March 30, 2023

Five Must-Watch TED Talks for Health Care Professionals

Prospective health care managers must watch five essential TED talks. If any institution symbolizes the 21st century, it is the TED talk. Dating back to 1984, the TED organization set out to spread ideas at the junction of technology, entertainment and design, hence the acronym TED. After commencing with just one conference and a handful of speakers, TED now continuously sponsors events world-wide in dozens of languages, and on myriad topics. TED has given a platform to many compelling experts in the field of health, five of which bear special attention.

Who Owns Genes?

As medicine and health care continue to evolve, ethical questions continue to prod. In November of 2014, former White House science consultant Tania Simoncelli spoke to the issue of whether human genes should be patented (as courts held they could be a decade earlier). Along with lawyers from the ACLU, Simoncelli appealed this ruling right up to the U.S. Supreme Court, and won. She argued that patents obstructed important biomedical research, harming patients in the end.

A New Way to Grow Bone

Innovation and research are at the heart of TED’s mission. A June 2013 talk given by British scientist Molly Stevens focuses on “a new way to grow bone.” Among her research successes at London’s Imperial College is, in fact, engineered bone. Contending that stem-cell research yields biomaterial effective for bone regeneration, Stevens states that this advance holds promise for cancer patients and those with cardiovascular disease.

What Your Doctor Won’t Disclose

Quality health care requires mutual trust between patient and physician. In September of 2014, Baltimore City Health Commissioner Leana Wen enlightened a TED audience about the secrets doctors keep: their relationships to pharmaceutical companies, for instance, or their social philosophies. She tells of her efforts to promote more disclosure among physicians…and of their hostile responses to her campaign. Whatever the listeners’ positions, Dr. Wen makes them consider this question: “Elected officials have to disclose campaign contributions. Lawyers have to disclose conflicts of interests. Why shouldn’t doctors?”

How Barbershops Can Keep Men Healthy

Dr. Joseph Ravenell put an interesting twist on urban health care in February of 2016. As a physician and advocate for better health among African-American males, Ravenell argues that the pursuit of wellness means finding a sanctuary — a safe haven where black men can talk about their issues and ailments. “It’s a place where we go for friendship, solidarity and solace,” he explains. Because fewer African-American men interface with primary medical outlets, they allow conditions like hypertension to go untreated, with fatal results. Dr. Ravenell makes the case that the barbershop can serve as a forum to learn about such conditions, and a fellowship to encourage friends to seek medical care.

The Amazing Story of the Man Who Gave Us Modern Pain Relief

Some of the best TED talks occur when speakers recount the achievements of others. Writer and archivist Latif Nasser gave such a speech in March of 2015, when he highlighted the work of Dr, John Bonica. Having worked his way through medical school as a circus performer and wrestler, Bonica saw–and felt–his fair share of painful injuries. Out of these experiences, he pioneered the field of pain management. Nasser was moved by Bonica’s work after watching his mother suffer from debilitating pain.

Putting ideas into words is the first step toward making them realities. Ethics, innovation and inspiration are all necessary ideas for competent providers. Those considering health care management as a career do well to take in these five must-watch TED talks for health care professionals.


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