The First Night of Mayo Transform Involves Magic Forest Animals and Putting the Internet to Sleep

The three-day Mayo Clinic Transform Conference opened up yesterday in Rochester. The main purpose of Transform: to bring the leading minds in health and healthcare together to inspire and motivate change through action.

The first day of Transform was capped off with an “Evening Powered by PechaKucha,” which, by the way, is very unlike the Pokémon Pichu. Eight speakers ignited the stage during this event, laying out their ideas for the future of health.

PechaKucha is a presentation style in which twenty slides are automatically advanced through at twenty second intervals. The speaker just has to keep up. PechaKucha is meant to inspire creatives to share their ideas, but also rapidly get to the point.

Here are some highlights from last evening.


“Healing through Positive Distraction”- Matthew McNerney

Matthew McNerney is an experience designer who has worked with clients like LEGO and the William J. Clinton Foundation. McNerney currently calls New York City home.

McNerney began his talk by recalling visits to the dentist as a 6-year-old. At this time in his life, dentist visits were terrifying and involved a lot of distress. There were bright lights, machines, and people picking at your mouth. It was not great.

But what made the experience better? At the end of the visit, he got to choose a toy from a cardboard chest of goodies. You know exactly what I’m talking about.

This small gesture took little effort on the part of the dentist. But it made a world of difference to a 6-year-old child.

Let’s raise the stakes a little bit. That same child is no longer at the dentist, but now at the hospital. There are even bigger lights and scarier machines. That child is in physical and emotional discomfort. Maybe his parents are even crying.

A toy is just not going to do it this time. The hospital needs to develop some way to lower the child’s anxiety so he can actually be treated.

The Ohio State Wexner Center has found a solution. The hospital used technology to construct a magical forest in the children’s waiting room. When a child is admitted to the hospital, he receives a medical bracelet and is allowed to adopt a forest animal as a pet. The pet stays with the child during their entire hospital stay. The pet follows the child from room to room. It waves. It falls asleep when the child is put under anesthesia. It is right there when the child wakes up from surgery.

The pet allows the child to exert at least some control over his environment and situation. This magic forest animal relieves that child’s stress level, allowing care givers to just focus on providing the best patient care.

In a sense, the forest pet is a sort of positive distraction for the young patient; it takes his mind away from the circumstances for just a bit. But McNerney suggests that the pet is something more: digital compassion.


“The Importance of Community Response in Catalyzing Social Change”- Tori Utley

Tori Utley is a Rochester-based entrepreneur. She is Product Manager at the Mayo Clinic Center for Connected Care and Founder at the non-profit More than an Addict and the tech startup Tinua.

Utley began by asking the room how we, as a community, respond to those facing social adversity. Utley questioned how each person in the audience would respond to someone who was homeless, or suffered from addiction, or was a victim of sex trafficking. These issues plague thousands of people in our communities and their victims are often isolated geographically from centers of healthcare. But we also segregate these people in need by placing labels and stigmatizing them.

Sometimes the community slings hateful words at these people or protests their presence in the community with hurtful signs, only further pushing them away and diminishing any remaining sense of hope they possess.

Utley says we can make change possible by responding appropriately to people in our communities suffering social adversities. She said that initiatives are not enough; the community is a catalyst that can change lives. But that change is in our hands and is rooted in the way in which we choose to respond.


“night night everyone/Improving World Health by Putting the Web to Sleep”- J. Paul Neeley

J. Paul Neeley is a service and speculative design specialist who lives in London.

Neeley was fascinated with optimizing his personal health and happiness at one time. He experimented with several different methods to optimize his happiness, including changing his diet and trying various breathing techniques. The whole experience revolutionized the way he thought about optimizing happiness.

He discovered that happiness is a very complex issue. But, if he had to isolate one factor to focus on to optimize happiness, it was sleep.

The U.S. is sleep deprived, which has a detrimental effect on our health and well-being. Neeley came up with a crazy idea. He wondered if it was possible to improve world health by putting the Internet to sleep at night.

He created a project called night night everyone, a single line of code which is now open sourced. The code sets a sleep/wake cycle for a website. The site operates normally during the day. But then when it gets late at night, the website is put to sleep by night night.

Neeley received a range of reactions to night night everyone. Some people thought it was poetic, while others believed it to be idiotic and a terrible idea.

Neeley remains unperturbed. He says that night night addresses the issue of universal responsibility, the concept that you have an obligation to someone else’s health. Neeley says if we don’t ask questions around topics like universal responsibility, we will never see the change that we desire.