|Bob Carey knows that laughter is the best medicine.|
Session 7: "Human Nature Inside and Out." This was a very diverse session addressing not just how can improve upon patient care by understanding human nature, but also how we can turn around our natural tendencies in the face of adversity.
The session opened with Julian Treasure, chairman of The Sound Agency, which advises businesses on how to design their buildings with sound in mind. Treasure gave some upsetting statistics: hospital noise has doubled in magnitude in the past 40 years; it's 12X louder during the day and 8X louder at night than recommended by the World Health Organization; and loudness is the #1 complaint of hospital patients in 2013. Treasure suggests hiring acoustic engineers, employing vibrating pagers and silent trolleys and footwear, and masking sound with white noise or music. Next, architect and scientist Mariana Figueiro spoke of the range of afflictions to which we're vulnerable when we don't get appropriate amounts of (blue!) light during the right time of day. Jeff Karp then spoke about his brilliant "bioinspired" technology, including how imitating spider webs improved adhesive tape for premature babies and how barbs, like on porcupine quills, are much better for the skin than tradition staples. Next, anesthesiologist Emery Brown gave us a primer on general anesthesia (which is not sleep!). It's actually, he says, a "drug-induced reversible coma," and different anesthetics have different signature EEG patterns. Neurosurgeon and researcher Uzma Samadani then spoke about her company Oculogica, which creates eye-tracking diagnostic technology to detect concussions and other brain injuries that do not show up on imaging. Finally, Debra Jarvis, the "irreverent reverend," spoke on the importance of finding meaning from crappy situations. She told us about a man with cancer who would go for his chemotherapy treatments alone. When Jarvis asked why he didn't bring anyone, he said he didn't have any friends. Once cancer-free, he vowed to find the meaning of friendship; when Jarvis attended his Christmas Eve party later that year, his house was packed to the brim.
Session 8: "Weird and Wonderful." This fun session explored some quirky biological systems—and some even quirkier things people can do thanks to a solid understanding of them.
|A bra that doubles as TWO face masks, as modeled by Marc Abrahams.|
Session 9: "I Was Just Thinking Too Small." Of all sessions, I think I was most looking forward to this one. As a scientist studying just an iota of a subtopic of a subtopic, it's easy to lose sight of the big picture. And sometimes, as a doctor examining a patient, it's hard to remember that we're really a conglomerate of millions of complex and ever-changing cells.
Heather Raffo returned for a third performance to kick off the session, but to be perfectly honest...I snuck in a bit late and didn't catch her story. (I was caught in the back of a long line to get my new book signed by Marc Abrahams! TEDMED had its own bookstore for the first time this year, which was a great way to interact with the speakers.) In San Fransisco, Nadine Burke-Harris spoke about a pernicious condition that has its hands in every 7 of 10 deaths and affects every bodily system: childhood stress. High doses of stress hormones, like cortisol, result in increased risk of heart disease, cancer, and risky behaviors later in life. Burke-Harris founded the Center for Youth Wellness, which screens children in an effort to recognize and treat toxic stress. Harvard professor Daniel Kohane then took the stage to discuss his research on more efficient drug delivery routes. One example he gave was a drug that adheres to the tympanic membrane of the ear, makes it more permeable, then delivers it directly to the middle ear to treat an ear infection. "You can achieve big things," Kohane says, "by making them really small." Next in SF, Robin Guenther, a healthcare architect, discussed the design and importance of sustainably-built hospital systems. She pointed to the University of Texas system which contains 21 hospitals in just 1.5 square miles. Its waste and impact likely contributes to more problems than it's trying to solve, as the U.S. healthcare system accounts for 20% of the nation's waste. Although the up-front costs may be more, Guenther suggests that "green" hospitals pay for themselves over time. Rebecca Adamson, TEDMED's first female Native American speaker, is an economist who discussed the importance of "culturally-appropriate economic development." Adamson founded First Peoples Worldwide in 1997 to allow natives to develop their land based on indigenous principles. "A healthy individual emerges in a healthy society within a healthy ecosystem," she says. Finally, TEDMED D.C. 2014 closed with a thunderous performance by The Gypsy Allstars, a unique group comprised of members from France, Spain, Afghanistan, and India.
All in all, TEDMED 2014 was eye-opening, unique, education, and inspiring, and I'm honored to have been a part of it all.
|Bob Carey perches on a step as we view a selection of his photos from The Tutu Project.|