I’m an OBGYN and I practice at a jail, where I take care of incarcerated women.
People often ask me, how did you come to work with incarcerated women? I was in the middle of my first year residency, delivering a baby. Everything was very familiar about the delivery scene; the nervousness, wondering if everything was going to be okay, helping the woman to push. But the one thing that was different is that she was shackled to the bed; she was a prisoner. And that moment troubled me so deeply that I developed an interest in learning more about these women.
Women make up a much smaller proportion of the correctional population than men — about 9% of everyone who is incarcerated. And 62% of [those] women are mothers to children who are less than 18 years old. Because women comprise such a small proportion, their gender-specific needs have been neglected. That’s particularly salient when it comes to their healthcare.
In theory, women do have the choice to have an abortion if they learn they are pregnant when they are in prison. There are constitutional guarantees — the 8th and the 14th amendments — and a number of judicial precedents, so it’s very clear that incarcerated women should have access to abortion. However, in practice, the people who are making the decisions have incredible discretion and many women lack access to abortion if they choose it.
About 1400-2000 births occur every year to women who are behind bars, and what they get for prenatal care is highly variable. There are standards that require prisons to have prenatal care onsite, but on the ground, some women have to be transported offsite and some women don’t even get prenatal care.
In labor, they usually get transported to an outside hospital. They can’t have any family support members in the room, and only 15 states have laws restricting the shackling of women in labor and delivery. A woman in labor, shackled, is what inspired me to work with this population. It’s inhumane and unnecessary, and it poses a lot of medical risks to the mother and the fetus. It also interferes with our ability to do emergent interventions if necessary.
People think prisons and jails are far away and we forget about the people who get locked up inside; we think they have nothing to do with us. So I hope I’ve given you some things to consider about what it’s like to be a woman when you’re in the grip of the prison or jail system.
From Dr. Carolyn Sufrin’s talk on incarcerated women and reproductive healthcare. Filmed at TEDxInnerSunset.
Epilepsy detection system creator Rick Housley at TEDxHoboken
This is the story of an 18-year-old engineering student whose train delay gave him the idea for a life-saving new device for people with epilepsy.
Epilepsy affects 65 million people worldwide. About 1 in 26 people will be diagnosed with epilepsy at some point in their lives, and about one-third of those people will live with uncontrolled seizures. In 2010, TEDxHoboken speaker Rick Housley was on a train stopped in a station due to a medical emergency: a woman on the train was having a seizure. In his talk, he explains what happened:
Naturally, I’m a bit peeved as I just sprinted to catch this train. I had my heavy bookbag and my gym bag. But my attitude quickly changed when I heard the reason for the delay: a medical emergency. Apparently, a women in the car ahead of mine had had a seizure. Fortunately, due to some quick medical attention, she was all right, and my train departed…
[But] I began to wonder, what if she hadn’t been on a train, a train in Boston surrounded by medical professionals? What if, instead, she was at home? What if she was at home with her toddlers? What if she were on a run? What if she were in the shower? Frankly, the answers to these questions frightened me.
So, at age 18, the young engineering student partnered with a medical device company for IP and technology to develop a detection and notification system for people with convulsive seizures.
Housley’s device, still in development, is worn on the wrist and detects seizures by monitoring its wearer’s movements — alerting a list of important contacts via text message if the dangerous movements typical to a convulsive seizure begin to occur.
Below, Housley’s entire talk, which provides more insight into his device and the data behind it:
TEDxStanford speaker Allison Okamu experiments with a haptic-enhanced medical device (Photo: MedicineWorld.org)
We all know the sense of touch is important. So what do we do when it’s gone? When soldiers use mine-deactivating robots, when doctors operate surgical robots, their sense of touch is lost to these devices. How do you tie a suture tight, but not so tight that it breaks when you can’t feel the give and take of the thread? How do you know how much pressure to apply to a material when you cannot feel the material’s reaction?
You go by sight. But sight only gives you so much, says Stanford University researcher Allison Okamura. In her talk at TEDxStanford, Okamura explains how she and her team at the CHARM (Collaborative Haptics and Robotics in Medicine) Lab are working to create devices that can not just register touch from a user, but also can simulate touch in return.
"We try to come up with [clever] techniques to fool the user into feeling something that isn’t really there," she says in her talk. This becomes particularly useful when dealing with the medical world, where human-controlled robots are often used to make surgical procedures less invasive and more accurate. “They [surgical robots] are not autonomous robots,” Allison says. “It is important because of the dangerousness and complexity of these tasks that there be a human in the loop. But the human can do a better job if they get the sense of touch feedback.”
So, Allison and her team at CHARM stay hard at work developing devices that do just that. Watch her talk below to learn more about CHARM’s work and see some of these robots in action:
Says writer Matt Chase, “It’s been estimated that 51 percent of all hospitals have an electronic disease registry to identify and manage gaps in care, but still nearly 90 percent of data is discarded by healthcare providers.”
Luckily, there are big thinkers all over the world on the case. Below, 4 TEDx Talks on new ideas and big data in healthcare:
The surprising seeds of a big-data revolution in healthcare: Joel Selanikio at TEDxAustin
While big data is revolutionizing modern business, the global public health industry is lagging. From using text messages to track birth rates in Sierra Leone to monitoring vaccination needs across the world, Joel Selanikio explains how collecting medical data in new ways is key to making healthcare more efficient.
Open-source cancer research: Jay Bradner at TEDxBoston
How does cancer know it’s cancer? At Jay Bradner’s lab, they found a molecule that might hold the answer, JQ1 — and instead of patenting it — they published their findings and mailed samples to 40 other labs to work on, encouraging data-sharing in medical research.
Using data to make medical decisions: Dr. Piroska Bisits Bullen at TEDxPhnomPenh
At TEDxPhnomPehm, Dr. Piroska Bisits Bullen proposes that just a simple bit of research and consideration of the masses of data collected on populations over the years can help governmental and health care professionals make better decisions.
Rethinking healthcare: Jay Parkinson at TEDxMidAtlantic
In 2007, physician Jay Parkinson moved to New York to start his practice. But unlike most doctors, Parkinson didn’t need to find a building or a staff — he opened shop online, asking patients to schedule appointments via Google calendar, and making house calls from appointment alerts sent to his iPhone. At TEDxMidAtlantic, he discusses how a bit of creativity, the Internet and the willingness to take risks can help solve big problems in healthcare.