Q&A with Bill Davenhall on Medical Place History, TEDMED, and the Importance of a Story Well Told

11/10/10Follow @bvbigelow

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ask, “Have you ever lived within 120 yards of a major freeway or highway?”—but they should.

“The one thing that never happens in my doctor’s office,” Davenhall said in his TEDMED talk, “They never ask me about my place history.”

In a phone interview yesterday, I talked with Davenhall about ESRI’s medical place history app and the highlights of everything that has happened since his TEDMED talk last year. Here’s our exchange, edited for length and clarity:

Xconomy: What has happened since you gave your TEDMED talk a year ago?

Bill Davenhall: The TEDMED people asked me to prepare an impact statement of sorts. It ended up being much bigger than I had even thought in terms of the event itself because of the energy that an event like that creates for a new idea. It wasn’t really in many ways what I was saying. It was how I was saying it and putting it in perspective. It was sort of back to this notion that I was popularizing this idea that conceptually had been around for some time, but was put in a new wrapper. The thumbnail on this is that many of us underestimate the power of a story well told.

X: Are you still seeing strong interest these days?

BD: The people who came back to TEDMED 2010—I’d say anybody who was there last year picked back up when they saw me, and they re-engaged. The story hadn’t gotten old. In other words, they were still very much interested. Of course, we tried to get the app actually delivered at TEDMED, but it was not possible. The Apple approval gods were just not on our side. We contracted out [the app development], and there were some little glitches that occurred that we weren’t able to be correct in time to get through the process.

X: How would people actually use this?

BD: Before I go there, there’s one other thing I want to tell you. One result of the TEDMED thing was I was invited to go to the national meeting of the TRI (Toxics Release Inventory). Now can you believe this? The EPA has had a conference for like 12 years on the database that I used. There were 250 or 300 people there who had spent their whole lives, since 1987, caring, feeding, worrying about this database. They invited me to put a new face on it. So I showed up and gave them this presentation, which I would have to say that many of them were stunned by it. Basically I was saying here’s a different way … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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