I feel so much gratitude every day. I feel it for near cliche reasons (my sweet babies, good health, shelter, opportunity to make change, perspective that seeing the world has afforded me, and the freedom we have living here in a democratic society). Sometimes gratitude overwhelms me. And unsurprisingly that’s typically true on the most challenging days of life; I don’t see and feel and smell my gratitude on the easy days as well as I do on the days when life taxes and feels uncertain. I sense the gratitude housed in me most when I’m leaning on those around me, when I cry or when I’m worried or lack control in a situation. And the reason is this: my gratitude is greatest for the people in my life and seems to swell when I feel a sense of belonging. For being alive, for being a part of something greater than myself, and for the luxury of being suspended, taught, and caught just in time by the net of those who have me. Who trust in me and in themselves that we have the courage to live with intention, compassion, and empathy and that we can dent the universe. Supportive communities change everything…
My work here at Seattle Children’s in building digital tools, partnering in the design of curriculum created by patients, and nurturing parent-to-parent support with digital technology is influenced wildly by my net of community, my witness to suffering, and of course, my own experiences of when communication fails in the health space.
Like a lot of people, I feel I have the most incredible friends and I do feel I have the most supportive community of co-workers, patients, colleagues, advisors, and entrepreneurs who nurture in me an ongoing will to keep trying out new things in the health space. Most of the people in my community and on “my team” are as passionate and desperate to see change as I am…
We all have a team. Most of us have multiple, of course. Sometimes we define team with our families, a group at work solving a unifying problem, or by the outlines of communities from childhood or other stages in life. Social networks have woven some of these teams into daily networks we historically couldn’t have had. Thank goodness that with networks, texts, social channels, cellular phones, and other intuitive technology we typically never have to be far from those who surround us.
My good friend Susannah Fox is the one who long ago said, “Community is Your Superpower.” She began to proclaim this after fastidious work to understand and describe some of early research in peer-to-peer health care while doing research at Pew Research Center and now works in government to serve patients around this country at large. But her point and her wisdom extends to every corner of of our lives. The wild power that comes from insight and expertise from those who are like us. Not just emotionally but with information, resource, and tactics to solve life’s vexing problems, together.
I mention all this because tomorrow around 4am I’m leaving my family in the dark to head to the airport to attend the Medicine X conference in Palo Alto. I’m joining dear friends, expert patients, entrepreneurs, nurses, executives, physicians, and artists as we gather to examine the opportunity of emerging technology to enhance our lives, solve health problems, hone solutions, and inspire diligence to making health care better. At Medicine X the patient voice is louder than at any other medical conference I’ve attended around the world. But more than anything as I ready to attend, I think of my visit as a return to a web of people and ideas that pour fuel into the center of me to keep thinking of ways to make change faster.
Medicine X has, bar none, been the conference that has most influenced my career. I typically share with others the notion that each fall I return to Stanford University and get spiritual fueling to keep chipping away at health care and communication challenges at home. What I learn and what I feel while there stays with me all year — and changes what I do in work and how I support patients and families I care for. In years past I’ve been afforded the opportunity to speak at Med X, to lead master classes and to participate in panels. This year I’m joining a panel on “the human side of technology” but will be mainly listening and absorbing the lessons from others. I’m on the edge of my seat to finally meet a few colleagues and friends I’ve to the point only known online. Highlights include a panel I’ll arrive in time for about disparities, adversities and hope tomorrow morning (including Dr Lucy Kalanithi who wrote the stunning epilogue in When Breath Becomes Air), more than a dozen short “ignite talks” from patients solving their health problems in unique ways (including my anticipation in hearing Dilan Barmache on precision medicine, Liz Salmi on compassionate care, talks on parents and partnership & a “focus on what we have rather than what we need” with Erin Moore, redesign of maternity and early child health with Jody Lin and Victoria Woo and so many more), and keynote addresses and panels from global experts. There are masterclasses with renounced journalists and talks on patient technologists. I mean I can go on and on and on.
The schedule is impressive. But like most experiences in life my thrill for attending isn’t about the didactics, it’s about the people and relationships. The sense there are those who help us, have our back, but also that there are those equally fired up to make change that contribute to our understanding in ways previously unimaginable. I have so much to learn and have so far experienced Medicine X as some of the most concentrated. I’m so thankful for this packed time and also all the ongoing learning online between annual get-togethers at #MedX. The conference is live-streamed and uses the #medx hashtag on twitter. So akin to the umbrella philosophy, everyone can be included and you can peer in over the weekend whenever you’d like.
The list is too long to rattle off but from the top of my head just this moment let me say clearly: Joyce, Nick, Michael, Bryan, Claudia, Pam, Susannah, Margaret, Colleen, Roni, Larry, Emily, Alex, Jodi, John, Charles, Helen, Dana, Liz, Fred and all those I will get to listen to and ALL THOSE I WILL GET TO MEET I just cannot wait to see you. Thank you so much for including me and for showing up in California this weekend to share what you know and how you see the world.