TedMed 2012: Day 1

Patricia Salber

Posted 4/10/12 on The Doctor Weighs In

TedMed 2012 has begun.  And how!  The opening event was “Traces-Urban Acrobats.”  Urban Acrobats?  It was mouth-droppingly over-the-top athleticism.  One long sequence consisted of the members of the troup jumping, gliding, and soaring through hoops at varying heights–always landing on their feet and making it look easy.  This was not circus stuff, this was, as our program book described it, “the human body…pushed to its limits.”  Great way to start an long anticipated event.  Take a look:

Next, Bryan Stevenson, the Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative talked to us about his work “representing the poor, the incarcerated and the condemned.”  He stated out telling us a story about how his grandma took him aside to tell him he was special and to ask him to promise some things:  love your mama always, work hard, and don’t drink alcohol.  Several years later, his older brother somehow got a bottle of beer to share with his sibs.  His brother drank some and so did his sister, but he wouldn’t touch it…still honoring his promise to his grandma.  His brother laughed and said, “Are you still believing that stuff grandma said about being special?”  Evidently, all of grandma’s grandchildren were special.

But, take my  word for it, Bryan Stevenson really is special,  His work with the incarcerated, the mentally ill, and children prosecuted as adults has won national acclaim. He won the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship Award Prize in 1995.  He was also a 1989 recipient of the Reebok Human Rights Award, the 1991 ACLU National Medal of Liberty and the 1996 Public Interest Lawyer of the Year by the National Association of Public Interest Lawyers.

Stevenson is working to eliminate what he calls mass incarceration.  He believes we should stand up and shout out when we see things that just aren’t right.  He acknowledges that it is hard work and sometimes painful work, but, still, he does it and he exhorts us to do it too.  He is the kind of person we all thought we would be when we grew up, but he grew up and really did it.   The crowd gave him an enthusiastic standing ovation.

Jay Walker, newly Curator of TedMEd and the Emcee, next introduced us to Teresa Monachin, a graphic designer, who entertained us with a humorous run through of the ABCs of  healthcare that she called the “Sicktionary.” A is for anti and ante.  Anti is against and ante is “before” as in antenatal.  So…what does antipasto really mean…you get the idea.   A to Zed.

We had a brief musical interlude by singer, songwriter Jill Sobule singing about what famous artists/writers would be like if they had had drugs (e.g., Prozac, Ablify, etc.) – well, Van Gogh would have had both ears.  Singing was good, but the whistling was not.

Rebecca Onie, Co-Founder and CEO of Health Leads gave an inspiring talk about her work to mobilize college students to provide the missing ingredient of healthcare – food for the malnourished, heat for the freezing, shelter for the homeless.  I first heard about Health Leads from a young man I met at a health care talk in San Francisco, a college student volunteering at Health Leads.  He urged me to learn more about the organization – he was evangelizing.

Health Leads is energizing and focusing the energies of college students on work that provides meaningful services to those who need them.  In Onie’s  talk, she describes one young woman, who became Chief Resident in Medicine at my alma mater, University of California San Francisco School of Medicine.  This doctor described how her three years as a Health Leads volunteer changed the way she practiced medicine. While her fellow residents were primarily ordering tests and prescribing medications, she was also asking about how her patients lived, could they actually afford to buy their medications, did  they have enough to eat, and were they insured.

What a brilliant idea – thank you, Rebecca – harness people power and at the same time provide them with experiences that will change them forever.  Rebecca is also a MacArthur “Genius” Fellow (2009) and she was recently named to Forbes Magazine’s Impact 30 recognizing the top 30 social entrepreneurs in the world.

The evening closed with a performance by Step Afrika and the Washington Performing Art Society’s Children of the Gospel Choir.  Rather than tell you about it, let me show you what they do – here is Step Afrika:

Altogether a great beginning to TedMed 2012.

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