UCSF Hosts First Bay Area TED MED

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Last week’s TED MED convention, the first in the Bay Area, promised to “unlock imagination” through innovation and scientific excellence.  A subset of the widely known TED Talks, TED MED invites scientists, clinicians, and innovators in medicine and biotechnology as speakers for the week-long event. The result is an interdisciplinary platform where professionals can share their efforts towards a common goal: to advance the field of medicine by inspiring one another with poignant stories of compassionate care and fresh, sometimes controversial, ideas.

The student volunteers would say it succeeded.

“My favorite speaker was Dr. Leana Wen,” enthused second-year BMS student Dan Holohan. “Dr. Wen advocated that transparency must also extend to the personal views and conflicts of interests of doctors. Just as patients divulge private information to their healthcare providers, doctors should reveal information that could impact the treatment of their patients, including funding sources, views on social issues such as women’s health and LGBTQ rights, and pay differentials for one treatment versus another."

Dr. Wen created the controversial Who’s My Doctor website (whosmydoctor.com), where doctors are encouraged to sign the Total Transparency Manifesto and post information about their educational background, drug company affiliations and even hobbies. In response, critics hacked her personal email and sent her a bomb threat.

But according to Dr. Wen, patient needs are evolving, and the practice of medicine must evolve with it. “As medicine is moving more towards a behavioralist versus infectious model of disease, the importance of trust and transparency among patients and doctors will become even greater,” agreed Holohan, inspired by her talk.

While TED MED brought together a plethora of engaging speakers, it was not just a forum for ideas.  In fact, the organizers also created an area called “The Hive,” where dozens of start-ups and entrepreneurs were stationed to display their newest products and services.

One company, QuantuMDx, aimed to “diagnose a disease in under 15 minutes” with their molecular-diagnostics device. The prototype contains a micro-scale molecular diagnostic chip complete with DNA sequencing capabilities, potentially allowing for the accurate diagnosis of a range of infectious diseases. This is very similar to Virochip, a start-up company whose product more specifically helps diagnose infectious diseases.

Another device from Cerora measured brainwave activity and correlated it to known pathological patterns to aid in diagnosing neurological diseases. Start-ups like these were given a stage to pitch their ideas and connect with potential funders and collaborators.

Surrounded by Nobel laureates and a stimulating startup culture, UCSF students are well positioned to become the next generation of biomedical innovators. Aude Dalie, a second-year BMS student, not only felt energized by extraordinary talks such as that of Dr. Wen, but also enjoyed the opportunity to build relationships with other volunteers. “One of my favorite parts of this past week was sharing the experience with fellow UCSF students and learning from their rich and varied perspectives. I have never felt more fortunate to be a part of the UCSF community and at the forefront of scientific progress.”

UCSF co-hosted the week-long event, along with Stanford University and the American Medical Association. This year’s event was held simultaneously in Washington DC and San Francisco. Speakers from both cities took turns presenting via an on-stage video feed.