AUC Medical School Students Hold Inaugural Disaster Preparedness and Response TEDx Event in St. Maarten

Press Release | American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine | October 17, 2019

The event theme, Weathering the Storm, was carefully selected as an homage to Hurricane Irma. Conference organizers chose talks that applied the theme both literally and metaphorically.

Ten speakers captivated a soldout audience at AUC's first TEDx event last Sunday. TEDxAUCMED brought together students and members of the Sint Maarten community for a 7-hour program of powerful and inspiring talks.

The event was organized by a student committee, led by fourth semester students Elizabeth Allison, Jeffery Summers Jr., Monique Gonzalez, and Kyle Anthony. Since April, they have planned and executed every detail of the event-from the TEDxAUCMED string art signage that decorated the stage to the speaker selection and post-conference networking reception.

AUC students hold inaugural TEDx AUCMED event in Sint MarteenThe committee had to follow a strict set of guidelines to have TEDxAUCMED licensed as a TEDx event. TEDx events are localized gatherings where communities, organizations, and individuals can connect and share ideas through TED-like talks and performances. There have been over 100,000 TEDx events in more than 130 countries; yet, only 11 have been held in the Caribbean. The inaugural AUC event was the first in Sint Maarten and, if the event organizers have their way, it won't be the last.

The event theme, Weathering the Storm, was carefully selected as an homage to Hurricane Irma. Conference organizers chose talks that applied the theme both literally and metaphorically.

"This event centers not only on the science of weathering the storm but the notion that we are capable of overcoming extreme adversity," Elizabeth Allison said during her opening remarks. "We hope today empowers you to weather your own storms."

While some speakers gave harrowing accounts from the category 5 hurricane, others talked about medicine, art, and evolving global landscapes. In his opening talk, 4th semester student Yassin Nayel used a powerful patient story to punctuate the question: how can we achieve equal treatment of infectious disease worldwide?

Yassin was one of 10 featured speakers at the event and one of six from AUC. Other AUC speakers included 4th semester students Fouad Berry and Tsitsi Rwakonda; class of 2019 graduate Dr. Constantine Kanakis; Neuroscience Course Director, Dr. Gautam Ullal; and Housing Supervisor, Melissa Harrison-Grinuva. Another four talks were delivered by unaffiliated speakers, including Director of the Safe Haven Foundation and shelter, Cassandra Richardson; Director of Strategic Partnerships for Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center's Fellowship in Disaster Medicine, Dr. Gavin Macgregor-Skinner; award-winning painter Sir Roland Richardson; and journalist and comedian Joe Dominique.

The talks were as different as the speakers themselves. With diverse perspectives and experiences, they each gave inspiring, thought provoking, and energizing presentations.

Sprinkled throughout the program were interactive sessions and exercises. Stephern Allison, Vice President of Cardiovascular Services at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, held a workshop on unleashing your potential while 4th semester AUC student Tejinder Kaur presented a poster on Zentangle and other methods to cope with stress. Attendees were also invited to post their own "storms" on an interactive poster outside of the lecture hall.

It was an absolutely enriching experience," said Dr. Alicia Liverpool who attended the event with two of her colleagues. "The topics explored, the content of the speakers, and videos were captivating. We left empowered and are so glad we attended.

Dr. Liverpool was among 100 guests in the soldout audience on Sunday. As a part of the TEDx guidelines, the event had to be limited to that number. AUC students and staff who were unable to secure a ticket watched a livestream of the event in an overflow space.

For Elizabeth, Jeffery, Monique, and Kyle, TEDxAUCMED was better than they could have ever imagined.

"We started this event just hoping to fill seats but gained such overwhelming support from AUC, Adtalem, and the Sint Maarten community along the way. Our speakers put in a lot of hard work to deliver wonderful, thought-provoking talks. It has been such a proud moment for us."

With the inaugural TEDxAUCMED gaining so much attention, the conference organizers are now thinking about their next event. They even heard from the Sint Maarten Department of Culture about partnering on a future event.

"We want to continue to build on this weekend's success and are already putting together a team of students to host the next TEDxAUCMED. That said, we're also discussing ideas for other events so stay tuned!"

Watch the full TEDxAUCMED program on AUC's Vimeo page.

Presentation at inaugural TEDx AUCMED event in Sint Marteen. Click on image to see full event in Vimeo