As I wrote the post about physicians bemoaning the rise of celebrity or lay thought leaders (How to be a thought leader), I felt the need to counter this negativity with something positive. I wanted to recognize non-celebrity thought leaders from other fields. This is a partial list of thought leaders or mentors who influenced my research and in many ways, my approach to life. It’s an odd list and albeit a little nerdy (OK, very nerdy) but if we’re going to change the conversation in health or politics, maybe it’s time we bring out our inner nerds. Maybe it’s time we begin appreciating thoughtful discourse and those who lead it. Here’s my list. Who’s on your list?
Dr. Antonio Damasio, who when presented with brain injuries that left traditionally measured cognitive capacities intact, did not fall back on the easy diagnosis of malingering (medical term for faking it) as most around him were so apt to conclude. Instead, he created new tests and measures to investigate what the patients were ‘telling him’ and in doing so, redefined the field of clinical neuroscience (stirred quite a few debates in philosophical circles as well).
Dr. Richard Lifton, who from a case of early onset hypertension in a 15 year old boy, dared to ask if there was a connection to pregnancy-induced hypertension. And there was. He identified a gain function mutation in mineralcorticoid receptors that was influenced by the increasing progesterone of pregnancy.
Dr. Bruce McEwen, for his work on estradiol and hippocampal synaptogenesis- yes, hormones impacted brain function.
Dr. Hans Selye, who ignored his mentor’s to pleas to abandon what was considered the equivalent of studying the ‘pharmacology of dirt’ and went on to become the father modern endocrinology and the physiology of the stress response. I was particularly interested in his work on progesterone, respiration and anesthesia, some 60-70 years ago- light years ahead of most research in this area.
Dr. Douglas Ferraro, who allowed me to pursue my own ‘pharmacology of dirt’.
Michel Foucault, French philosopher who studied the rules of discourse and knowledge. Read every book, essay and interview. His work was the foundation for my belief in listening to the patient.
Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, just because reading it was the hardest damn I have ever done. Neuroscience is easy compared to Kant.
Dr. Kevin O’Neill, undergraduate and lifelong mentor and friend, who created an intellectual home for all of us intellectual misfits.
Who influenced you? Add to the list and pass it around.