Kellogg goes to TedMed

18 February 2016

Dr Amy Price is an Evidence-Based Health Care DPhil student. She is working to bridge gaps between methodology and engagement in Online Trials and aims to make clinical research a place for informed shared decision making where the public and research professionals can work shoulder to shoulder to build self management for health interventions. In this post, she tells us about her recent research trip to the TedMed conference in California. You can follow Amy and her work on Twitter @AmyPricePhD

Kellogg helped me to attend the TedMed conference with a research scholarship to cover a portion of my airfare and they were my wings. My assignment was to review recommendations, care for speakers assigned to me and help with the research on the Culture of Health. There is more about this on the TedMed blog “From Trauma, Inspiration: 3 TEDMED Scholars and Their Journeys to Palm Springs” It was the trip of a lifetime that changed my outlook and brought encouragement.

The Culture of Health the Task of a Lifetime

The theme of TedMed was the Culture of Health. In leading a focus group it was fascinating to find that regardless of whether we were clinicians, researchers, pharma, patients or regulators there were multiple things we held common about what is masquerading as health and we were aligned in core values and a vision for change.  Dr Abrahaham Verghese framed it well when he shared “We are all fixing what is broken and it is the task of a lifetime” At a conference with all the glitz and glamor of TedMed it might be expeced to see fresh new innovation and startling innovations in health. What was common to most was that they were labors of a lifetime that finally entered the consciousness of culture and found their rightful place. Many of the speakers started on their dreams in childhood and did not let them go.

Endurance: Power to Continue in the Face of Adversity

They shared struggles and triumphs and even shame but the prevailing story was that they succeeded because they adjusted the presentation of their  vision in the face of failure or loss but never gave up on the core concept. For success they got up one more time than they fell to the ground and refused to accept failure or lose sight of the finish line. It was comforting to know that others faced similar struggles and setbacks to the ones we face in pursuit of a DPhil and they went on to change the world.

Learning on the Way to Destiny

From Dorothy Roberts we learned about the perils of race based genetics:

“The racial concept of disease—that people of different races suffer from different diseases and experience common diseases differently—goes back centuries to the promotion of slavery. White slaveholders argued that, because of their biological peculiarities, enslavement was the only condition in which black people could be healthy, productive, and disciplined.

Today, medicine perpetuates this long history of defining disease in racial terms. Medical students are taught to treat their patients according to race, and this contributes to the racial inequities that plague every aspect of medical care. For example, studies show that blacks and Latinos are less likely than white patients to receive pain medication for the same injuries”. Professor Dorothy Roberts

Professor Raj Patel shared that changing the power balance was not nearly as important as how we make the shift a win/win situation. He learned this the harsh way from being tear gassed as a protestor in several nations with no lasting change to working with communities and changing their mortality rates because with relationship and mentorship they now want to change themselves. Activist Raj Patel recounted how uprooting traditional gender roles was necessary to solve food shortages in Malawi. It is more hard work and trust than drama to get the job done.

Holly Morris brought the insight that having ties to community and a place to call home may be more important than the conditions in which we live or the medical interventions we use to mechanically alter stress. She interviews victim of nuclear disaster who chose to stay in the midst of Chernobyl waster were in better long-term health than those who fled to tenements in the city.

Pamela Ronald and Raoul Adamchak showed us that there is harmony in responsible genetic engineering and organic gardening. They gave us demonstrations of increased food yield and malnutrition cessation without genetic side effects and they make the case for food safe engineering.

Dr Abraham Verghese informs us that the average physician in the USA interrupts his or her patient in 14 seconds. He states” What we need in medical schools is not to teach empathy, as much as to preserve it – the process of learning huge volumes of information about disease, of learning a specialized language, can ironically make one lose sight of the patient one came to serve; empathy can be replaced by cynicism”.

Own the Future and Hear its Voice

He urges us to to individually and collectively own the future and our responsibility to leave a heritage to those that follow.

The key to your happiness is to own your slippers, own who you are, own how you look, own your family, own the talents you have, and own the ones you don’t. If you keep saying your slippers aren’t yours, then you’ll die searching, you’ll die bitter, always feeling you were promised more. Not only our actions, but also our omissions, become our destiny. Abraham Verghese.

“Life, too, is like that. You live it forward, but understand it backward. It is only when you stop and look to the rear that you see the corpse caught under your wheel”. Abraham Verghese

It is the time to be joyful every day is a gift.  When life does not go as planned and the corpse is under your wheel no amount of regret can undo the event but it is critical to remember that we all carry the skeletons of life and it does not mean the effort you planned for good was without gain. Some of the greatest advances come through problem solving in adversity.

Find out more via the International Network for Knowledge about Wellbeing.