THE BLOG
04/15/2013 09:38 am ET Updated Jun 15, 2013

Drawing Inspiration From TEDMED's 'GroupInspire'

Ah, TEDMED, you expensive but addictive drug. I just can't get enough of you. Can it have been a whole year since that golden ticket slipped through my letterbox, admitting me, albeit for just one morning, to your exclusive world of inspiration and innovation?

You may recall my elaborate efforts last year to secure a scholarship to this annual hip and exclusive medical jamboree for cool, rich health nerds. I was eventually rewarded with a single day's pass to the sacred hall of TEDMED one glorious April morning. I arrived full of anticipation tempered by cynicism (the tickets cost around $5k -- how good could it possibly be?), and left that evening full of genuine inspiration.

But it wasn't the sort of inspiration I'd expected. The speakers had certainly inspired me to an extent (and you too can be similarly inspired by watching the online videos for free), but the $5k wasn't paying for that. I realized that what that $5k really buys is "GroupInspire" -- a phenomenon where TEDMED casts a spell over its shining-eyed delegates, making them believe that they are very, very special and innovative, and together, they are all on the very brink of changing the world. Joining the party late last time meant I could observe this phenomenon objectively, before it started to infect me too, and I got carried away with all the potential in the room to transform health care. I didn't want to leave; I wanted more.

And so, this year I began the scholarship hunt again. But alas, I didn't make the cut (most seem to go to founders of health start ups, people who work in health through quirky sectors, some overseas doctors, an occasional medical student, and anyone whose Twitter page features the word "innovation" or the letter "e" in front of anything. (Not that I'm bitter...) The GroupInspire door was thus slammed in my face. "You're not special at all," it seemed to mock.

But, never to be foiled by innovative deficiencies in my own eBiography, I am delighted to report that once again, I've squeezed in through an alternative route. Last year I sat back and listened to talks and stealthily stocked up on healthy snacks while I watched the GroupInspired delegates work the breaks. This year there will be no such leisure, for I will be... a TEDMED Graphic Facilitator. Truth be told, until now graphic facilitation has not been on my resume. But I am weirdly fascinated by the concept. I am, after all, a veteran of drawing personal birthday cards for my family, doodling cross sections of kidneys while I talk on the telephone, and making notes in cartoon format for the more deadly of my undergraduate statistics lectures (not to mention once creating 70 individualized elaborate cartoon wedding favors). But outside of the professional cartoonist world, I hadn't realized that doodling could be a job. Could it be my calling? At any rate, it will get me into the last day of TEDMED while teaching me an intriguing new skill and hopefully usefully recording some of the output of that TEDMED GroupInspire on paper. Fantastic.

So as the TEDMED-branded buses trundle into town, as the TEDMED-branded delegates converge on the Kennedy Center, and as the TEDMED-branded GroupInspire washes over the crowd, I will grip my drawing pen and wonder: Can GroupInspire strike twice? Come on, TEDMED. Hit me.

If you're not one of the chosen few, you can still watch TEDMED live April 16-19. Details here .

For more health news, click here.

For more by Dr Layla McCay, click here.