15 Inspiring TED Talks on Health and Medicine

August 2015

We scanned the web for exceptional TED talks on health and medicine. They’re ranked here according to the number of total views they received on a number of outlets, including Ted.com and YouTube.

1. A Stroke of Insight – Jill Bolte Taylor

September 2014


Her brother’s schizophrenia was one reason neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor wanted to study the brain. She didn’t know there would come a day when she would have the opportunity to study her own from the inside out. Here she tells the incredible story of waking up one morning and losing her ability to walk, talk, read, write, or recall. What she learned from her stroke is life-changing.

2. Teach Every Child About Food – Jamie Oliver

February 2010


According to chef and activist Jamie Oliver, obesity and diet-related disease is what’s killing us and our children. He argues we need to reboot and make changes at home, at school, and on Main Street. In this stirring, passionate talk, Oliver makes the case for a food revolution to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again, and empower people to fight obesity.

3. A Promising Test for Pancreatic Cancer … From a Teenager – Jack Andraka

February 2013


After losing a close family friend to pancreatic cancer, 15-year-old Jack Andraka researched online to find out all he could about the disease. What he discovered is that most pancreatic cancers are diagnosed by an expensive, outdated, and unreliable test – when there’s less than a two percent chance of survival. He then made it his goal to create a cheap and effective early detection test for pancreatic cancer. Andraka says anything is possible through the Internet, a neutral space where just your ideas count.

4. Can We Eat to Starve Cancer? – William Li

February 2010


Why should we care about blood vessels? Because the human body is packed with them. There are 60,000 miles worth of blood vessels in the typical adult. When angiogenesis (the growth of new blood vessels) is out of balance, a myriad of diseases can result, including cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. In this talk, cancer researcher William Li discusses anti-angiogenesis, preventing the growth of blood vessels that feed a tumor. Rather than treating cancer too late in the game, Li looks at naturally occurring inhibitors of angiogenesis that we can add to our diet.

5. How to Live to be 100+ – Dan Buettner

September 2009


National Geographic writer and explorer Dan Buettner and a team of researchers traveled to “Blue Zones,” the regions of the world with the longest life expectancy, to uncover the secret to living past 100. In his talk, he shares what they learned after visits to Sardinia, Okinawa, and the Seventh-Day Adventists in California. Buettner debunks common myths on longevity – there is no short-term fix or pill. The good news is there are nine common denominators among “Blue Zone” residents that help them live a healthy, long life.

6. The Danger of Science Denial – Michael Specter

February 2010


Journalist Michael Specter discusses the public’s lost faith in institutions, authority, and even science itself. This epidemic of fear is understandable but dangerous. Be skeptical, ask questions, and demand proof – but then accept it. We’ve never needed progress in science like we need today, says Specter. “When you start down a road where belief and magic replace evidence and science, you end up in a place you don’t want to be.”

7. What Your Doctor Won’t Disclose – Leana Wen

September 2014


Dr. Leana Wen believes there is a hidden epidemic in medicine; it’s not just the patients who are scared. When she founded “Who’s My Doctor,” a call for transparency between doctors and their patients, she was surprised at the backlash from her fellow doctors. She believes patients have a right to know certain things about their doctors if those things might affect medical treatment.

8. How Do We Heal Medicine? – Atul Gawande

September 2014


A surgeon, a writer, and a professor at Harvard Medical School, Atul Gawande knows the ins and outs of our medical system – a system he believes is broken. So how can it be fixed? By developing the three skills that a system should have: recognize failure, devise solutions, and implement those solutions. Something as simple as a surgical checklist can have a huge impact on life and death.

9. A Doctor’s Touch – Abraham Verghese

July 2011


Physician and writer Abraham Verghese believes in the power of the human hand to touch, comfort, diagnose, and treat. When doctors shortcut the physical exam, they are also shortchanging their patients. He uses the term “iPatient” to describe the patient in the computer who gets great care while leaving the real patient wondering what’s happening. The ritual of the physical exam has meaning and a message: “I will always be there. I will see you through this. I will never abandon you. I will be with you through the end.”

10. Are We Ready for Neo-Evolution? – Harvey Fineberg

March 2011


How would you like to be better than you are? In his talk, health policy expert Harvey Fineberg discusses evolution in the past and three possibilities for evolution in the future: no evolution, traditional evolution, and neo-evolution – guided and chosen by individuals. He says the choices are coming and will be up to us to decide what we will do.

11. Can We Create New Senses for Humans? – David Eagleman

March 2015


Neuroscientist David Eagleman wants to overcome the constraints of our biology. He believes we can use technology to expand our umwelt, or that part of the world we normally perceive. Yes, the principles of our brain operation are established, but we can provide new peripherals. Eagleman strips down in this talk to show us the sensory vest his lab created. Cheaper and less invasive than a cochlear implant, it allows a deaf person to understand spoken words.

12. His and Hers … Healthcare – Paula Johnson

December 2013


Why leave women’s health to chance? There are major differences in the way men and women experience disease, but remarkably, that is overlooked, says women’s health expert Dr. Paula Johnson. Inspired by her grandmother’s battle with depression, she has taken on the cause of improving women’s health. “Women’s health is an equal rights issue,” says Johnson, “as important as equal pay.” Heart disease, lung cancer, and depression all affect women differently than men. Be sure to ask your doctor the right questions so your loved ones (mother, daughter, sister, grandmother) can get the best care.

13. Is Anatomy Destiny? – Alice Dreger

October 2010


Historian and activist Alice Dreger says the line is often blurred between sexes. In her studies of conjoined twins and intersexed people, nature often doesn’t draw a line. We have to acknowledge the categories we have may be overly simplistic. Dreger says our founding fathers were the original anatomical activists – believing what matters is the commonality of anatomy, not the differences. Appealing to commonality has continued in the fight for women’s rights, civil rights, and disability rights.

14. What Doctors Can Learn from Each Other – Stefan Larsson

October 2013


“With this focus on cost-cutting,” asks healthcare advocate Stefan Larsson, “are we forgetting the patient?” The agents of change are the doctors and nurses in the healthcare system. He discusses how transparency in healthcare (physicians sharing data) creates a cycle of continuous improvement. By focusing on quality – outcomes that matter to patients – we can bring about a revolution in healthcare.

15. Medicine’s Future? There’s an App for That – Daniel Kraft

April 2011


Physician and scientist Daniel Kraft talks about the trend in medicine to become exponentially faster, smaller, cheaper, and better. He focuses on the integration of exponential technologies and packs his talk with information on new tools, tests, and apps that will enable us to empower the patient, enable the doctor, enhance wellness, and begin to cure the well before they get sick.