TEDx AlvaPark, Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, where “any idea is welcome”

The words in the title of the post come from Madhu Prasad, MD (@HenryFordIdeas), who was our gracious host along with the Innovation Institute at Henry Ford Health System for TEDx AlvaPark (“Alva” as in “Thomas Alva Edison”). He was referring to a truth that we all know, which is that Detroit, Michigan is at a crossroads – 20,000 homeless people and 40,000 abandoned buildings. In that situation, more, rather than less, ideas are welcomed. The Innovation Institute is positioned as the “tip of a spear” of growth in this environment. It is also one of the newest members of the Innovation Learning Network (@HealthcareILN) and will host the ILN’s in person meeting in May, 2012.

Before heading to the Institute, I did what I always do and requested to see things at the level of the patient. I was fortunate to meet Taimur Anwar, MD, and OB/Gyn, and his Chair, Adnan Munkarah, MD, who showed me the process of care and introduced me to the Henry Ford Medical Group at Henry Ford Women’s Health Services. In the usual course of introductions, I loved the question Taimur asked me (and I’m paraphrasing) – “What have you changed where you are?” – it’s a great test of leadership, don’t you think?

The beginning of our day started with a talk by the leadership of Henry Ford Health System, who were all present, including CEO Nancy Schlichting, who spoke about leadership and “hiring differently,” when she brought in an executive from Ritz-Carlton to lead Henry Ford’s new  West Bloomfield hospital. I learned about the focus on service in this new facility, a place without deep fryers and where people from the community come to the cafeteria to eat dinner. Check it out.

The photograph at the top is from one of the most compelling talks of the day by Veronika Scott ( @veronikascott ), a student from the Detroit College for Creative Strategies, who created a self-heated coat that turns into a sleeping bag, manufactured by “the homeless, at no cost to them.” (see: The Empowerment Plan). Another was by Tim Jahnigen developer of OneWorldFutbol ( @oneworldfutbol ) , a durable (for 30 years) inflatable ball that never goes flat, that lets children be children, and harnesses the “single greatest resource – the innocence of a child’s natural spirit.” These and the other excellent talks of the day had the theme of simple, significant innovations, and collaboration.

Some learning in between the TEDx’s, too

As is usual at events like this (or any event I go to), there’s a lot of learning that goes on between the formal presentations, and here were some important takeaways for me:

School of the Future: An instructor from Upland Hills School was present in the audience and he introduced me to a new educational model that is based on collaboration rather than competition. In my Generation X-ness, I was immediately intrigued. He referred me to the National Association of Independent Schools were I searched around and found the Guide to Becoming a School of the Future. It says that for the students of the future:

…knowledge is open, collaborative, accessible, often from the bottom up, and frequently presented in multimedia. For older generations, knowledge is individually controlled, owned, comes from the top down (experts), and generally is presented in text-based form.

If you look at page 11 of the guide, you’ll see qualities that we would all happily entertain in our health care professionals today, tomorrow, and forever. As usual I see lots of relevance to medicine and wonder if the initiative being taken by the independent school community might be replicated somewhere in our profession, or if it already is….

Medical Students and Medical Education

Madhu invited medical students from the Wayne State University School of Medicine, who are breaking ground on their own efforts to support healthy communities and diversity. This includes World AIDS Day Detroit (on December 1, of course), and Open Source Medicine, who are developing My Health Report, a well designed after visit summary being administered by medical students. I’m going to give OSM their own blog post tomorrow, so more on that then.

Iconic innovation, re-imagined in the 21st Century

The subheading is a little cliche-sounding, I know, but there is something iconic about the innovation that began here, and the spirit that exists today. We all know that logo, and the American ingenuity that came with it.

I believe that the Ford/Firestone/Edison generation of innovators exactly preceded the generation that Henry J. Kaiser and Sidney Garfield, MD were part of in the 1930’s and 1940’s in health care (Henry K was 20 years younger than Henry F). I am sure there was some cross pollination between them ( a quick look at the Wikipedia says there was ). The Institute is situated in the middle of the Henry Ford Hospital campus and brings a modern look to a solid heritage. The countertops in the salon are made of recycled taillights, even.

I loved meeting people in Detroit who love their city and want to make it better. Everyone should live where they feel that way, because the world is not flat, as I have discussed on this blog many times. That’s what #epicenter means – it’s a spirit tied to a location, not a specific place.

With gratitude to our host/magician-in-residence Dr. Prasad and the Innovation Institute for a good look at the future, in Detroit, I look forward to our return in May, 2012!

Photos below, click to enlarge

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Ted Eytan, MD