Students and faculty attend TedMed conference

The final student has received his or her diploma, the graduating class throws their caps into the air, and tearful parents meet their new college graduates with a sense of anticipation, anxiety, and excitement all rolled into one. Once the post office keys have been turned in and the campus is quiet once again, the new alumni must finally ask themselves the dreaded question: what now?
For those students who were pre-med at the College, this might no longer be as daunting of a question.

Recently, a group consisting of four faculty members and four students had the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C. to attend some of the world-famous TedTalks. The ones that the group attended specifically revolved around medicine, hence the name, TedMed Talks. As a once in a lifetime opportunity for the students who attend, there is an application process to get in to the conference, and it is very competitive. The conference was hosted at the Kennedy Center, but there was also a simultaneous program going on in San Francisco, CA. Jocelyn Thomas ‘16 said “I had never been to a professional conference before, but I think TedMed was such an imaginative and fun introduction in to that world.”

That’s the idea behind TedTalks: to present innovative ideas that people wouldn’t normally think about. Assistant Professor of Sociology Matthew Archibald said that the TedMed talks “present a great opportunity to hear discussion of a large number of innovative ideas, research and products within a relatively short time span.” Archibald also noted that a few of the talks “raised questions about how innovation can actually exacerbate health inequalities rather than solve them.” Since there are always researchers and doctors trying to find new and innovative ways to solve the health inequalities in the world around us, these talks proved thought-provoking and inspiring.

There are a variety of performances that happened at TedMed talks. Not only were there thought-provoking talks about how to think about the work and research that is going on in the medicine field, but also musical and dance performances. The Dr. Gerald and Myra Dorros Professor of Chemistry Julie Millard said that these performances helped to “keep the interest of the audience.”

One talk by Diana Nyad was about her swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. Millard, intrigued by Nyad’s talk, had the opportunity to meet Nyad in the most unlikely of places: the bathroom. Millard took advantage of this time to chat with the speaker and take a picture with her. Professor Millard said that the picture was “promptly posted on Facebook, naturally.”

Peter Wirth ’16 said that his favorite talk was Dr. Uzma Samadani’s from New York University (NYU). She is an M.D. and a neurosurgeon that does concussion research and developed an eye-tracking device to help detect and/or diagnose concussions. Wirth also said that he “Especially enjoyed hearing from physicians who said that attending TedMed reminded them of the reasons they first decided to practice medicine.” Wirth, Jocelyn Thomas ‘16 and Artur Fass ‘16 were by far the youngest people there. “Many of the speakers and delegates were impressed to see us there,” Wirth said.

Thomas said that her favorite speaker was Dominick Farinacci, who is a renowned jazz trumpeter that uses his music to help in the healing process of patients in hospitals or in hospice care. Thomas also spoke highly of Dr. Barbara Natterson-Horowitz, a cardiologist who works with veterinarians at the Los Angeles Zoo to discuss techniques and innovations that can relate both to humans and other animals.

The students and faculty had a great time on this trip. Millard said that she “really enjoyed having the opportunity to get to know the students outside of the classroom.” Archibald had the opportunity to see the “biggest, ugliest catfish” that he had ever seen in his life on a sidewalk next to the Potomac River. He said “a bunch of tourists stood around taking pictures of it.” The students and faculty members of this group were able to have some great bonding time over their meals together and on their adventure to try to find Georgetown Cupcakes.

“We were successful,” Professor Millard said of their journey. Thomas said, “I think the most inspiring thing I learned was that there are even more career paths that medicine can lead me to than I had ever imagine…. This conference really expanded my view of how a passion for medicine and health can be applied to so many different and creative fields.”

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