Green Eggs and Ham: Our TEDMED Experience

Apr 26, 2013, 9:00 AM

This blog post offers perspectives from seven Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholars who attended TEDMED 2013 last week.

Seeing things in new and different ways will advance nursing practice, research, and education.  We need to think of creative strategies to raze perceived boundaries. One way for nurses to enter new frontiers is to engage in interprofessional dialogue with consumers, health care providers, researchers, entrepreneurs, technology experts, designers, and artists. We experienced this interchange at TEDMED 2013—an interprofessional conference for sharing and exploring solutions to health care’s most pressing challenges.

Collaboration is Key
Adejoke Ayoola: The opportunities to explore new advances in technology and interact with innovators remind me of an African Proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” The outcome is more fulfilling with collaboration. By collaborating with stakeholders (e.g., community residents, community health workers, local agencies), research not only becomes more effective, it becomes more relevant to societal needs. Collaboration with my nursing colleagues promotes scholarly growth and may involve writing manuscripts or conducting smaller studies associated with a bigger study.

Bring the Joy Back
Cheryl Giscombé:  Regina Benjamin, MD, the U.S. Surgeon General, implored us to “bring the joy back” into health care and our patients’ lives as we promote wellness and health equity. I was reminded that promoting diversity in health care can broaden perspectives and our capacity for acceptance and compassion for all people. I learned about identifying multidisciplinary mentoring teams, the importance of fabulous work environments to inspire innovation, and alternative funding strategies from entities interested in the social return on investment. Mostly, I learned that discourse between disciplines fosters growth and advocacy for underserved populations.

Be Brave, Let Go, and Swing High
Elizabeth Cohn: What Outward Bound was for the body, TEDMED was for the mind. A remarkably rich experience as wide and deep as you dared make it. And, like the final rope swing at Outward Bound, the best thing to do was to let go and swing high. The lessons are similar to the ones the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation endorses: think big, solve important problems, listen to patients and families, and use skepticism to your advantage. TEDMED taught us to be brave, laugh, cry, tell our own story and hear the brilliant stories around us.

Tell Our Stories
Gordon Gillespie: Implementing solutions to the Great Challenges of Health and Medicine requires support. This support is provided based on personable and engaging stories, not statistical findings. We learned to tell our stories in a specific format strategically using “and,” “but,” and “therefore.” For example, “Sometimes I’m distracted and not able to practice safely after I’m hit by a violent patient, but I don’t recognize the risk to patient safety that the emotional stress is causing; therefore, emotional care needs to be provided to employees after they are victimized in the workplace.”

Liberate Data
Maja Djukic: Faster Adoption of Best Practices is a TEDMED Great Challenge. I ask: How can we accelerate nurse managers’ adoption of best practices to improve health care? It might be through liberation of small data or digital crumbs. Deborah Estrin, PhD, said we are continually generating digital traces and should mine those digital traces for our own purposes, but the data are often trapped by search engines, mobile operators, and social networks. Applying this idea to my work: Could liberating and repackaging organizational data for nurse managers quicken data-driven insights to improve patients’ and organizational health?

Change the Culture
Susie Breitenstein: To make sustained and meaningful change in health care, we need to transform environments and effect culture change. This was just one of the messages from TEDMED that resounded with me. To change environments and culture, people within the environment must be engaged. Sometimes community involvement is challenging but, as America Bracho, MD, pronounced in her talk: “You can’t create solutions from behind a desk!” This message supports my current work in which parental stakeholders are actively involved in developing new ways to deliver parenting programs.

Barcodes and Fitbits
Timothy Landers: TEDMED was a highly connected event. A scanned bar code completed check in and delegates were given a Fitbit activity monitor to log walking.  A custom app enabled contact tracking, schedule review, and continuously updated social media feeds. Large LCD screens provided simulcasts of the events in smaller breakout rooms. What impressed me most was how technology was naturally integrated into the TEDMED experience and used to expand the platform. The experience has me thinking about how I can better employ technology to stay connected with colleagues, students, and patients.

Just as “Sam I am” in Dr. Seuss’ children’s book implored his friend to try green eggs and ham, we were encouraged to try something new. At TEDMED we moved out of our comfort zones, saw things from new perspectives, and broadened our views of the problems and solutions in health care.

Learn more about TEDMED at

Read more TEDMED 2013 reactions from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation staff on the Pioneering Ideas Blog.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.