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5 Genius Ideas We Heard at TEDxBedminster


Richie Etwaru, the TedxBedminster organizer, opens up the event with a brief talk. All photos provided by Etwaru.

The healthcare industry can feel like an echo chamber, which is why Richie Etwaru, the man behind TEDxBedminster, is on a mission to ignite conversations, debate controversies and unlock the genius.

On September 10, 2014, TEDxBedminster convened in Bedminster, New Jersey, bringing together leading thinkers from the healthcare, marketing, culinary and music industries in an effort to cross-pollinate ideas and innovations. “I think that is the beauty of TEDx,” Etwaru said. “It empowers you intellectually so precisely that no matter what industry you are from, it feels like every speaker is talking directly to you.”

In an industry saturated by clones of similar conferences, TEDxBedminster was a refreshing change, welcoming disruptive thinking. During the high-energy evening, we learned about everything from social media to preventative medicine, but here are five of the most note-worthy (and funky fantastic) ideas we heard:

1. The Prevention Game: Michael DePalma, a proponent of The Human API – a health data integration service hoping to evangelize and articulate the future of preventative healthcare– believes that healthcare needs to emulate a car. You read that right – a car. Why? Cars communicate within themselves and warn us about issues through the “check-engine” light; similarly, DePalma says that the future of healthcare is in prevention rather than in solving problems. “There is tremendous information you can gather from a single heartbeat,” he said. The technology is already there; now it’s about taking the data and applying clarity and context.

2. The Millennial Hope: Speakers Sameer Sood and Dylan Gaus may be under the age of 25, but their understanding of the complexities of healthcare is anything but neophytic. Sood, who is currently in medical school, has experienced first-hand doctors becoming jaded by outdated systems. Similarly, Gaus noted that young innovators are retracting from the field because of regulations. During their talks, they urged healthcare professionals to embrace and foster an environment of innovation to successfully entice and retain future healthcare leaders. The activist generation has arrived.

3. Genius Touch Points: John Nosta believes in an infinite human capacity for thought. “Genius is our birthright and mediocrity is self-imposed,” he said, revealing his formula for tapping into our genius buds and urging fledging entrepreneurs to nurture their “aha moments.” According to Nosta, the signs of genius thinking include an abyss of time, spontaneous illumination, intuitions and being in the moment. Too often entrepreneurs fail to self-invest in their genius “aha moments” and their potential for success fizzles.

4. Social Media with a Cause: Social media continues to be a taboo in the highly regulated silo of pharma, but that doesn’t prevent Celine Schillinger from recognizing social media’s potential for disease management. Schillinger, who leads the Dengue Stakeholder Engagement for Sanofi Pasteur, spoke about her globally successful “Break Dengue” campaign. The initiative took to Twitter, creating a social media platform where the global public could engage and where institutions could actively listen to their stakeholders. “It worked because it created disruption, and moved from territorialize to network thinking,” Schillinger said. The campaign has won numerous accolades, including Shorty Awards for Best Use of Social Media in Healthcare. Tweet tweet.

 5. A Personal and Empirical Take on Cancer: Derek Fitzgerald shared his personal journey and embodied resilience. Fitzgerald is the world’s only cancer survivor and heart transplant recipient to finish an IRONMAN triathlon. In contrast to this personal discussion of cancer, Dr. William Loging (a leading genomic researcher) spoke about his hope of curing cancer. Both Loging and Fitzgerald approached cancer from different perspectives, combining their expertise to push towards a universal purpose to defeat cancer. Because cancer is both personally devastating and research-oriented, we even found ourselves feeling hopeful about a cancer cure after their talk.


TEDxBedminster sold out months before the actual event.

The speakers and attendees of TEDxBedminster came from different spheres and professions, woven together by their mutual desire for breaking the echo chamber. “Everything we did was common sense, it just needed doing,” Etwaru said after the event. “We have some of the brightest minds in the life sciences industry living in isolation. TEDxBedminster is an attempt at reconditioning this through intellectual collusion.”

Shreya Iyer

Shreya Iyer

    Shreya specializes in health communications and is a copywriter for an advertising agency. She was previously at Bayer Healthcare, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide

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