TEDMED is a community of the brightest minds interested in overcoming the world’s most pressing medical and health challenges. Once a year they congregate in Washington, DC to bring to bear the latest thinking and research into a diverse range of fields surrounding the human condition, but don’t be tricked into thinking TEDMED is of interest only to medics.
The four day conferences are extremely multidisciplinary, combining talks and presentations with performances from artists, poets and musicians. Highlights from past TEDMED conferences include David Blaine telling a room full of medical professionals how he continually defied the advice of doctors in his pursuit to break the record for holding one’s breath under water, and illusionist Eric Mead demonstrating the complex power of the placebo with nothing but a piece of cutlery. These talks alone demonstrate the amazing accessibility to medical insight and innovation a TEDMED event affords its audience.
However, until this year, to be in a live TEDMED audience required a trip to the states. All that has now changed as it was revealed today that a license has been obtained to hold ‘TEDMEDLive at Imperial College’, a sister event to the conference in DC, the first of its kind outside the US.
On April 21st TEDMEDLive Imperial College will feature streams from stateside as well as a programme of live speakers, performers and workshops. Encompassing many aspects of medicine and healthcare, the event is guided by an over-arching principle encapsulated by a quote from the celebrated Persian polymath and philosopher Avicenna. He believed “There are no incurable diseases, only a lack of will”. This is a message we will use throughout the event to prompt debate and discussion between speakers and attendees. Although many of the details have yet to be revealed, the event is expected to celebrate the contributions of Imperial College and the UK as a whole to the advancement of medicine and healthcare and is expected to be a big draw due to it’s unique European location.
It may be worth acknowledging that the University of Westminster has certainly been no stranger to TED talks. Last summer, the first ever TEDx was hosted to the public at 309 Regent Street (TEDxUWestminster). So in the tradition of TEDx, TEDMEDLive Imperial College will also be opening its doors to the public. Students and staff from all backgrounds who are interested in the challenges of the current medical & health paradigm were strongly encouraged to attend.
As a student reading cognitive neuroscience at Westminster, I had been somewhat reluctant in the clinical aspects of my field. Instead, I would revel in cognitive or computational research, as this was what I enjoyed the most. Clinical studies never fascinated me, and I assumed that those who did enjoy it were either blinded by prestige, or unsure of their choices. But the thought of being wrong lingered within me at the sight of TEDMEDLive Imperial College. Tempted by the thought of exploring outside my comfort zone, I made the decision to apply as a volunteer. To which, the organisers got back almost immediately, albeit not to me personally. The email discussed in detail the several roles and requirements for the day.
I quickly revisied the speakers list and their background, and hoped for the best. After all, I had been to a few TEDx talks. TEDxImperialCollege namely. I had even been involved in Westminster’s TEDx event; TEDxUWestminster. Therefore I braced for the day with an open mind and anticipated the event with glee.
My first task was to transport 2 incredibly heavy boards from Imperial College to the Royal Geographical Society, which was exhausting to say the least. So I took refuge in the main hall where girls were chosen to help design the stage (as females tend to be more creative, apparently). I offered to help as we were running short on time. To which they told me to draw a semi circle on a piece of carpet. It soon dawned on me that this was the meant to be TED’s iconic circular red carpet for the stage. Needless to say, I was quite nervous about slipping up. I took the pen and attached it to a piece of duct tape whilst someone else anchored the end of the tape. This allowed me to draw a perfect semi circle, as if I was using a compass. It was a bit shaky, and I was worried that I had unintentionally sabotaged the carpet. I helplessly began cutting along the jagged lines, desperately hoping I had not ruined the iconic design. After I had finished, I turned the carpet over and stood back to take a look. The finished product was beautiful, not to gloat. I was awestruck.
Before doors opened at 1pm, a lengthy queue had already formed outside the Royal Geographic Society. Luckily enough, the warm South Kensington sun kept spirits high as 450 attendees flooded in.
With everybody seated, our host Armand Marie Leroi took to the stage to introduce a video from Jay Walker, curator of TEDMED, before our first session got underway. I had been selected to be part of the social media team. As soon as the thought of being granted a complimentary seat to live tweet the entire event on the official account sunk in, I was ecstatic. The first session saw Professor Roger Kneebone explain the innovative training techniques he’s developed at Imperial. I, along with Alexandra Abel (a Biomed graduate of Imperial College) continued to live tweet the entire conference.
And with that TEDMEDLive Imperial College was over for 2013. The response on Twitter and Facebook had been overwhelming. I had seen how students at Imperial can coordinate together for a common goal. I had learnt that with passion, and hard work, students can achieve anything. This is a valuable thought that all students over at Westminster should adopt. Imperial, Westminster, we are all humans and when we heads clump together, that’s when magic happens. It’s time to embrace the power of collaboration, dear Westminster.