Wondering Outside the Village: My Adventure at Stanford Medicine X

This is the first of a series of blog posts in which I will recount my adventures at Stanford's Medicine X, Conference: An experience which has changed my life, and I will not soon forget. :-) 

The Palo Alto Westin Hotel is a small hotel tucked into the Palo Alto scenery, and spitting distance from Stanford University. Warm, and welcoming, employees genuinely seem to care about one's lodging needs. As I checked in (having completed a journey that began 9 hours before, at 2:00 AM, in Ames, Iowa), I gave the attendant $50 of my last $71, for a 'security deposit.' I really hadn't planned on THAT, so I was hoping the rest of the day wouldn't require any more money from me. (I also hadn't planned on everyone, and their mother, requiring a tip from me.)

After settling in, I went about the business of trying to find out what I was supposed to do next. I was a little outside of my comfort zone... Okay, a lot outside my comfort zone. Okay, "The Village" level outside of my comfort zone. I hadn't traveled anywhere in 5 years; heck, I hadn't even left my small town to go anywhere in the nearby vicinity, in 5 years. When you have no car and minimal financial resources, the world sort of closes in on you. Social media, and walking everywhere, are about the few things you have.

I was in the most expensive city in America, where I knew no one, where I had $21 left, where I didn't know how to use my loaned smartphone, and where I had planned to attend a session in 15 minutes in some supposedly nearby street. "Just turn right on University Avenue, up ahead," said the bellhop. Except, there was a train running through it. Yes, a train. Before I had a chance to wonder much farther, two gentlemen who seemed about equally lost -- but who knew how to use their smart phones -- asked me if I was going to the Stanford startup session. "Yes, I said," so I followed them. And follow the leader is what I did... all weekend, pretty much.

What is the Angry Type 2 Diabetic doing in Palo Alto, you ask? Attending Stanford sessions, nonetheless? Well, in case you missed it (which I almost did), last Spring I was selected (among many applicants) for a scholarship to attend Stanford's Medicine X Conference, in Palo Alto, California. I had applied at the suggestion of a friend, and quickly forgotten about it. :-)

At the time I didn't know much about Medicine X... but my curiosity was piqued. I knew the things I believed in: the patient, the patient's ability to quantify their experience, and social media to glue it all up together... and now Stanford University, via Medicine X, seemed to want to address all those things. Nothing makes one feel better than when the 'crazy' things one rants about get acknowledged by large institutions.

So, I took them up on their offer. I was, and am, confident that this is the future of medicine. It is, in my mind, one of the only ways to guarantee the patient has a voice. A voice that isn't clouded by the need to see 30 patients or more a day, 6 minute doctor sessions, and clinicians who are hell bent on not deviating from anything they learned back in 1976. A way to circumvent the little treatment and education patients with type 2 diabetes are receiving. A way for patients with limited resources, to make the most of their health situations.

But... after a week of being stranded at home, with the flu, and not being able to work, the little savings I had for this event disappeared in the form of medicines and bills. So I almost didn't make it out there. Almost. I have my family to thank for making this event happen for me. For believing in this little wild adventure on which I was about to embark.

And boy was it an adventure.

I really wasn't sure what to expect... and thinking I'd immediately see many of my fellow diabetes advocates, I had worn my fun-loving shirt "Diabetics Luv Pricks," for my travel day. It really made me an attention magnet, in ways I didn't want to be one. hehe "So what are YOU doing here?," "What exactly are you going to bring to MedX, with what you do?," "What's your role in MedX?," "I thought this conference was just for startups," etc.

People were really proud of being startups of their own companies (even if it was just a company of 1 or 2), and people were really... PROUD of being 'in the center of the universe,' as it was put to me more than once. And... it was a bit unnerving, to be honest.

Just like I did on my first day of college, I called home, and cried, and begged to leave. And just like on my first day, thank goodness I didn't.   :-) Culture clashes can be rough things.
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