TEDMED2014 focused on a powerful theme: unlocking imagination in service of health and medicine. Speaker after speaker shared tales of imagination, inspiration and innovation. Here are a few of our favorites:
$100 plastic car stands in for $25,000 power wheelchair
In the first (and likely only) National Institutes of Health-funded shopping spree at Toys R’ Us, Cole Galloway, director of the Pediatric Mobility Lab at the University of Delaware, and crew stocked up on pint-sized riding toys.
Galloway’s quest was to facilitate independence and mobility among disabled children from the age of six months and older and offer a low-tech solution during the five-year wait in the United States for a $25,000 power pediatric wheelchair.
The hackers jerry-rigged the toys with pool noodles, PVC pipe and switches, reconfiguring them as mobile rehabilitation devices to promote functional skills among kids with special needs.
When we see a satellite image of a tropical depression in the Caribbean, we’ve come to expect that, within seconds, it will get incorporated into probabilistic models shown on our TVs at home, predicting where the hurricane will land and who it’s going to affect. Within minutes, we expect to see a personalized view of what we have to do in response to that public threat.
In this video just posted by TEDMED, Kohane envisions the capability to make our health data work for us—quickly spotting everything from serious side effects of drugs to whether a patient may be experiencing domestic abuse. Or, quickly defining what subtype of autism a patient has. By simply harnessing existing electronic medical records, we may be able to shave years off diagnostic time and improve health care.
Ed. note: This morning at 8:15 EDT, Isaac Kohane, MD, PhD, will tell the audience at TEDMED 2013 about his goal of using every clinical visit to advance medical science.
To preview his talk, we’ve updated a past Vector story about SHRINE, a system Kohane helped develop to allow scientists to use clinical data from multiple hospitals for research.
Clinical research really comes down to a numbers game. And those numbers can be the bane of the clinical researcher. If there aren’t enough patients in a study, its results could be statistically meaningless. But getting enough patients for a study, particularly for rare diseases, can be a daunting challenge.
Margaret Coughlin is a Senior Vice President and the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Here at the TEDMED conference, it’s all about horizontal or lateral thinking – coming at problems from new directions, without regard to conventional boundaries. I like the thoughts of Edward DeBono (not a TEDMED speaker), who coined the term “lateral thinking” in 1967:
Some people are unhappy about lateral thinking because they feel it threatens the validity of vertical thinking. This is not so at all. The two processes are complementary, not antagonistic. Lateral thinking enhances the effectiveness of vertical thinking by offering it more to select from. Vertical thinking multiplies the effectiveness of lateral thinking by making good use of the ideas generated.
Lateral thinking is, in a way, an antidote to the way we’re all taught—vertically and specifically. Our education systems seem to be getting more vertical – more concerned with meeting prescribed benchmarks, and, in so doing, discarding the creativity and imagination of learning that is critical to real innovation and real forward movement. As for medical education, radiation oncologist and TEDMED speaker Jacob Scott said it has replaced creativity in the brain with a warehouse.
In a series of 17 short TED-style talks next Tuesday, February 14, clinicians and scientists from Children’s will present new products, processes and technologies to make health care safer, better and less expensive. The event, from 1-5 p.m. Eastern, is sponsored by the Innovation Acceleration Program. It’s now running a wait list, but you can also watch the live stream or track the proceedings on Twitter (#iDay) or via @science4care. Here’s a small sampling of next week’s presenters; for details, read the press release or view the full agenda.
Diagnosing lazy eye when it’s most treatable: in preschoolers
If lazy eye, or amblyopia, is caught early – ideally, before age 5 – it’s easily treated by patching the “good” eye, forcing the child to use and strengthen the weaker eye. But if it goes unnoticed, the weak, unused eye can slowly go blind,
Margaret Coughlin is a Senior Vice President and the Chief Marketing and Communications Officer at Children’s Hospital Boston
Disruption. A core ideal of the TEDMED conference. I’m in a senior strategic marketing position at Children’s Hospital Boston, in a healthcare world in dire need of solutions. What can I do as an individual to spark disruption, change the course?
Brilliant individuals from all over the world have converged here. From biology lab leaders to the U.S. Surgeon General (yes, she is here) – they’ve all convened to share, to educate and to think. The ideas are flying, and the different disciplines are connecting dots that at first glance make no sense. Worlds are colliding and combining and then dividing again. Art, sensing technology, mobile devices, biology and on and on are merging to create solutions to an uncountable number of healthcare problems.
The fundamental question, though, is why doesn’t this happen every day, and happen faster?
Tissue-engineered repairs and replacement parts aren’t just concepts out of science fiction – they promise to provide the ideal solution for thousands of children born each year with congenital anomalies or who suffer devastating injuries. A study released yesterday in The Lancet and covered on NPR reports on the latest tissue engineering advance.
Anthony Atala, a former Children’s Hospital Boston urologist and now director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, reports on five young boys in Mexico City whose damaged urethras he replaced with laboratory-grown urethras over five years ago. The patients had suffered damage to their urinary tracts from auto accidents, leaving them unable to urinate without a catheter.
In an approach he began at Children’s back in the late 1990s, Atala and his colleagues took a biopsy of bladder tissue from each boy, and expanded the cells in the laboratory until there were approximately 100 million cells
As in the first day of TEDMED, the message today was about imagination. Scott Parazynski, a physician and astronaut, reminded the audience about daring to imagine. As a child, he dreamed about flying in space and climbing to the peak of Mount Everest. As an adult, he made those dreams a reality, because he just dared to image. Nathaniel Pearson, a genomicist at Knome Inc., and Greg Lucier, the CEO of Life Technologies, both asked the audience to imagine a future in which patients come to their physician’s office to have their genome mapped and receive treatments tailor-made for them based upon their genetics.
TEDMED was fascinating, and it was a great experience for the Children’s team who attended. Based on the conference attendees and the intimate size of the gathering, it offered our constituents ample opportunity to interact with peers from other fields, policy decision makers, media influencers, future collaborators and potential sponsors in a way that wouldn’t have been possible in any other setting.