a top researcher? Nope. Dr. Graham was referring to Dick Fosbury, the Olympic track and field athlete who was the first to try the high jump “back-first,” now known as the Fosbury Flop. “He thought completely differently, and it resulted in a sea change,” said Dr. Graham. That’s what we need to do in health care, he said. “Medicine cannot be stagnant. We need to be always looking for big ideas.”

The Cleveland Clinic also offered a “Walk With a Doc” program throughout TEDMED, an idea gaining national traction among medical centers. The program allows patients to get their health questions answered while getting some physical activity under their belts in a roving, group doctor’s visit.

Around and about TEDMED: Take two

Surprise! The U.S. Surgeon General’s in the house! Regina Benjamin spoke briefly today about bringing joy to prevention — in other words, we should eat apples because they’re tasty and might make us feel good and not just whip ourselves for eating those fries.

TEDMED Curator Jay Walker, U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, and TEDMED co-host and Program Director Lisa Shufro backstage.

TEDMED’s Great Challenge Advocates continued to work the crowd talking about these complex health issues and why the Challenge in which they are offering expertise deserves to be chosen as one of the 20 most critical for further study.

Below, David S. Ludwig, director of the New Balance Obesity Prevention Center Boston Children’s Hospital, gave his pitch: Being obese as a child sets the stage for more severe weight issues as adults. Not to mention the $200 billion dollars it costs our health system to address weight-related issues now, and the $1 trillion that obesity-related disease is estimated to cost by the time these children are adults in 2030.

Panasonic was on hand to offer Delegates scans of their carotid artery, which, along with a brief medical history, offered a snapshot of risk for heart disease and stroke within about five minutes.

Catherine Andrews of Homefront Communications - aka the Voice of TEDMED Tweets - gets the Panasonic scan.

TEDMED – #Scribed

At the beginning of TEDMED 2012, Curator Jay Walker noted that the “E” for entertainment in “TED” may be transforming to “A” for the “arts” — and there may be no better example of that than Alphachimp Studio’s involvement in this year’s TEDMED experience. The graphic designers are visually capturing each presentation on iPads in a manner they call ‘scribing’. Their scribing will be livecast on monitors nearby their position in the middle of the Social Hub – and they’re  sharing images and videos on the #TEDMEDscribe and #TEDMED hashtags. Below, see YouTube videos of their scribes from the first couple TEDMED sessions. And stay tuned – there’s more to come.

Session 1:

Session 2:

Keep your eyes open for lots more Alphachimp videos in the coming days.

Scenes from TEDMED

The mingling among the Delegates in the social areas and backstage is also where ideas are hatched and great friends made at TEDMED.  Our roving citizen photogs captured the following:

Scott Jurek with his new buddy, Cookie Monster.

Ultramarathoner Scott Jurek, a vegan, may have convinced Cookie to eat veggies rather than sweets, at least some of the time. “I feel like I have a rainbow in my tummy,”  Cookie said after munching some veggies on stage.  Here they are getting to know each other backstage.

A brave Delegate strapped on the “aging” suit at the Nurture space to see what it feels like to age 30 years. The suit impairs mobility, flexibility and vision, with the goal of getting folks to think about smart design for healthcare centers.

Aging 30 years in a few minutes.

The Cleveland HeartLab offered Delegates onsite testing of it’s new “It” — inflammation testing — blood screen for heart disease risk markers. In one day some 200 folks here, who have already heard plenty in the first few sessions about the importance of preventive health, took them up on the offer.

TEDMED president Jon Ellenthal checks his risks for heart disease. What, me, worry?

One of the non-human friends at the social hub included “Huff,” a service dog to Sergeant Jon Gordon, a war veteran, in the Mars space to show first-hand the rehabilitative impact of human-animal interaction.

Man's best friend.

And artist/advocate Regina Holliday captured NIH chairman Francis Collins during his Kennedy Center singing debut at today’s opening session, with Jill Sobule.

Francis Collins on knocking out disease - set to music.



TRACES urban acrobats. Graphic by Alphachimp Studio Inc.

Kick-off day at TEDMED! Some 1,500 Delegates streamed through the massive doors of the Kennedy Center toward the Opera Stage to watch Session 1, themed “Embracing the Unconventional.”  So it was.  Legal advocate Bryan Stevenson spoke on the power of proclaiming and embracing identity, and why eliminating health inequities should be a critical part of America’s own identity.

Designer Teresa Monachino presented her own “Sicktionary,” in which she posed questions:  Does anyone really understand pill dosage labeling?  Why do anti-smoking messages focus on disease — when kids who start smoking think they’re invincible? Maybe our messages should focus on how smoking makes you ugly?

The Monachino Sicktionary. Graphic by Alphachimp Studio Inc.

Rebecca Onie, co-founder and CEO of Health Leads, spoke about the devastating impact of poverty on health, and what’s needed:  better access; earlier intervention; better food; better transportation.  All solutions, she says, that are ours for the taking. If we just ask the right questions — are you running out of food at the end of the month? Do you have safe housing? — then the doctor can then prescribe what the patient really needs.

