TEDMED hosted its latest conference in early November in Palm Springs, CA. The event featured many outstanding speakers and conversations led by thought leaders hoping to inspire a healthier world. Below is a selection of the most powerful presentations I attended at this year’s conference. Note: videos of each of these speakers will be shared on tedmed.com in January 2018.

Dr. Agnes Binagwaho, Rwandan pediatrician – Choosing the Hardest Path

Her courage and disciplined application of values saved thousands of lives and became a shining model for many nations, but Dr. Agnes Binagwaho could have much more easily stayed in her thriving practice in Belgium.

Instead, just two years after the horrendous genocide and with the nation still in complete turmoil, she moved back to her native Rwanda and started taking care of its people. First, the children, and then all the AIDS patients who were woefully underserved. She did so well that she was quickly asked to lead HIV/AIDS care across the country. And when she predictably did that well, she was asked to lead the health program for the whole nation.

Despite serving a country wracked by social unrest, political turmoil, corruption and self-interest, Dr. Binagwaho built plans, focused her teams, and transparently improved the nation’s health to first world levels, all on $800 per person per year—1/10 of what is spent in the United States!

Learn more about this amazing woman, pediatrician and leader here.

Dr. Farida, Syrian OB/GYN – Bombed but not Beaten

Dr. Farida demonstrates great courage and durability on a daily basis. This OB/GYN physician currently works through bombs and poison gas in the bombed-out cites of Syria. She was one of the last OB/GYN doctors in the Aleppo area, caring for 100 patients and doing up to 15 C-sections per day. She was placed on the “terrorist list” because she would offer care to any patient regardless of their politics. Bombed above ground and gassed when they went underground, she persisted in conditions that few clinicians could withstand.

Hear about her ongoing story here.

Dr. Camila Venture, Brazilian Retina Specialist – Zika and Serving Beyond the Call

Many connected with healthcare make extra efforts to help their patients. A few set stunning examples for us all.

Dr. Camila Ventura, a Brazilian Pediatric Retinal Ophthalmologist, was dismayed by the devastating effects of the Zika virus on babies’ retinas and brains. No good treatment is available, but she nevertheless felt compelled to do something. So she and her mother—also an ophthalmologist—developed a system to organize support and connect the families affected by Zika. A couple at first, then more, and then even more. They now support over 250 families with severely affected babies and they are actively improving their lives despite having no cure for the disease.

See the story of this 31-year-old’s deep caring here.

Zoe Keating, Acclaimed cellist – Painful Healthcare Insights

Zoe Keating acts like a musician, talks like a musician, but plays a cello like no musician I have ever heard. She plays beautiful melodies, records them in real-time, layers new melodies on top, fades the sounds in and out; it is magical, exciting, and lovely.

But her story is very disturbing for those of us in healthcare. She describes the excruciating journey of her husband being diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer. What haunts her most is not his loss or the struggle to comfort their son, but the amount of time she wasted trying to work through our disconnected healthcare system. The constant routine denials from insurance, the lost records, the appointments canceled and rescheduled at impossible times. While her husband was sliding away, she should have been focused on him, but instead was spending hour upon precious hour struggling with the system.

Read her story, feel her pain, and think about our patients and going through the same experience with a close friend or loved one.

 

First published on ForbesBooks.com/MD

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