Recently I attended the Exponential Medicine meeting in California. Led by the physician-innovator Daniel Kraft MD, the conference is an amazing collection of thinkers, doers and visionaries that focuses on the convergence of technology and medicine.
Certainly, it’s a science-based meeting that addresses the role technology can play in the diagnosis and management of disease. Some even say XMed is a bit like drinking out of an information fire hose. And while medical technology and innovation stand at the center of this popular meeting, there was something else that captured both my head and my heart.
Beyond the impressive contributions of leading scientists, clinicians and patients, there was as an undercurrent of humanity and empathy that seems to push the binary and biologic to a unique and powerful place. Today, technology is empowering physicians, caregivers and patients with a sense of purpose and compassion. And the Exponential Medicine meeting is emerging as a catalyst for these important changes.
A powerful tool to drive empathy. Imagine having Parkinson’s disease. With this fascinating device pioneered by Klick Health, it’s possible to reproduce the actual movement disorder in your own arm. What results is a direct experience that fosters understanding and empathy. The video is a testament to technology and humanity.Connecting the world with virtual reality. Surgeon and innovator Shafi Ahmed is an expert in the use of virtual reality in the operating room. His work has expanded the OR beyond the tiled walls to countless hospitals and medical schools around the world. Ahmed is changing the way we teach surgery and leveraging technology to touch the minds of student who otherwise might never have the chance to experience world-class innovations and techniques. His recent TEDx talk, “Connecting A Billion Minds,” captures this perfectly.
A father’s son and compassionate physician. Dr. Alan Greene, a pediatrician and internet innovator, captured the audience with his discussion that focused on the end and the beginning of life, including his father’s death—what Greene refers to as “the most profound and important moments in a man’s life.” Greene spoke on the power of “why” and the value of “presence” in today’s hectic world.
A stem cell pioneer who is driving discovery from his wheelchair. Perched upon his unique vantage point on stem cell therapy, Roman Reed told us a very personal story about his quest to drive innovation in the battle to cure his—and every—spinal cord injury patient. Reed is the founder of StemRemedium, a private equity firm that combines world-class partnerships among scientists, industry and finance to drive innovation in stem cell therapy.
A musical interlude from a recipient of two double lung transplants. At XMed, science and technology doesn’t stop, even when there’s a musical break. Charity Sunshine Tillman-Dick provided both her beautiful voice and compelling story. A two-time, double lung transplant recipient and vocal soprano, Tillman-Dick transfixed the audience with her voice and story of perseverance that’s also captured in her new book The Encore: A Memory in Three Acts.
A personal journey made very public. Jennifer Brea is an active Harvard PhD student about to marry the love of her life when suddenly her body starts failing her. Hoping to shed light on her strange symptoms, Jennifer grabs a camera and films the darkest moments unfolding before her eyes as she is derailed by myalgic encephalomyelitis (M.E. and commonly known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), a mysterious illness some still believe is “all in your head.” On stage at XMed and in an on-site screening of her film Unrest, Brea put a spotlight on her personal journey and this complex condition.
There’s no shortage of technological innovations at XMed. This meeting is well known for its content, faculty, and attendees. And 2017 was certainly no exception. But more than ever, humanity and empathy were themes that were masterfully weaved throughout the conference. Humanity and technology came together to help focus and inspire the attendees and presenters. Tears, laughs and inspiration define the four conference days and the world is a little better off because of it.
The entire conference is now available online. It’s a compelling view for those in medicine and technology. But many others — from patients to caregivers — can appreciate to power of this conference to touch our hearts and minds to drive these life-saving innovations forward.