Article originally written by Barrett Newkirk for The Desert Sun – November 17, 2015.
Health and wellness reporter Barrett Newkirk can be reached at (760) 778-4767, email@example.com or on Twitter @barrettnewkirk.
Dozens of people touted as innovators in health and medicine will be in the Coachella Valley for TEDMED, the health-conscious offshoot of the TED Talks speaker series.
As many as 800 people are expected to fill the La Quinta Resort & Club for the annual conference, which will be held Nov 18 to 20.
The 50 speakers slated for the conference range from big names in public health like U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and renowned HIV researcher Tony Fauci to business people like “insect protein marketer” Shobhita Soor and researchers like Laura Schmidt, a sugar policy expert from the University of California San Francisco.
Chris Elliott of Palm Springs made plans to attend TEDMED 2015, but as of this week it looked increasingly as if his job might keep him in Washington during the conference.
“TEDMED tends to be on the leading edge of things,” Elliott said by phone Wednesday. “It’s really looking into what health care is going to be 10 years or even 20 years from now.”
Elliott was a neuroscience researcher at the University of California San Diego before he founded MyBrainTest, a market research firm for products that evaluate brain health.
He’s attended TEDMED once before and remembered a speaker discussing the future use of smartphones to negate the need for patients to see doctors in person for routine diagnoses such as the flu.
This year, if he is able to attend, Elliott was looking forward to a session on the mysteries of the brain, which relates directly to his work. The session includes Roland Griffiths from John Hopkins University, who’ll speak on the use of psychedelic drugs to create life-changing experiences for patients.
Elliott said he was particularly interested to learn how those drugs might improve end-of-life care or even assisted suicide.
“That’s what TEDMED does, bring up topics that aren’t usually discussed openly,” he said.
With an attendance price of nearly $5,000, TEDMED in unlikely to attract people just curious to hear a few smart people talk science on stage. Livestreaming events are taking place across the country and internationally, but none have been announced in the Coachella Valley.
Talks will also be posted on the TEDMED website after they’re completed.
TEDMED 2015’s valley location is a departure from past years. TEDMED was held in Washington for four years until 2014 when the nation’s capital and San Francisco split hosting duties.
The change to the desert was an intentional effort to get away from big cities, and give attendees a calmer setting where they would have fewer outside distractions and not be scattered between several hotels, said TEDMED COO Shirley Bergin.
“We hadn’t really been under one roof in four years,” she said. “We wanted to feel like a community. We wanted it to feel like a place where people could relax, let their guard down and really start to dig into the issues at hand.”
The La Quinta Resort & Club is also known as the place Frank Capra wrote the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.” That history of storytelling appealed to TEDMED organizers, and Bergin said they are already in talks with the resort about returning next year.
Unlike many medical conferences that focus on a particular specialization, TEDMED takes on broad subject matters that Bergin said draws professionals from a variety of disciplines. Doctors and medical researchers can end up sitting down next to designers and tech entrepreneurs.
“Every year is a slightly different year,” Bergin said. “Different delegations repeat year after year. We infuse it with new and old, those that understand TEDMED and know TEDMED and those who have never come before.”