A doctor reflects on his TED talk

I had performed this procedure dozens of times before. It was routine. I stand under the bright lights, I take a deep breath, I wait for my hands to stop shaking, and then, I begin.

This time was different, though. The lights were blinding, there were lots of people watching, and there were TV cameras. Oh, and the guy performing before me was a Grammy winner. This was one of many talks I’ve given, but this was different because it was my first TEDx talk.

TEDx is a spin-off of the popular TED talks series. Both provide a stage for anyone with a good story and a good voice. We doctors have a great story, and I was honored to tell it.

Medicine has changed enormously in the last decade. Knowledge that previously only we had is now freely available to anyone. Technologies that enabled us to be successful diagnosticians are now rendering us redundant. Minimally skilled health care workers use simple tests to diagnose diseases that once only skilled physicians would get correct. Newly empowered patients armed with their data now tell us what treatments they want. Consumers now purchase their own medical lasers, use their own EKGs, and even check their own DNA with their personal PCRs.

Does this mean we’re in the worst of times or the best of times? Neither. But the old model of the physician as the lone hero who meets all patients’ needs is outdated — it’s time to re-invent ourselves. Doctors need to learn to work as teams, think like designers, tell stories, and facilitate rather than provide healthcare. These will be consummate skills of the successful modern physician.

You needn’t worry though; as you’ll see in my talk, we doctors have reinvented ourselves many times before. It wasn’t always pretty, but it was always successful. Enjoy.

Jeff Benabio is a dermatologist at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego. He blogs at The Derm Blog and can be found @Dermdoc on Twitter.

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