A lot happened in health last week, in many dimensions. TEDMED (@tedmed) was a part of it for me. I’m not going to try summarize (because I’ll miss A LOT) but I will add my experience (it’s my RSS feed, after all :)).

The hive

The Hive, brought to you by…

For the people and organizations who had a presence in the hive, you/they will know what it takes to create one. A lot of work. How do you distill (in our case) a 9.2 million, 180,000 member/staff strong health system into 500 square feet? You get Susan Terrill , Michelle Soohoo, Holly Potter (@htpotter), Keith Montgomery (@kmontgomeryndc), Diane Gage-Lofgren (@dianelofgren), and Dina Piccoli (@dinapiccoli) to lead you, of course.

Some of us not-so-secretly hoped that we would emerge with a pop-up version of the Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health (@kptotalhealth) , and I think that happened.

Jess Jacobs (@jess_jacobs) lovingly referred to the experience as “Kaiser (Permanente) is so far past faxing orders that they’re into sustainable apples” (more on her later).

I would like to point out that our hive presence was staffed with three people who I would consider in a group that I call “descendants of Sidney Garfield, MD” – people who change things around them as they grow and develop in this health system. That group includes Preston Maring, MD (@prestonmaring), who has ignited a revolution in healthy eating and food procurement ( now at 16 percent of food sourced sustainably and growing ) , Sonia Soohoo, MD, who pioneered the use of gaming technology to save lives with “Dr. Hero”, and Joannie Grand, RN (@Joan_Grand). Joannie is  the Medical Center Administrator of Kaiser Permanente Capitol Hill, and if you see her in action you’ll know what it means to be dedicated to a population, in one of the most importantly located medical centers in our system.

The role of Jess and Amy

Harness the human spirit, Jess and Amy (View on Flickr)

I was part of the Great Challenges “Role of the Patient” Team. Jess Jacobs is a person just starting her life while on a very trying health odyssey. Amy Berman is a person just living her life while avoiding a trying health odyssey. It is an interesting juxtaposition.

During the week, Jess wrote this blog post (see: My Intravenous Lecture | Jess’ Juxtapositions ) that really challenged our thinking about what health care is supposed to be doing for people. Note the bottom image in the post, and then ask what health care is supposed to be doing for the environment around the people. Hint, not what it’s doing today.

And then there was Andrew Solomon

Andrew’s talk “How does an illness become an identity” was the most spoken about all week, at least to me :).

Regardless of the generation we grew up in, we have all lived through an era where name-your-group of people were reduced to illnesses or inhuman because they were misunderstood, or worse.

If you have ever seen or experienced dehumanization as Andrew (@Andrew_Solomon) describes, the antibodies you produce to it will create a level of determination to stop it when you see it again that will surprise and maybe overwhelm you.

This is the story of people with dwarfism, people with trisomy 21, people who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual, and in this era, people who are transgender.

The signature of this situation, people who are not only uncared for and invisible, and further, act as if they don’t deserve care, is unmistakable.

It’s why I have the reaction that I do when artist Regina Holliday (@ReginaHolliday) paints a person with a transgender symbol around them on our crazy life ride. It’s a sign that a vital, forgotten group of people will have an identity, the same feeling of importance that Andrew generated in his talk.

I wrote about something similar when I went to visit the team behind MiVia, a personal health record for seasonal farm workers in Northern California ( “Because Everyone Wants to Belong” – MiVia, a community’s personal health record system | Ted Eytan, MD) . Every human wants to belong, and they want to begin and live a productive life.

If a TEDMED stage and the art that comes from and around it can lead people to being human, that’s as powerful a producer of health as any I could think of!

I selected my favorite photos below, click to enlarge, curate your own by going to the whole collection: Collection: 2013 TEDMED – KPTCH. All are creative-commons licensed, download away.

Hey, thanks again to the entire TEDMED team including one of my favorite members, Whitney Zatzkin (@MsWz), my colleagues, TEDMED delegates and all the patients and people who will do great things because they’ll get to start living the lives they’ve dreamed of.

What did you learn? Comments welcome.


I think you’ll like the backstory to that picture – Amy was describing how she likes what phone cases say about people and who they are in life. She told me about how when she first went to China people’s phone cases were uniform and drab but on her most recent return there, each person has a case that reflects their individual personality. Hers was brightly colored with a flower dangle that plugged into the headphone jack, because, let’s face it, she’s like sunshine. That night my phone was sporting a bright red nike “Just Do It” case – which, I suppose does say something about my personality. I took the case off that night and the rest of the week I was a little bit pathetically whiny complainy. Maybe I should put it back on…

Ted Eytan, MD