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TEDMED: Shaping healthcare in the world, one innovation at a time


Technology. Entertainment. Design. Aka TED. TED is the world’s most famous conference on ideas that shape the world. TED talks have been downloaded 500 million times. For the past three years, there has been a special TED focusing on medicine, and it’s called TEDMED. This year, it takes place from April 10-13 at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington, DC.

TEDMED is a place where passionate doers and thinkers discuss and experience the power of new ideas in global medicine. It aims to answer such questions as: When will the genomic revolution arrive in clinical care? How is Silicon Valley helping to cure Alzheimer’s disease? Can aging be cured? How can your cell phone help prevent disease? What are the advances in surgical training? This year, there are two panels on obesity, and one on the link between health and what we eat. Add entertainment by dance, music and “spoken word” artists, and it becomes a magical place.

TEDMED speaking slots are by invitation only. The list of attending media is outstanding. If the future of health and medicine is important to you, and if shaping that future is something you want to do, then you belong at TEDMED.

Jay Walker is the curator of TEDMED. One of America’s best-known business inventors and entrepreneurs, Jay has founded multiple successful startup companies that today serve more than 75 million customers in 15 different industries. He is also the chairman of Walker Digital and the curator of the Walker Library of the History of Human Imagination. Jay conducted a series of interviews on from Discovery. Here are few excerpts from that interview:

"How did you become involved with TEDMED?

I have absolutely no background in health care. I have no M.D. or Ph.D.  My background is in understanding problems…. Last year gave a series of talks about the history of human imagination, a passion of mine, at the TEDMED conference, and I just fell in love with it…I put together a team of people who shared my passion and my interests, many of whom had been with me for a long time. I found myself and my team with the fortunate and wonderful opportunity to take TEDMED to its next level.

Will TEDMED solve the world’s most pressing problems?

We hope that people who come to TEDMED connect, and when they connect, they go off and they solve problems. We’re excited to be a resource to help people solve problems, but we ourselves are not an institution built to solve problems. We’re an institution to connect, to help understand and to inspire.

What kinds of people do TEDMED conferences attract?

We are looking for the maximum diversity allowed by law. We believe that a dancer has as much to contribute as a research scientist. We believe a doctor — we’re certainly going to have our share of them — has plenty to learn from a playwright. …A world-class architect has plenty to teach a hospital administrator and each other have things to learn… Science is a part of what we do, but just a part. We are about multidisciplinary thinking. We are about cross-pollination at very deep levels, and we are about the surprising intersection of talent and accomplishment, no matter what the field is.

How does TEDMED address conflicts between science, culture and politics?

What we are about at TEDMED is we’re not above criticizing science..What TEDMED is really saying is, "We have a place in the center for what the scientific method is telling us now." We have learned that if we put the scientific process in the center, we as a society are generally better off.

How do you keep the TEDMED community engaged after the conference?

The answer is to provide a tool on the Web that allows them to engage in the understanding part of the project… TEDMED is working on childhood obesity and understanding. They’ve got this new thing on the Web — which we’ll name fairly soon — and that will allow people to participate, to get themselves engaged and excited and involved, because that’s going to be one of our great gifts to the world. So I suspect that is going to be our lean-forward-365 element of the TEDMED experience.

What does success mean for TEDMED?

Success for TEDMED is filling a role that nobody else in the nation or the world fills. We are successful if we fill a role and add a component, a tool, to the marketplace as a whole that adds value in ways that nobody else adds….The question is, "Can I connect people — not just 1,200 to 2,000 people that come to TEDMED, but can I connect the people, the 10- to 20,000 people who are also watching in simulcast at TEDMED Live? Can be become an important force for connection, understanding and inspiration? If we can become an important force in the U.S., then can we become an important force in the globe?" If we do that, that’s success."

If you plan to attend TEDMED, enjoy the event and let us know your story. We will incorporate your thoughts into our TEDMED recap next month.

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Davida Dinerman

Davida Dinerman

Account Director at MSLGROUP

A member of MSLGROUP since 1996, Davida has been entrenched in the agency’s healthcare IT and tech practice groups. She earned her MBA from Babson College and her BA degree from Dartmouth College.

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