10 Things You Missed by Not Being Onsite at #XMed (and why you should plan to go in 2019)

The decision made by the Exponential Medicine (XMed)’s Executive Director Dr. Daniel Kraft and his team to livestream all of the mainstage conference sessions is something I am very grateful for.  People who watch the livestream get extra content too, such as interviews of faculty and some footage from previous XMeds.   This highly valuable and bingable firehose of information is distributed worldwide almost real time for the duration of the conference beginning to end.  XMed even streams the live feed through their official Facebook page making it even more accessible.  What’s more, recordings of the livestreams are made available after the event.  All of the live and archived streams are free to the public!   This is a tremendous deal, and seriously helps to democratize access to Xmed subject matter.  However, as awesome as it is to be able to binge-watch the conference live and for free, it does not constitute the whole experience. And while it is so good to be able to follow Xmed goings-on in your pajamas in the comfort of your home or office or wherever, there’s nothing like actually being there.   This is my third time to attend onsite since 2013, when it was still called FutureMed.  I’ve followed the livestream in the years I couldn’t make it to San Diego.  The difference in the experience is significant.  I wrote this piece for folks who are wondering what they miss when they decide not to make the trip.  Note that I’m not on payroll or staff at XMed or Singularity University.   I’m not getting paid to write this.   Here are 10 things you missed by not being onsite at XMed, and why you should consider going to XMed 2019.


1. Full Access to the XMed Event App

Having full access to the event app during and post event is significant because the app contains what I fondly call the ‘motherlode’:  That’s the combination of the directory of XMed participants and a list of all faculty with respective bios with the functionality of being able to message each person in-app.  This kind of messaging is neat because you both know you’re inside the XMed community already.  You know this group of people are pre-vetted and some of the smartest health innovators and thinkers in the world.   They are likely to respond to your message because they know you’ve been vetted too!


2. DNA Testing

Have you heard of any other health conference where you can get your DNA or microbiome tested?  Curiosity about my own genomic data helped to draw me to San Diego.  This year the test looked at the genetic predisposition to opioid addiction and/or obesity.  I got my results and they were interesting!


3.  Morning Group Activities that Prime You for the Day

What health conference gives you painting lessons with a live model every morning?  Xmed does!  The conference also offers other morning activities besides, like yoga, running, and group meditation.   Starting the day this way I think helps prime the brain to engage creatively and fully for the slate of sessions for the day ahead.


4.  The Marshmallow challenge with Tom Wujec

Autodesk Fellow, design thinking and creative collaboration expert Tom Wujec led this innovation challenge where groups get to create structures with sticks and marshmallows.  Each group has the same set of supplies and the goal is to build a structure that’s as high as possible.  Tallest structure wins!  Here Tom is measuring one of the group entries.   It is both a fun icebreaker and a learning experience!


5.  The Innovation Lab

Sitting on those cushy Hotel Del bean bags absorbing concepts and ideas as each faculty member speaks on stage is one thing; actually getting to test technology like this VR product is another.  It is not pictured above but I also had an interesting experience with trying MUSE a next level meditation headset device that delivers an audio experience that’s timed exactly with your heartbeat.   I found the experience very relaxing despite the loud cacophony of the conversations all around me.  There were also at least a couple different alternative diagnostic tools to the mammogram on display, which as a metastatic breast cancer survivor, were a particular point of interest.  I found it valuable (and fun!) to get to speak to the creators of these technologies.


6.  Breakout Groups and Special Sessions

XMed offers several breakout sessions where attendees may join smaller groups to hear XMed faculty and other experts speak on a specific subject or theme and then have a group discussion.  There were just so many good ones happening at the same time.  I was very disappointed missing the one on “Curing the Incurable” with Parker Moss and Dr. Jack Kreindler, but it was running at the same time as “Global Health”.   The Global Health breakout session had every member of the illustrious Global Health Faculty in attendance (Peter Small MD, Alex Kumar MBBS, Ralph Simon FSRA) along with a very international group.  We had a great discussion!

Last XMed, there was also a special Moonshots session with Naveen Jain, a session that offered participants actual shots (drinks/cocktails) for people to enjoy.  Shots, Moonshots. I know, right? Only in Xmed!   In this session, billionaire technopreneur Mr. Jain talks more at length about his own journey as an Exponential Entrepreneur, telling stories you wouldn’t hear on the mainstage, some of them even personal,  all of them valuable.  He made himself super accessible in the session (as you can see in the photo above) and anyone can ask any question they wanted of the man.  How many times do you get a chance to ask questions of a billionaire entrepreneur whose ventures are not just to “make illness optional” but also a literal moonshot?  His venture Moon Express is the only company to have permission from the US government to leave earth orbit and land on the moon. It is developing technologies to harvest planetary resources on the moon for the benefit of humanity.  Mr. Jain was just so gracious and willing to share his wisdom.