Music and dance liberate the imagination, as TEDMED curator Jay Walker said.  To that end, singer and TEDMED musical director Jill Sobule sang “Modern Drugs,” about how life would be different for various famed artists and scientists if they had taken Prozac — imagine a cheery Edgar Allen Poe. The session closed as the WPAS Children of The Gospel Choir and Step Afrika! shook the stage and drew a standing-O with joyful music and dance.

TEDMED on the web: 

MedGadget does their classic TEDMED synopsis.

From Partner and Great Challenges program sponsor Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Tackling health care’s Great Challenges; U.S. News and World Report’s Steve Sternberg issues his own challenge to TEDMED.

HuffPost is liveblogging the event as it happens. Artist and patient advocate Regina Holliday, who’s doing a mural of each day’s highlights, titled her first day’s work as the dance of care.

The HealthWorks Collective, sponsored by Siemens, gave a great synopsis of each speaker’s talk.

Alphachimp Studio captured not only the “what” of the day but also the colorful spirit with their digital scribes.

TEDMED 2012 speaker Jonathan Eisen compiled visual notes of Bryan Stevenson‘s talk.

Chris Seper of MedCity Media wrote on “What you need to know about TEDMED.”

And Nurture’s blog looked at the Great Challenges.



TEDMED Partner spaces: The cocoa bean genome, insta-aging, and KittenScanners

One of the biggest draws at TEDMED is checking out sponsor and contributor social spaces, fantastical interactive displays that showcase their corporate contributions to health and medicine.

Best known for its chocolate and pet food, the global food company Mars has thrown itself behind understanding genomics and the role that it can play as a solution to fighting food scarcity, chronic hunger and malnutrition (Global Staff Officer of Plant Science and External Research Howard Shapiro will speak at TEDMED Session 2 on Wednesday morning.).  Another goal is to map the cocoa bean genome – all the better, we say; bring on the chocolate!

Another booth angle is pet-human interaction and how it boosts emotional well-being – at least as far as humans go – a hot research top lately. Sergeant Jon Gordon, a war veteran and his service dog will be meeting delegates in the space to show first-hand the rehabilitative impact of human-animal interaction.

Nurture by Steelcase designed their space to create conversation on smart design for

Nurture's new patient recliner, Empath

special needs. Delegates will gather around “campfire” space to chat with IDEO design consultant reps.

They’ll also get an eye-opening chance to see for themselves the unique design needs posed by physical handicaps and aging.  Participants can don a “Third Age” suit – on loan from the Ford Motor Company – that “ages” them several decades in terms of strength, mobility, vision and other tactile functions. The space-age suit, which looks like a stripped-down astronaut uniform, is made of materials that add bulk and restrict movement at key areas of the body such as knees, elbows, back and neck. The suit also uses gloves that reduce the sense of touch, and goggles that simulate cataracts.

Philips is exploring the issue of lack of sleep as a national health crisis in its onsite design lab. An illustrator will visualize Delegate discussion on the topic as the days go by into a wall-length mural.

Towards its goal of “designing healthcare around people who need it,” the company is exhibiting a colorful KittenScanner for kids to show them what to expect when getting a CT scan  – an unnerving experience even for adults – to lessen the stress of the experience. Their illuminated LightGuide therapeutic tool helps visually- and hearing-impaired children improve motor activities and develop the ability to read and write.

Backstage at TEDMED

Some 1,500 Delegates are streaming into the Opera House at the Kennedy Center, munching on mango and drinking sangria as they await the start of the first speaker session at TEDMED 2012.  Of course, healthy pursuits are never far away; Delegates could also have their carotid artery scanned for signs of arterial plaque at Panasonic’s CardioHealth station in the lounge, or have a blood test for inflammatory markers of heart disease with the Cleveland HeartLab’s new “it” screen.

Hair and makeup for Jill Sobule backstage at the Kennedy Center.

We had a sneak peek at the humongous backstage area, where the singer and songwriter Jill Sobule

Jil Sobule, Ivan Oransky, and Jill's mom, who sometimes joins her on stage
graciously allowed us to snap a few photos. Reuters Health executive editor Ivan Oransky, speaking at Session 3 on Wednesday, also prepped for his talk, “Is the ‘disease model’ sick — or just exhausted?”

Let’s start the show!

D.C. schoolkids to attend TEDMED

Part of TEDMED’s mission is to share ideas among as many people as possible – particularly when it comes to nurturing young people’s imaginations. To that end, TEDMED has invited 25 local high school students, along with their principal, to be special guests at TEDMED’s final session on Friday morning.

The Academies at Anacostia – also known as Anacostia Senior High School – is a D.C. public high school looking to turn around decades of extremely low test scores.  Towards that goal, school officials partnered with Friendship Public Charter Schools and closed it for a summer-long revamp, after which Anacostia re-opened in 2009 with  a renewed mission, more than 30 first-year teachers, and many new programs.

The special student guests on Friday were chosen for their accomplishments.  The group includes:

*Seven students training to be EMT’s in Anacostia’s Allied Health career program

*One student who is a member of the local Red Cross Club

*Anacostia’s FIRST Robotics team, AnaDroidz, which recently competed against 64 other teams from 10 states and Puerto Rico in the D.C. regional competition

*Other students nominated by their teachers because of their excellent grades, behavior, maturity, and interest in learning.

Congratulations to the Anacostia students.  We’ll see you Friday at TEDMED!