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This is incredible! These people are incredible! How did you even think to ask the question in that way? This has been my experience at TEDMED. For those of you who may not know, TEDMED “is a community of people who are passionate about imagining the future of health and medicine.” I am at their conference, which they call a “grand gathering” and I whole-heartedly agree.
Everywhere I turn, there are great stories from people with awe-inspiring intelligence with the will to make a difference — two from yesterday stand out and have my brain working overtime. The first was a mother, Virginia Breen, whose daughter has autism. That daughter is now a published poet (I Am in Here) defying the opinions of doctors, specialists and other experts who believed she was low functioning because of her Autism. But Virginia persisted and continued to search for someone that would enable her daughter to communicate. She found that person, a woman with a special technique, who taught her daughter to type her thoughts, unlocking the incredible person within — the poet and more importantly the young girl. How did her mother persist in spite what she was told? What experiences would compel other people to not accept initial impressions and continue to search for unlimited potential? This mother was motivated by her love, but also had a quality that kept her searching, no matter what obstacles were placed in her path. What experiences and unique personality traits allowed her to not accept what appeared to be, but stay focused and driven until she found the answer she knew to be true?
The world needs more people like Virginia — more of such determination, passion and energy to face the challenges of another disease: Alzheimer’s. A compelling case was made by researcher Gregory A. Petsko: we need to urgently address the issues with an aging population and what it will mean if one in two of that population is afflicted with Alzheimer’s. Our friends at the Alzheimer’s Association are doing incredible work, but more is needed. After age 65 the likelihood of getting Alzheimer’s increases exponentially. And the number of people who are over 65 is going to increase dramatically both in numbers and as a percentage of the population. This is a chronic disease that eventually becomes completely debilitating. As the person with Alzheimer’s becomes more and more dependent on others, immediate family members are faced with the incredibly difficult work of being a caregiver. Who will advocate for them? The lecturer’s point was that those affected ultimately die from the disease. But, those immediately supporting Alzheimer’s sufferers are emotionally, financially, and physically exhausted from the experience of being a caregiver. The disease has such a draining impact — even after the loved one has passed. What experiences would trigger the passion and resolute needed to solve the Alzheimer’s issue before it becomes not just a crisis for those afflicted, but the nation as a whole? How can we channel the determination of Virginia, who refused to stop until she got the right solution for her daughter, to deal with the challenges of Alzheimer’s?
I’m not sure exactly why I think the answer to one potentially lies in the other, but I do. I like the idea of interconnectedness and a multi-disciplinary approach to addressing issues. This is the power of TEDMED.
Vice President, Operations Jim Grohman provides our project teams and managers, as well as our IT group and analytics specialists, leadership and guidance to ensure flawless delivery. A former Major with the United States Marine Corps, Jim is a member of the Project Management Institute (PMI) and is certified as a PMI Project Management Professional.