What do non-profit leader Jamie Amelio, military veterans advocate Dr. Michael Haynie, emergency medicine physician Dr. Leana Wen, and University of Nevada, Reno professor of medicine Dr. David AuCoin have in common? They got bothered, they stayed bothered, and as a result, are all making a serious difference in the world. Between these four individuals alone, thousands upon thousands of people’s lives have been impacted for the better across our globe. Read on to learn more about each of their individual plights.

In the case of Amelio, it was a vacation to Cambodia in 2003 that laid the groundwork for changing her life’s direction. Expecting to be wowed by the temples of Angor Wat, it was rather a little girl panhandling for a few dollars who would capture her intrigue. After asking for a dollar so that she could go to school, Amelio decided to visit this school and soon discovered a crowded, dirty building packed with 75 eagerly awaiting students for teachers who would never come – many of whom had been murdered during the Cambodian genocide. As such, she soon established Caring for Cambodia, which now supports 6,400 students in sixteen schools in Siem Reap.

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Jamie Amelio

In Jamie Amelio’s talk she offers the advice, “Take that moment when something bothers you. Don’t let it fade and see what happens.” According to Amelio, being bothered and staying bothered is the key to real change. You can learn more about her amazing organization and how it’s working to create opportunities and change lives for students across Cambodia by checking out her 2013 book Graced with Orange: How Caring for Cambodia Changed Lives, Including My Own.

Dr. Michael Haynie is a management professor, social scientist by training, and a former military veteran whose work and advocacy for military veterans has been featured across dozens of notable news outlets and publications. After serving time with the Air Force as a professor of management, he joined the staff at Syracuse University and turned his entrepreneurial attention to exploring how the resources of the university – and higher education more broadly – could be leveraged to support and empower military veterans and their families.

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Dr. Michael Haynie

In Dr. Michael Haynie’s talk he shared the story of how military veterans today feel disconnected from society upon their return, and often feel left out, out of place, or anonymous. As such, suicides among veterans today account for 20% of the nation’s suicides, though they represent only 10% of the population. Approximately 30% of veterans suffer from disabilities. And, worse yet, based on legislative changes over time, Americans today are more disconnected than ever from the effects of war (despite the fact that the number of conflicts have increased exponentially), with less than 1% of the population ever feeling its direct effects. To help alleviate some of these issues, Haynie has become a spokesperson for America’s military veterans as the Executive Director and Founder of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, which is helping to empower and educate military veterans and their families across the country. You can watch a video about his organization and its impact here.

Dr. Leana Wen, an Emergency Medicine Physician of Patient-Centered Research at George Washington University, gave an excellent talk about re-thinking our healthcare system. After recently touring 50 hospitals across China and hoping to uncover some insights that she could apply to the US healthcare system, she realized that China’s healthcare system was actually less of a utopia, and more of dystopia. She had a realization that what’s happening in China could soon be happening in the U.S., as “turning patients into consumers means that healthcare is no longer a right, but a commodity.”

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Dr. Leana Wen

Wen, a Rhodes scholar, urged us to recognize that this can mentality can have grave consequences, such as the case where her mother’s doctor in China recommended a lung surgery to remove cancer instead of chemotherapy, ultimately leading to a deadly case of pneumonia. As a result of her own research and experiences, Dr. Wen co-authored the book, When Doctors Don’t Listen: How to Avoid Misdiagnoses and Unnecessary Tests, and is actively working to spread her message across a variety of mediums. She urged the audience to hold onto these three ideas: 1) that some things are not for sale 2) we need to realign incentives to help people be their best selves, and 3) start with our principles, and hold on tight.

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Dr. David AuCoin

On the flip side of Wen’s talk, Dr. David AuCoin – an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at The University of Nevada School of Medicine – gave a talk about providing rapid, accurate, and inexpensive diagnostic tests for resource poor settings. In other words, rather than focusing on fixing a broken healthcare system, he talked about the work he and his lab are doing to help diagnose treatable, but deadly diseases in other countries where the resources aren’t currently available. His talk took us through a couple of case studies, the research involved in coming up with a solution at the lab, as well as the process of how they create such technologies. As such, their work is treating hundreds of thousands of individuals across countries like Thailand, Bangaldesh, and Sub-Sarahan Africa, and keeping families together as he likes to put it.

So, how have you been bothered in your lifetime? Did you stay bothered? Furthermore, did you make a difference? If not, how do you plan to?

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