TEDMED Changing How Doctors Approach Curing Patients

Curing Patients can be improved by changing how Doctors think

Changing how doctors approach their job of curing patients is never going to be an easy job. That is part of why this talk at TEDMED 2014 in Washington D.C. by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz is brave, to say the least. She has something important to say and it potentially tweaks the nose of an entire – and very articulate – profession: Doctors. And she is giving the talk for the benefit of people like you and me.

Like Ramanan Laxminarayan (who wants Doctors to prescribe antibiotics less frequently and industry to stop using antibiotics for profit) Barbara wants to change how doctors approach the cure of patients. It is a big idea.

Learning from this TEDMED talk

Although she uses reasonably accessible language and has a few (!) brilliant slides that help make her point, Barbara uses both insider medical jargon and humour to disarm and help persuade her Doctor audience. This reinforces the fact that she is “one of them” and bolsters her credibility and authority to speak on this common sense approach – which might well be negatively perceived as “radical” amongst the profession.



She doesn’t move around much and her clothes are classy, understated and don’t distract. The focus of the audience should be on her message and the occasional slides that she uses to underpin and illustrate her message.

If you want to be radical and change things, you have to sound and act normal, conformist and disarming. If you sound radical, abnormal and aggressive you will usually alienate the very people you are trying to convince. Some people may agree with you. But they are the other nutters of your cause, so they would, wouldn’t they? Wars are started by radical language – genuine ongoing changing of minds, hearts and behaviour is done through persuasion. And to persuade you need to have ‘permission to speak’ before your audience will listen to you in the first place. This talk is a great example of this being done well.

One of the glorious things about working at TEDMED,  is that the TEDMED speakers are giving talks for a bigger purpose. A purpose that, by definition, helps our benefits people. They are “selling” ideas in the best principles of TED.com – “Ideas worth spreading.”

It is not surprising that this talk was rapidly promoted to TED.com and that it has had over 1.3 million views in less than a year. This reinforces the power and reach of being able to speak at a TEDMED conference and do well. I hope you enjoy it. You or your friends or family may well benefit from it in the future.


I have worked with speakers on talks that have ended on TEDx, TEDMED and TED stages and I am also a TEDMED SpeakerCoach. If you have an “idea worth spreading” give me a call and we can discuss how I can help you maximise the impact of your talk.

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