Chancellor at TEDMED: Empowering Patients as Partners in Care

By Louise Chu

In a digital age when people have greater access to health information than ever before, physicians can leverage that patient empowerment to improve the care they provide.

Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH

UC San Francisco Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, will share that perspective with TEDMED audiences this week, drawing from her experiences as a practicing oncologist who’s now at the forefront of a growing movement to empower patients through digital health initiatives and precision medicine, which aims to cross-reference a patient’s health data with a global network of knowledge to deliver more targeted care. Her 15-minute talk on Thursday, April 18, is titled “Attention Stressed-Out Docs: Can the Consumer Be The ‘Cavalry’ that Rescues You?”

“I am very interested in and motivated by the opportunity to increase participation by patients and consumers in health care,” Desmond-Hellmann says. “As co-chair of the recent precision medicine report, I am passionate about bringing together scientific breakthroughs and clinical care and feel this major shift in the way we think about health will not happen without the full engagement and power of patients.”

The chancellor will join more than 60 other speakers at TEDMED, an innovative speaker series aimed at tackling challenges to create a better future in health and medicine. This year’s event takes place April 16 through 19 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. for a sold-out crowd of 1,800 as well as a global audience of more than 100,000 watching live online.

A spinoff of the widely popular TED conferences, TEDMED features preeminent leaders in health, medicine, science, technology, business, government, academia, media and the arts delivering short, engaging talks in a departure from traditional podium speeches.

Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann says this TED talk by Eric Dishman was one that inspired her when preparing her own appearance at TEDMED this week. Dishman, general manager of Intel's Health Strategy & Solutions Group, delivered the talk, titled "Health Care Should Be a Team Sport," at last month's [email protected]

In preparing her talk, Desmond-Hellmann says she focused on what she defined as core principles for effective TED talks: speaking about something you care about deeply, being genuine and keeping it simple.

“I’m a huge fan of TED talks and their ability to make big concepts relatable and personal for audiences,” she says. “TEDMED is a wonderful opportunity to engage audiences in a new way, to step away from the podium and talk about exciting changes in the practice of medicine.”

TEDMED talks will be streamed live at

UCSF is hosting the live stream of Session 6, which includes the chancellor’s talk, at two campus locations: Cole Hall at Parnassus, and the Helen Diller Family Cancer Research Building at Mission Bay. The session, highlighting health care access, also will feature talks by Roni Zeiger, CEO of Smart Patients; Ramesh Raskar, associate professor at MIT Media Lab; Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation; Larry Brilliant, president and CEO of Skoll Global Threats Fund; and a performance by the Washington Conservatory of Music.

Photo by Susan Merrell


Watch Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann’s TEDMED talk, “Attention Stressed-Out Docs: Can the Consumer Be The 'Cavalry' that Rescues You?” live at two campus locations.

8 a.m. – 9:45 a.m.
Thursday, April 18

Cole Hall
513 Parnassus Ave
Parnassus campus

Helen Diller Family Cancer Research Building, Room 160
1450 3rd Street
Mission Bay campus