Compassion, Innovation, and Empathy in Action
Posted by: Quinne Fokes
Wrapping up our coverage of the May 20th 2014 Health Technology Forum Innovation Conference – pathways to sustainable health, we report on a session titled Compassion, Innovation, and Empathy in Action.
The panel was moderated by Kunal Sood, who has served as a Clinical Associate at Chennai Kaliappa Hospital in India where he provided behavioral change and lifestyle modification counseling to underserved patients. Joining Sood were Dr. James Doty, a Stanford surgeon who has researched the role of compassion in healthcare, Jon Ramer, Executive Director of the Compassion Action Network and Lakshmi Pratury, host of The Ink Conference.
This discussion was by far the most compelling of those I attended. Having grown up in a family of medical professionals my perspective may be a bit different from many in the technology field today. James Doty, founder, The Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, our first speaker, encapsulates my sentiments exactly, “All the technology in the world won’t hold the hand of a dying person or a person in pain.”
Consider the facts presented: we have the highest infant mortality and the lowest longevity of any industrialized nation. We could solve 80-90 per cent of our problems with a library card, by addressing wrong diet, exercise and smoking. Changing people’s minds, though, is a most difficult task, especially with a broken system in which we’re looking at diseases, not health.
We need to look at how compassion and mindfulness, which are free, affect health. The way to change people’s minds is by changing their hearts, not through brute force nor by simply providing information. Unfortunately there is no sticky app for mindfulness. Self-actualization, social involvement and basic, healthy habits are what’s going to make a difference in the health and well being of people, along with compassion and empathy, these last two would lead to an end of thinking of ourselves as “us” and “them.” We are all here together.
Kunal Sood presented two heart-warming stories of loss and failure, and reminded us, “Technology just goes out the window when people have no water.” Despite his extensive training and background, in order to effectively help the underserved he he realized his first task was to learn to listen to the community he intended to help. If you live with compassion and empathy, embrace innovation and follow your heart “you will have lived a full life,” he reminds us.
Lakshmi Pratury spoke to compassion and success, learning and teaching that the “most important part of the body is the shoulder.” After years of success with her studies in school, failure at university caused her to pause, think about what she really liked and change the direction of her studies and her life from math to management . Since people who are making a difference may not yet be able to tell their own stories, she works at empowering them to do so via inktalks.com, noting, “If you give people the platform, they will succeed.”
Inspired by the Dalai Lama’s Seeds of Compassion event and Karin’s Ted Wish to implement globally the golden rule Jon Ramer started the Compassion Network. This in turn led to the Charter of Compassion, with Seattle as the first city to affirm the charter. Even though being a compassionate city is “inherently uncomfortable, “cities now compete to be the “most compassionate” city at the annual Compassion Games. Stay tuned to witness and participate in this innovative format for “competitive altruism” this September 11th-21st.
Out of pain and failure we create our best offerings. These four professionals certainly have; listen, watch and find out how you, too, can make your world a better place through compassion, empathy and innovation.