As a Platform to Share Ideas, Pre-med Students Organize TEDx Event

Isha Akolia and Priya Modi focused on interdisciplinary communication and redefining possible.

From breaking the stigma surrounding mental health in Asian Americans to exploring machine learning as a tool to aid designers, the second TEDx JeffersonU provided a platform for members of the University community and beyond to share ideas.

Organized by pre-medical studies students Isha Akolia and Priya Modi, the May 6 event centered on the theme “Redefine Possible.” The pair focused on how people can achieve great things within the constraints of a given set of circumstances.

“Each speaker shared a unique perspective of what they’ve redefined as possible and made connections between multiple branches of knowledge,” Akolia says.

Broadening Perspectives
As pre-med students, Akolia and Modi wanted to avoid tunnel vision and sought to integrate perspectives within the program from fields outside of medicine, including architecture, the arts and more.

Scenes from TedX
Pre-med students Isha Akolia and Priya Modi spent a year planning Jefferson’s TEDx, which attracted thought leaders from the University and beyond. (Photos/Robert Neroni)

For example, human resources executive Joey Price spoke on workplace collaboration, life coach Kwangsoo Kim discussed finding meaning in the service of others and recent law and society graduate Taylor Matulis shared how to build confidence and growth by making hard choices.

“Even the physicians who spoke had ideas that crossed disciplines,” Modi says. “Noted alumnus Dr. Mahesh Krishnan talked about burnout, which is a concept that can apply to many fields of study.”

In addition, Jefferson alumnus and surgeon Dr. Philip Ovadia, who lost nearly 100 pounds, offered advice on healthy living and how to avoid heart surgery, and MD/MPH student Young Sheng spoke on the untapped powers within health economics.

Scenes from TedX
Jefferson alumnus Dr. Mahesh Krishnan delivered the talk, “The Future Is Curvy: Using 5-Year S Curves to Grow and Succeed,” at the May 6 event in Connelly Auditorium.

“We both enjoy TED Talks, and we believe the keys to making real progress in the world are breaking down barriers and embracing interdisciplinary collaboration,” Akolia says. “TEDx has taught us that ideas can change the world and that we’re all part of a global community of curious, creative and compassionate thinkers.”

Supporting Student Goals
Over the year-long planning process, Akolia and Modi received support from University administration, including Dean of Students Dr. Henry Humphreys, who served as their adviser. Plus, they became close with the speakers during the prep.

“It was great learning about the speakers and hearing their stories,” Akolia says. “Now, they’re familiar faces that we can contact if we ever need anything.”

Scenes from TedX
Architecture alumna Callie Collins discussed machine learning as a tool to aid designers. The TEDx signage on stage was constructed by Drake Schaefer, College of Architecture and the Built Environment resource manager, and Norm Engel, MS in construction management student.

The event itself went on without a hitch. “We couldn’t have asked for a better experience,” Modi says. “Watching that first talk with the lighting, cameras and TEDx letters in place felt surreal. All the speakers were amazing, and the audience was so receptive. Our hard work really paid off.”

TEDx Takeaways
Planning a large-scale event allowed Akolia and Modi to learn more about the power of communication and follow their gut to champion their vision for the event. It also allowed them to flex their leadership muscles.

“We had to learn how to delegate tasks and create a timetable of what we needed to get done weekly,” Akolia says. “We also depended on our perseverance and motivation when little things went wrong, along with balancing school and other extracurriculars.”

Scenes from TedX
Isha Akolia and Priya Modi with the speakers. “TEDx has taught us that ideas can change the world and that we’re all part of a global community of curious, creative and compassionate thinkers,” Akolia says.

The experience of planning a TEDx event will no doubt help both students in their future careers.

“Leadership is a beneficial quality to have in medicine,” Modi says. “You have to practice patience and trust your intuition and knowledge when no one is telling you what to do. Time management also is very important.”

Akolia adds, “Medicine is a field that requires collaboration, and we definitely got to practice our collaborative skills while planning this event.”

See more scenes from TEDx JeffersonU below.

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