Lessons From TEDMED 2012

TEDMED 2012 was a short but inspiring 4 days of learning. It started with an 8 hour flight from Heathrow, London to Dulles Airport in Washington, DC. My first impressions of the city (as a first time visitor) was that the people are generally warm and friendly. I did a lot of walking around with the typical touristy mindset for the first day or 2. As luck would have it, I had some peers who were in the same boat. I met up with some fellow scholarship awardees and we explored some of the less touristy parts of the city on the first night.

On the second day, I set off for TEDMED at the Kennedy Centre of Arts. As far as venues go, this art museum comes second to none: expansive, grand and all that glitters is not spared. I felt like a teeny weeny ant bouncing around in it’s majestic and spacious splendour and took some pictures (below).

The TEDMED breakfast was hosted in the social hub tent – aptly named because this space demanded social interaction. They didn’t call it the ‘Inspiration Bar’ for nothing. You literally strolled past one amazing live demonstration of health innovation after another. So without really planning to, I found myself gasping or whispering ‘awesome’ and heard my exclamations echoed by someone else who had either noticed the same thing or something else worth noting. And so the conversations flowed.

 TEDMED attracted 1,800 people across the globe from various health disciplines. Of this, only 200 of us had scholarships and the remainder paid $4950 for a seat at the health innovation show that truly trumps all others. With 1,800 health innovation enthusiasts, the conversations were rapid and often a mishmash of imagination, creativity, expertise and some light hearted banter. And this all happened before we had even seen the speakers talks which were just as thought provoking.

I wont go over everything that I learnt from TEDMED – partly because it is so vast that even if I wanted to, I couldn’t. What I will do is summarize my key 3 lessons:

  1. Health challenges are nothing new. They are different in the 21st Century as non-communicable diseases become more prevalent and burdensome than infectious diseases. What contrains us more than anything in tackling these challenges is our own self imposed limitations.
  2. Imagination trumps knowledge every single time (as once said by Albert Einstein). Those who were showcasing their successful (and sometimes not so successful) forays into health innovation and mapping the future of health have dared to imagine a better future despite ridicule, disbelief and dismissal.
  3. Health can be fun. The talk by Dr Mark Hyman, a renowned advocate for community and peer led health, proved that facing serious health challenges does not mean that we can not have fun and celebrate successes. In fact, there is much proof to show that this reflective mode of working and adjusting harnesses better team working and creates momentum.

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