Who are your thought leaders?

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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.

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5 Comments

  1. My mother greatly influenced me, making me aware of both the beauty and the injustices in the world, and the power I have to make a difference.

    My High School English teacher, Mrs. Eagan, who pushed us to think, and be compassionate. She shared a quote with me that is now one of my favorites: “The only thing necessary for evil to prevail is that good men do nothing.”

    There are many others that continue to make me think, but these women helped shape my way of thinking.

  2. I’d like to add to this list my mentor of the postdoc project professor Joseph A. Kuc from the University of Kentucky in Lexington. Dr. Kuc is a unique scientist with a broad vision who inspired many scientists and showed them new endeavors of their careers. He is one of those rare individuals who has global name recognition in his field of research—natural plant disease resistance. A former Fulbright Fellow, Dr. Kuc has received fellowships and awards from a number of foreign countries.

  3. I would have to say Steve Jobs is my thought leader. “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” He never took no for an answer… if it was not already out there, then it was waiting to be created. He taught me to not be limited by the present tools and thought processes but to think outside of the box and then put rounded edges to it.

  4. My thought leaders are:

    Edvard Munch (best known as The Painter of “The Scream”) &,
    Other Expressionist Movement-Era Artists,
    whose works reflect/ed inner psychological and outer sociological experiences, because their masterpieces would later influence the creation and practice of the post/WW2-era Field of Art Therapy, as well as the present-day Outsider Art Movement.

    Early Art Therapists/Adrian Hill,
    Edward Adamson,
    Margaret Naubmurg,
    & Edith Kramer,
    b/c without them, we might not have the psychological specialists, healthcare professionals, or social service workers now using and advocating for further use of the visual, literary, musical, theatrical, & dance-based arts, to better help people more effectively cope with communication and mood disorders, interpersonal relationships, the residual effects of stroke, heart disease, epilepsy, geriatrics, brain injury, P.T.S.D., cognitive & neurological disabilities, memory loss, and cancer, among other conditions.

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