A few weeks before attending Stanford Medicine X (#MedX) 2015, I wrote down my thoughts about life in the “Before #MedX” stage. I knew that this experience would be life-changing, inspiring, and empowering, but if I multiplied those factors by a billion, I still would have underestimated just how powerful the #MedX experience was for those of us who were so blessed to be there.
We talk and tweet a lot about the big moments at #MedX: when Cyrena Gawuga brought the crowd to our feet during her Ignite! talk, which chronicled her personal growth in the face of what previously seemed like a failure; when Abby Norman carried us through the whole spectrum of feelings- from hysterical laughter at her wit and humor to blinking back tears in awe of her journey to get properly-diagnosed with endometriosis and appendicitis; when Julie Flygare illustrated that anything is possible despite narcolepsy; when we marveled at the strength and determination of Emily Kramer-Golinkoff, who is improving the lives of those with cystic fibrosis as they race against time (side note: I was totally “fangirling!”); or when Ben Bahan taught us that he can communicate and listen (and do so with a sense of humor that rivals Amy Schumer’s!) despite being deaf.
All of those moments were just- Wow. My fingers couldn’t tweet the powerful one-liners fast enough. Every sentence spoken was just that darn spellbinding.
As much as #MedX completely renews your sense of purpose and advocacy with the big headliner stories, it also reinforces those concepts in the little, behind-the-scenes moments.
I received support from #MedX before I even stepped foot on the Stanford campus. When a good friend’s child was diagnosed with a serious condition recently, I sought advice on what to say and what not to say (from a 2015 ePatient who I will not name here to respect my friend’s privacy; ePatient, you know who you are- thank you). The #MedX advisory board and administrative staff made sure that all of the i’s were dotted and the t’s were crossed to ensure a pleasant experience for conference attendees. #MedX alums were always available to yield my rookie questions at all hours of the night. At the ePatient dinner, our hearts overflowed with compassion and respect for one another. The list of human goodwill goes on and on when it comes to Medicine X.
From a diabetic online community (#doc) standpoint, I enjoyed talking about the highs and the lows with Chris Snider, Amy Tenderich of Diabetes Mine, Sophie Thacher, Meredith Hurston, and Dana Lewis- who carried her (artificial) pancreas in her purse, which automatically ranks her pretty darn high in my book of praise! It was refreshing for me to be around people who understood without me having to really say anything, who could swap campfire tales of funny diabetes moments, and who were so passionate about our #doc advocacy endeavors.
The #MedX workshops were particularly informative and interactive. Dr. Bonnie Feldman enthralled us with her autoimmune disease research, and we pledged to keep in touch and work hard to crack the autoimmune code as a community. My good friend and fellow ePatient, Danielle Edges, held a workshop on eHealth in pediatrics, which featured her family’s brave story of caring for a daughter with a congenital heart defect called heterotaxy and another daughter who is secondarily impacted by having a sibling with a chronic condition. It was so uplifting to witness this Mom, who would go to the ends of the earth to help her family, whose humor remained intact in the face of challenging circumstances, and whose loyalty and friendship is beyond measure.
#MedX is renowned for bringing together the various participants in the realm of healthcare. We hear the term “Big Pharma” thrown around quite often online. But I can assure you that the pharmaceutical representation at #MedX was laser-focused on getting the little details right and connecting with the patients whom they serve. I was asked, “What can we do for you? What message do you want us to hear from your patient perspective?” I was so humbled by their willingness to listen and their desire to drive innovation.
There were also the little moments at the Sheraton pool, where ePatients and other #MedX attendees dined after the day of conference events concluded. Nisha Pradhan’s passions for advancing anosmia research and providing an empathetic medical experience were contagious. Britta Bloomquist taught me about life in northern Minnesota and juggling Lyme disease and ankylosing spondylitis. Kristin Coppens was an example of grace and determination while managing multiple chronic conditions.
Natalie Abbott and her service dog, Cassius, educated us on Moebius syndrome, a rare disease only diagnosed in 1,000 patients thus far. Natalie and Cassius were the epitome of a good team; they worked together seamlessly, never complaining. I gained perspective that I must admit I very much needed by watching Natalie and Cassius together: Moebius syndrome is a passenger along for the ride in Natalie’s very-accomplished life, not the other way around. We can apply that same lesson to every sort of adversity in life. Thank you for inspiring me so much, Natalie and Cassius!
There are so many other big and little moments from #MedX which I would love to highlight, but the truth is that I could write a novella about how great each individual who attended is. I would like those reading this blog to know that #MedX is a phenomenal experience because of the positive, enthusiastic, dare-to-dream-big nature of its attendees. We are without a doubt going to change healthcare for the better. Heck, we already have, and we’re just getting started.
The best way to summarize what #MedX means to me is to leave you with a story. (We really like stories at #MedX!):
I woke up having some concerning diabetes issues on the first day of my #MedX experience, the pre-conference Healthcare Innovation Summit event. To be honest, I felt quite ill. My mother convinced me to take the shuttle to the conference location. There would be plenty of healthcare geniuses around if I needed assistance, she advised. How very, very true.
As the day went on and I took many insulin injections, my diabetes situation began to improve. The group disbanded for an afternoon coffee break, and I walked to a bench in the shade of the Stanford campus. Eventually, a professionally-clad woman sat down on the neighboring bench.
“This shade is so welcome,” she noted.
“Absolutely, and it’s nice and quiet here- a good opportunity to take a breather,” I replied.
And so we chatted. She was at #MedX representing her healthcare company’s new technological product. Her excitement for the tech’s potential to improve lives was palpable, and it was clear she loved her work.
“Can you explain to me what an ePatient is?” she asked.
“We’re all here to advocate for our respective causes. We believe wholeheartedly in improving healthcare, in humanizing the story.”
“Is diabetes… hard? As in, does it impact you a lot?” she asked tentatively.
“Sometimes…,” I admitted. “We fight hard for our health every day. But we believe in a brighter future. Isn’t that why we’re all here to begin with?”
And with that we walked back towards the conference hall, two people on different sides of the healthcare equation, united by a common ambition to help others.
That’s what #MedX is all about. It was my greatest honor to attend this year, and I would like to sincerely thank everyone at Medicine X for sharing their perspectives. Keep doing big (and meaningful little) things.
Disclosure: I attended #MedX on a partial scholarship as an ePatient delegate. Opinions expressed here are strictly my own.
^ With the world-famous #MedX mascot, Zoe Chu! ^ Excited for #MedX!