18 minutes of medical miracle
TEDxEonjuro set out to unveil inspirations in Korean healthcare
By Noh Hyun-gi
Tears broke among the audience as a violinist started playing a variation of “Arirang” at Gangnam Severance Hospital in April.
What tugged the heartstrings of the audience was not just the sorrowful melody of one of Korea’s best-known traditional tunes.
It was the violinist, Park Ji-hae, a genius for whom the University of Maintz in Germany changed its minimum student age to recruit her when she was 14 years old.
More exactly, it was her fight against a sudden bout of depression that forced her to stop her studies and move back to Korea in 2005.
The 26-year-old fought her illness with what she could do best — becoming a roving performer. Arirang is one of her favorites.
And the 100 people in the audience were ready to empathize with Park, as she shared her experience on stage.
Park was the last of six speakers at the TEDxEonjuro event at the hospital, on April 28.
TEDx are independent conferences that licensed by TED, a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas. Short for Technology, Entertainment, Design, it hosts the world famous conferences including two annual conferences in Long Beach and Palm Springs and TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh UK.
Speakers are asked to give life-changing talks in less than 18 minutes. Some 100 gatherings in Korea exist including TEDxSeoul, MyeongDong, and HanGang. Named after the street of the hospital, the symposium is the second health-focused one after TEDxMaastricht in the Netherlands.
“Medicine can touch people’s hearts,” said Kim Seijoon, the director. The radiation therapist worked with 11 employees of Yonsei University’s hospital and 10 volunteers for the first conference titled “We All Together: MED and You.” The video recording is for release next week.
Park was not the only tearjerker. Shin Hyung-jin, the “Stephen Hawking of Yonsei University,” appeared on the stage in his mobile bed and talked about his daily life using a speech generating device. Shin suffers from spinal muscular atrophy. The incurable genetic disease prevents proper muscle functions. Against all odds, Shin graduated from college in nine years and is pursuing graduate studies. He urged the audience to appreciate every breathing second of life.
“We want to show people that the field of medicine is not limited to diseases and drugs. It has many interesting stories,” said Kim.
Also well-received was Jang Dong-su’s lecture. The medical illustrator draws parts of the human body and medical procedures for pamphlets, medical journals, and smart phone applications.
Though less well-known, his job is crucial to spreading new ideas in medicine. “To create a high-quality product, the doctor and the artist must be in a horizontal, equal relationship,” said Jang during his speech.
Putting this together was a challenge. The license application process alone took four months. The permission, awarded to Lee Ik-jae, an assistant professor at Ration Oncology Department at Severance Hopstial, has to be renewed annually.
The headquarters reviews the list of guest lecturers and has rules on stage set-up, and video editing.
“Currently, we can invite up to 100 people in the audience. To host a 500-seat talk, Lee has to travel to Long beach and attend one of the original conferences and receive training,” explained Kim. Also, the event can’t introduce high-end medical technology as it is considered commercial.
The organizers coach each speaker though a number of rehearsals, constantly revising the transcript and presentation slides. “The goal is to move the audience.”
“I have to have a hands-on approach with every detail but it’s truly rewarding,” said Kim. Lee and Kim decided to launch the TEDx for healthcare issues based on their experience hosting social media gatherings called Yeon-in at the hospital.
“We formed a group of 500 people actively using Twitter, Facebook, and other outlets to discuss medical topics. One of our activities was to host lectures by professionals outside our work, very similar to TED. We wanted a platform to share the ideas,” he said.
Though most large hospitals and clinics hold discussions regularly, the topics are often disease- or technology-specific, and the audience limited to professionals and patients.
The second symposium is set for March 8, 2013. “We were very content and confident with the first program. Now the pressure is on to make the next one as inspiring.”
Kim’s team hopes to unveil hidden heroes of Korean medicine such as those dedicated to healthcare in North Korea and participants of Doctors Without Borders.
As it is a nonprofit program, Kim relies on volunteers. “We did everything including designing the brochure.” Kim’s team boasts a colorful background. A student from an international middle school drafted the English subtitles for the clips. “We dream about presenting 10 more conferences, at least.”
For more information and videos of the April symposium, visit www.tedxeonjuro.com.