The Last Five Minutes Have Arrived

If I had to sum up the 2014 TEDMED conference with just one sentence, it would be this:

the most important ingredient for the future of health and wellness is the human spirit.

Throughout the conference, I heard countless stories about triumph against all odds and perseverance in the face of overwhelming adversity. Elizabeth Kenny shared how one doctor’s misdiagnosis led her to experience a full psychotic breakdown and how she managed to come back from the brink.

In September of last year, Diana Nyad, age 64, finally achieved her lifelong goal of swimming from Cuba to Florida. It was her fifth attempt. She hallucinated. She almost died of hypothermia. She was repeatedly stung by poisonous jellyfish. Her team, many of whom had been with her since the first attempt, pushed her to complete the swim, and she did it – against all odds.

Nyad

That’s the thing about people; the majority of them fall somewhere within the realm of ordinary. And then there are the few who don’t. It’s these few extraordinary people, and their undying determination, who propel humanity forward, drive innovation, and ultimately save lives.

In 1984 Marc Koska read an article about how unsafe injections would spread HIV infections like wildfire. Thousands of others likely read that article. Some even thought about it for days afterwards. And ultimately, all except one returned to their normal lives. But Koska never stopped thinking about that article. After nearly three decades of research and dedication, the World Health Organization is now issuing new guidelines that will enforce the use of auto-disable syringes such as the one invented by Koska. The K1 auto-disable syringe has the potential to save millions of lives each year.

TEDMED speaker Eric Chen made some compelling points about how the growing democratization of knowledge will lead to a democratization of science. To me, that means there will be even more opportunity for extraordinary individuals like Nyad, Kenny, and Koska to drive the healthcare revolution, which will improve human life more than we can possibly imagine.

In Chen’s talk, he shared a quote by Einstein that has stuck with me: “If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.” We are at a turning point in science and medicine. Up until now, humanity has been consumed with finding the right questions to ask. Now, through human ingenuity and perseverance, we may be getting to a place where we can finally begin to find the solutions.

– Sophia Moriarty, Associate Communications Manager