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Organizers Bring TEDMed To Kansas City With Focus On Parkinson's

hahatango/Flickr--Creative Commons

This week, upwards of 1,000 medical professionals and thought leaders are converging on the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. for the third annual TEDMed summit. It’s a spin-off of TED - short for Technology, Entertainment, Design – which features talks and performances from the group’s biannual conferences centering around the general theme of “ideas worth spreading.” 

This year’s TEDMed topics range from the challenges of treating brain diseases to the importance of design in the health care industry.

But for those who aren’t at the conference, there are independently organized events aimed at localizing the conversations, via simulcasting the big TED talks and featuring local guests. TEDMed reports that this year’s conference is being simulcast at events in 81 countries.

Kansas City recently joined that map, with an event scheduled for tonight at the Alamo Drafthouse.

“Our long term goal is to do this every year and have a different theme every year,” organizer Trevor Nohe tells KCUR. “Let’s say it’s ALS or Alzheimer’s. Our goal is to continue with the overall TED mission of spreading ideas that matter, spreading awareness and raising funds for local disease research.”

Speakers to focus on Parkinson’s disease

Along with airing a talk from the big TEDMed conference, Nohe says tonight’s event will feature three locally-based Parkinson’s disease experts: Dr. Rejesh Pahwa and Dr. Kelly Lyons from the University of Kansas Medical Center, and Jan Parkinson (yes, that's really his last name) from the National Parkinson Foundation.

"The goal is to provide a human element of what it’s like to live with Parkinson’s,” Nohe says of Parkinson, a lifetime Kansas Citian and former Hallmark employee, whose talk will focus on how you fight a battle you know you can't win.

As one of the first doctors to successfully perform deep brain stimulation surgery, Dr. Pahwa will talk about therapies for Parkinson’s, Nohe tells KCUR.  Dr. Lyons will focus on the challenges of identifying the disease sooner. Symptoms visibly manifest in the form of defective motor functions.

How it came about

Neither Nohe nor the other two organizers have any medical background, but they’re all big fans of TEDMed talks.  So last spring, the three decided to apply to host a local event.

“It’s a pretty autonomous event. We, as in me and my co curators picked the speakers,” Nohe explains of how the process works.  

So why the Parkinson’s theme?

Nohe says it was a natural fit for the first event. The disease hits close to home for him and another organizers’ family.

“My grandfather has always been a very close friend and mentor of mine, and he passed away last winter over Parkinson’s disease,” says Nohe. “This has been, in some way, in honor of him as well.”

Like the D.C. event, tonight’s TEDMed talks will be recorded. Nohe hopes to make them available online in the next few weeks. He’ll also be sending them to the larger TEDMed organization.

“One of the neat things about submitting the talks is that they review them all," says Nohe. "Then speakers have the opportunity, if chosen, to speak at the TEDMed conference next year.”

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