7.  Multiple opportunities for conversations with XMed faculty and other attendees

Unlike many conferences where access to the speakers or faculty might be very limited or nonexistent, XMed actually assign tables where attendees can sit with faculty during meals.  The photo above shows XMed faculty, Dr. Lucien Engelen, Founding Director of REshape Center, Radboud University Medical Center/SUNL  in the Netherlands.   As the physician who started the “Patients Included” movement, Dr. Engelen has said he would not participate in any conference where patients are not included.  As the physician who bravely took such a strong stand that has over time influenced the industry to include more patients in the innovation conversation, Dr. Engelen is a hero to us in the patient community.  Here, he is speaking with other attendees after his talk on “Smart and Healthy Communities.”  I didn’t actually get to speak with him this time, but I did meet him in 2013, shared a table at dinner time with his whole team which that year just took up just half the seats of the table.  This year his team would need several tables, all of them wearing their famous orange jackets (I want one please).  At XMed, the food is plentiful and delicious, the seaside environment delightful and every meal and break time is an opportunity to have a conversation with faculty and the other attendees, who tend to be rather extraordinary individuals.


8.  Sacred Cacao Ceremony with Jamie Metzl

Jamie Metzl, author of Hacking Darwin:  Genetic Engineering and the Future of Humanity  and Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council experienced the Sacred Cacao Ceremony in one of his travels and thought it was so wonderful he wanted to bring it to XMed.   I’m not going to describe it in detail here but I will say it was beautiful, spiritual, visceral, communal, fun and inspiring.   And the free-flowing hot cocoa and high grade chocolate that was there in abundance were delicious!  The rituals Jamie led us through in the end made it quite meaningful and a lovely bonding experience.


9.  Silent Disco

The Silent Disco at Xmed is a trip!  Even the drinks were so full of humor, given medical-like names and served from giant injection tubes and IV containers.  Later that night, a conga line that started in this room snaked its way to outside near the beach where we can see the stars!   Yes the headsets still worked! I love the crazy dancing XMed people. =)


10.  Annual Scrubs Photo

At XMed we don’t do the usual group photo.  MD or not, we all get to wear special XMed scrubs then sit on the large lawn in front of the Hotel Del facing the sea.  A drone flies above to take videos of the group. Here we see Daniel Kraft MD, Will Weisman, and Shawna Butler with XMed attendees behind them waving to the drone.  Aside from the drone, a photographer is at the top of a standing ladder shouting directions to us, and taking traditional/formal still shots.  Given the company, I’d say it is pretty epic to be in this shot.  I think the annual scrubs photo is an inspiring and evocative image that reminds one of the quality, culture and vision of the cohort to which one now belongs.



This is by no means an exhaustive list but it should give you an idea of what you’re missing by not being onsite at Xmed.   The first time I attended, in 2013, I was still in the middle of chemo for Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.  That first time I just wanted to learn what I could so that I could live.   You know what?  I found my hope rising here.  6 years later, I’m celebrating 3+ years with No Evidence of Disease of what had been “incurable, inoperable” cancer.  I do think XMed has something to do with it.  I think it helped save my life.  This last XMed, I went for all the reasons of the past but with an added reason:  I want to help re-make health care.  Not only is this a terrific place to learn what’s possible,  it’s the place to meet people who are already doing it.

If you’re an innovator who wants to help re-make health care, or a patient or caregiver who simply wants to learn what some of the best minds in the planet are doing to solve specific conditions and health problems,  I suggest you apply to go in 2019.  There’s just nothing like it.   I suggest putting it in your calendar as early as now.  It will be held from November 4 to November 7, 2019 at the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego.  Maybe I’ll see you there!


p.s.  If you want to get more of a feel for the conference, the culture and the experience, get out some popcorn and drinks, and check out this video (9:45), created with photos and videos from the event, beginning with the drone shots of the scrubs group.


Victoria Ferro would like to thank, your Health Care Quality Concierge, for sponsoring her travel to Exponential Medicine 2018.

If you like reading this piece, and would like to see more, we invite you to contribute to the fundraise for Victoria’s upcoming multi-media book project: “The Unpatient Manifesto.”

Thank you very for reading!  Please do share your thoughts, comments, or questions below.  I can also be reached at


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