Rocking TEDMED

Source: TEDMED Facebook Page


I’m back from TEDMED and reflecting on the whirlwind 3-day health geek extravaganza.  I feel renewed, open-minded, and more optimistic about this space than ever.

TEDMED recently moved from sunny San Diego to our nation’s capital, a move that had west coast attendees grumbling.  As I said to a fellow passenger on the shuttle, TEDMED could be in Iowa and I’d still go (to which she replied she was from Iowa <remove foot from mouth>).  The point: TEDMED attracts an unparalleled caliber and diversity of delegates and speakers, all eager to learn, share, and connect.   It really doesn’t matter where you put these people.  The potent mix of minds is location-agnostic.

What I love most about TEDMED is what it is not.  It is not a healthcare conference obsessed with valuations or recent acquisition prices. There aren’t any booth babes in a stadium-sized exhibit hall, passing out mouse pads or cheap plastic pens.  And it’s not filled with know-it-alls, or worse, cynics, sucking the proverbial air out of the room.

TEDMED succeeds because it reminds us all of why we joined this field in the first place.  Health is a universal, and at times, universally frustrating, experience. But being surrounded by so many committed, visionary people reminds us of our potential.  We all have unique lenses with which to view problems, and opportunities.  Everyone has something to bring to the table.

By giving us close-ups of varied perspectives, TEDMED gives us a chance to step back and explore the big picture.  Stories from patients like Gail McGovern (who also so happens to be CEO of the American Red Cross), caregivers like Virgina Breen (my favorite talk this year), athletes like Gabby Reece, and seemingly unrelated characters like the Cookie Monster.  There’s an overtone of positivity and excitement, and a genuine passion for transforming healthcare from participants.

Party at the National Library

TEDMED is not understated.  In fact, in many ways, it is an over-the-top production, with big-name speakers, fancy parties, and round-the-clock snacks.  Not everyone needed in the discussion can afford the steep price tag, though they made a point to offer free live screenings as well as scholarships to students and non-profiteers (myself, gratefully included).  But bringing smart, devoted people together to discuss important problems should never be an afterthought.  Six hours isn’t far to travel when a healthcare revolution is your ultimate destination.