Smitten by TED

By Steve Adelman, MD

I’ve been smitten by TED.

Not the movie, and not one of those stuffed animals emulating a roughriding former president.

I’m referring to TED talks, aptly described on the TED.com website as, “riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world.” Some TED talks are under 5 minutes. Others may last 20 minutes. More than 1400 TED talks are currently available for viewing, and new talks are being created and posted every single day.

TED talks are free and they are easy to access. Think: Website, YouTube, SmartPhone, Tablet, Netflix. On the way to work yesterday, I listened to a marvelous TED talk by a surgeon who decided to give up the scalpel and devote his career to basic research aimed at discovering the underlying cause of Type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome. His career change was prompted by an emergency room encounter that forced him to take a critical look at himself and his tendency to “blame the patient.” See for yourself as Dr. Peter Attia answers the question, “Is the obesity crisis hiding a bigger problem?”

More than 20% of TED talks focus on a broad and eclectic variety of topics in medicine and health care. A recurrent theme in many of the other talks is the indomitability of the human spirit. I don’t know how they do it, but the people who deliver TED talks are all gifted speakers with amazing stories to recount. They truly inspire.

Early on, the talks focused on “Technology, Entertainment, Design” – hence, TED. These days, the scope is much broader – any great idea will do for a TED talk, provided that the talker knows how to mesmerize the audience.
Anybody interested in pedagogy should pay close attention to TED’s master teachers. I’m already scheming about how to make Grand Rounds feel more like a TED talk.

You can learn things about medicine and healthcare from TED talks that you won’t learn anywhere else. And any physician who delves into TED’s bounty of moving accounts of other walks of life is in for a real left-brain/right-brain treat: your analytical faculties and your emotions may be equally stimulated. As the practice of medicine becomes more and more of a left-brain enterprise, I suggest making use of this wonderful resource that speaks to the totality of our beings.

Dr. Adelman is director of Physician Health Services, Inc., a corporation of the Massachusetts Medical Society. For more information, visit www.physicianhealth.org. Opinions expressed here are his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Massachusetts Medical Society or Physician Health Services.

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