TEDMED2012…Let’s Caucus

TEDMED Great Challenges program

Wordl.net image constructed from all 50 Great Challenges to be introduced on Tuesday at TEDMED2012. The initiative is sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

TEDMED is here and I’m ready! Perhaps it is apropos that at the same time TEDMED chooses to move its conference east to Washington, D.C. it also adopts delegates over attendees and will debut 50 Great Challenges in health & medicine each of which has its own Challenge Advocate to lobby the vote of delegate in hopes of being selected into the final 20 Great Challenges.  This might all feel vaguely familiar. Reminding you perhaps of the political conventions of old when presidential front-runners didn’t have their delegates wrapped-up ahead of time. Forgive me, for I digress.  The Great Challenges Program is an innovative way to bring interdisciplinary contributions to some of the most important problems of our time.  I feel honored, as a delegate to be voting to narrow the focus down to twenty and appreciate the opportunity to meet and speak with several Challenge Advocates who might better inform my decisions.  For better or worse, D.C. and lobbying go hand-in-hand.  Thank-you TEDMED for bringing us more lobbying for good.

For those who are not familiar with Wordle.net, it is web-based software that generates “word clouds” from text provided by the user. The resulting clouds give more prominence to words that appear more frequently in the text that was provided.  For this reason, I decided to enter those 50 Great Challenges into Wordl as a way to compare them. Medical and Medicine are overwhelming the most frequent words. This is no surprise since the great challenges are the brain-child of an organization with Med(icine) in half of its name.  It is disappointing, however that the word Health is not the next most frequent word. The imbalance in the appearance of these terms certainly mirrors the imbalance between medicine (or disease) and health in our current healthcare system.  So, I look forward to hearing Ivan Oransky, Executive Editor of Reuters Health present “Is the ‘disease model’ sick—or just exhausted?”  The next set of prominent words read like a list of goals: better, reducing, inventing, investing and eliminating.  These are all desirable outcomes for a number of the great challenges.  The rest of the prominent words read like a list of the challenges themselves: crisis, obesity, violence.  So let’s take a closer look at some of these great challenges.

The following are a few advocates with which I’d love to speak, but their time might be better spent on other delegates, since as you know from reading this blog, I’m already sold on these issues.

  • Dr. James Merlino, surgeon and Chief Experience Officer at the Cleveland Clinic will be lobbying for Improving Medical Communication between physicians and patients with potential initiatives in areas like education, technology, and workspace redesign.  On the other side of this issue is Helen Osborne.
  • Increasingly, the healthcare system assumes (sometimes to its detriment) it is treating an active, aware, health-literate patient capable of making “informed choices” about treatment options.  Health literacy innovator, Helen Osborne will lobby on behalf of the Making “Informed Choice” Work challenge to tackle how doctors and patients can work together more successfully to achieve better outcomes?
  • Paul Malley, President of Aging with Dignity will lobby for the End of Life Challenge to examine how we should help people manage end-of-life care choices to maximize individual well-being and minimize social cost?
  • David L. Shern, President of Mental Health America will lobby on behalf of the Better Mental Health Literacy challenge to take on the misunderstanding that persist around issues such as addiction, stress and depression as well as the relegation of metal health and mental illness to a secondary status in medicine.

There are also those challenge topics that seem like good ideas but I would like to learn more.  So I’ll be keeping my eye out for:

  • Laura Defina, the Medical Director of Research at the Cooper Institute will lobby on behalf of Private Rights and Public Good that considers what is the extent of the nation’s interest, responsibility and rightful authority to intervene so as to incentivize individuals to live a healthy lifestyle? This challenge will also attempt to tackle how we should rethink the state’s role in the protection of children in the context of the family unit?  Tell me more Dr. Defina.
  • Dr. Jim Harter is a Chief Scientist at Gallup and definitely knows something about how we measure health, wellness, illness and disease.  As a lobbyist for Inventing Better Metrics, I’d like to hear more about what new metrics should replace standards like blood pressure, temperature and weight as indicators for patient health?
  • No other challenge topic has a more provocative name than Deciding What’s Normal, so I’m looking to it’s advocate Lois Holzman, Ph.D to explain how and who determines normality from blood pressure and cholesterol levels to what is classified in the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM).

Something can be said for each of the Great Challenges. For now, I will end my discussion with these as I look forward to learning so much more over the next 4 days.  After all, this is but one facet of the agenda.  There will be a series of  sessions, the first will be this evening. Each 1 hour and 45 minute long session will consist of  7-8 presentations in succession that balance right brain arts with left brain science and engineering.  Of course both styles of interpereting information are necessary to accurately understand health and medicine and begin to tackle the current challenges and this is part of the beauty in the TEDMED design.

While there will be approximately 1,500 in attendance, the TEDMEDConnect application designed by QuickMobile makes me feel confident that I won’t be too overwhelmed.  It acts as a command center from my iPad where I can create my own personalized conference scedule then proceed to keep up with tweets, facebook updates, answer poll questions, email questions to the speakers during their presentations, or email any of the other delegates in attendance.  Wow!  What more could a girl want (especially a TEDMED newbie like myself)?  Well there’s also a gallery of photographs and videos and just in case I have a question, I can tap on an area called Great Challenges and re-read the synopses of each challenge and the biography of the advocate for that challenge. Oh, and yes I can email those challenge advocates as well.  Welcome to D.C. TEDMED delegates, the time is here so let’s caucus!


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