September 11, 2014

Reflections on TEDMED D.C., 2014: The Big Picture

There's a BLOGGING LOUNGE! So obviously I'm here.
Greetings from TEDMED 2014! I type this at The Hive surrounded by the hub-bub, brilliant minds, and countless coffee stations that could only power an event this stimulating. I'm currently eating a Kind bar, chillin' in the Blogging Lounge (yeah, that's a thing here), and keeping an ear open for when I'll be called to get lunch at an event they call TableTalk. There's also a nap station which, as a sleep scientist, I wholeheartedly endorse.

We're here at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and today, this 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, is particularly humbling for me for many reasons. My wonderful college friend (and wedding officiant) Jessie has agreed to put up with me for a few days at her house. I'm waking up before the sun to experience the bustle and confusion that is a weekday morning on the D.C. Metro.

And I'm only here in the first place thanks to the generous support of TEDMED's Global Partners and Patrons, as I've received a full Front Line Scholarship to be here. There's no way I would have been able to afford TEDMED otherwise, and I thank them graciously for their financial support.

We're streaming live in over 140 countries, with 7,000 affiliates and 200,000 watching at home. For the first time, TEDMED is also being held across the country at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, and occasionally we'll check in with them to get a glimpse of what they're up to or watch some of their speakers. But I can attest that being at TEDMED is a much different experience than watching a TED talk while lounging in bed with an iPad. The talks are only a small percentage of the day's events; there are plenty of opportunities for networking, meeting the speakers, checking out new start-ups, connecting with extremely diverse folks from all over the world, and good food. Really good food.

In a parallel post, I'll give a snapshot of each talk we've seen here, giving a particular focus to speakers that had the biggest impression on me. Regardless of the breadth of attendees' ("Delegates") careers here (doctors, scientists, students, health consultants, CEOs of biotech companies, and everyone in between), each speaker's message is relevant to everybody in some way.

I can only do so much in a blog post, but please don't hesitate to contact me through e-mail or Twitter if you'd like to hear a more informal account about my experience here at TEDMED. The theme of TEDMED this year is "Unlocking Imagination," and the fact that I'm even here at all is beyond my wildest imagination.

Click below for a few more pictures from my first day at TEDMED:

Artist Andrew Rae works on his mural, taking suggestions from attendees on how they imagine a healthier world.
The Hive! Bustling, chaotic, brilliant.
Inside the Eisenhower Theater at the Kennedy Center, where all the talks are held. (People like their phones!)

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