In the TEDxIB@York series, Our Kids features Q&As and TEDx talks from students and experts from the ideas conference in Toronto. In this article, Ching Ye shares his passion, purpose and perspective.
Q: How did you get involved in TEDxIB@York?
A: I’ve always loved watching TEDTalks, so when my HL Psychology teacher asked me if I wanted participate I definitely knew I wanted to try and get a spot at the event.
Q: Why and how did you choose the topic on automating health care in the 21st century?
A: I found out about TEDxIB@York at the end of my grade 11 year, and I always had it sitting at the back of my mind but couldn’t decide on a topic I really liked. During the summer of grade 11, I went to Shad Valley at the University of New Brunswick, which was a life changing experience. Shad Valley is really the best place to go if a student is passionate about entrepreneurship, technology and academics in general. The project I mention was the group project that my team and I worked on and it was really something all of us are passionate and invested in.
(WATCH: Ching Ye speak about his passion for innovation in today’s health care industry)
Q: What is the main message you hope students, schools and educators got from your speech?
A: It’s a rollercoaster of a journey trying to find what you are really passionate about, there are ups and downs and you never really know when you’ve reached the end so the most important thing is to have fun. TEDx was one of the most enjoyable days of my life, but it was also one of those days I look back and remember vividly all the things I’d learned. My message is to enjoy what you are doing, not every day that you are doing something, but at least most of the days, because you certainly won’t do a good job if you don’t like what you are doing.
Q: What was your interaction like with other students and the audience after your speech? Did anyone’s comments about your speech stand out?
A: I think TEDx and all of its delegates really embraced the TED motto of ideas worth sharing because I received a lot of positive feedback, and people really agreeing with some of the things I had to say. I remember vividly my talk with the owner of a series of nursing homes, and really understanding not only the problem I was trying to tackle, but also many of the other problems that seniors had to face daily. TEDx was really a place where everyone is excited to share their vast knowledge; a resource that’s invaluable for a student like me.
A hero of mine Thomas Edison once said, “There’s a way to do it better—find it.” My question today is how do we think like Mr. Edison? How do we shape the world so that it has fewer problems and more people living better lives?
Today I want to talk to you about innovation. Specifically, innovation in today’s health care industry and how we can apply existing technologies in ways that help people live better, more fulfilling lives.
This is Angel. In 2006, at the age of 5, Angel was in a car accident that disabled her from the neck down. After six months in rehabilitation, she is now at home and will never be able to move any part of her body below the neck. Yet she has the functioning mind of an ordinary 10-year-old girl. She comes from a low income family and both of her parents have to work upwards of 12 hours per day. Because of this, the government has provided limited home care assistance where she will be taken care of when her parents aren’t at home. Listening to her story, you can imagine some of the hardships she has to go through every day. But you aren’t really getting the whole picture. Quadriplegics and paraplegics have to deal with a problem known as pressure ulcers, or bed sores, and this is a potentially deadly medical complication. This happens because there is restricted blood flow to a certain part of the body. When certain tissue does not get enough blood, the tissue there dies and a cavity starts to form. It gets deeper and deeper, eventually reaching the muscle tissue and bone, causing infection, septicaemia and eventually death. So thinking about all the problems Angel already has to deal with as a quadriplegic girl, you also need to add this, and other secondary medical conditions. How can we help Angel? How can we help people like Angel?
Unlike you and me, immobile patients don’t have the ability to shift their weight when we’re sitting down or lying down. There is constant pressure on a certain part of their bodies and they can’t change where that pressure accumulates. There is a solution though. Approximately every hour, a nurse or a caretaker can shift the weight of the patient so that the pressure points can be changed. As you can imagine, this isn’t a onetime deal. Assuming Angel has to be shifted 10 times per day, she will have to be shifted 3,650 times a year, and by the time she is 18, she will have been shifted almost 50,000 times. If you extend that number into her adult and senior years, that number easily goes into the hundreds of thousands. This is an action that requires a huge amount of time and effort. Considering the 191.6 billion dollars Canada spent last year on health care, can’t we reduce the costs of something like that?
To me, this was a huge problem; I really wanted to help people like Angel. It’s simply not fair that 29 per cent of all immobile patients will develop pressure ulcers at some point in their lifetimes, since they have to sit in wheelchairs upwards of 10 hours a day.
How can I, personally, think of a solution? There are so many people out there that are smarter, richer, more experienced, better looking than me. And in the end, everyone thinks their own ideas are obvious. To other people, those same ideas might be revolutionary breakthroughs. Can you think of an idea that can help people like Angel?
This is a simple and repetitive motion, and yet is a necessary action that must be performed. Just like the manufacturing industry that is now hugely automated. This summer I interned at a packaging automation company called AFA Systems. Your cereal, crackers and soda are all created and packaged using machines designed to complete one process over and over again. Why can’t health care be the same way? If it’s a repetitive process, can’t we use machines to help us? So we can look for solutions that automate this pressure ulcer-preventing process.
This is the solution that was created; the idea was thought up at Shad Valley this Summer. It’s a automated pneumatic pad that slowly and subtly shifts the weight of the patient in an alternating chambers strategy. This is done using solenoid pumps that alternate air flow. Different parts of the pad will have higher pressure than others, and that will slowly change over an hour. It ensures that there will be active blood flow to all areas of the skin tissue. This means that Angel won’t have to be turned every hour by a caretaker, the pneumatic pad automatically does that for her. There isn’t any new technology here; you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure something like this out. We are taking existing technologies from different parts of science and integrating them into a new package that is ultimately useful for people.
Thinking about that $191.6 billion spending in Canada’s medical industry, this is a method of reducing that big number. The hundreds of thousands of times that weight has to be shifted is virtually eliminated, for kids and adults like Angel. Although cost saving is a good reason to implement something like this, there’s another and much more important principle behind this.
In the end, we want to make the lives of people better. We want Angel to be able to go to school, the movies, or a birthday party without a caretaker having to follow her around. We want to use our minds to look for those problems in the world that are worth solving, and use our talents to figure out innovative solutions to those problems. As a globally minded student, you want your solutions to be applicable anywhere in the world. We want to enable people everywhere, including Angel, to experience the same things that you and I take for granted, so that people will be able to live fulfilling lives.
So, when you, as an IB student, go out in the world and think up of innovative solutions to our problems remember this. First, don’t be discouraged. Your ideas are just as valid and fruitful as those of other people. Second, find a problem first. So many people go out and put tremendous effort into a good solution but find out that there wasn’t really a problem to solve in the first place. Find something that matters to you. Find your Angel. Third, narrow down your problem. As much as I’d like to create a magic pill that miraculously solves everyone’s medical problems that is simply not feasible. But if one you find the cure to cancer and want to put it into a pill form factor. Go right ahead, I’m not stopping you. The last step is to just GO. The worst thing that could happen is you could fail miserably, I like to say. There is no such thing as failure, just learning opportunities. Along the way to where you will be in the future, no matter what happens, you will have learned invaluable lessons about business, industry, technology, and most important of all, people. But the best thing that can happen is you can become the next Thomas Edison or Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. When you’re on your way in becoming famous innovators one day, remember me. But also remember this lesson, there are problems everywhere waiting to be solved. There are things everywhere that could be made better. In the end, it’s not about the millions you made along the way, but the people like Angel you impacted along the way. Always make meaning with your ideas.
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What do you think about Ching Ye’s journey to find his passion? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.