Dr. Tommy Wood is a UK-trained physician who is making his third appearance on STEM-Talk. Earlier this year before the COVID-19 outbreak, Tommy gave a well-attended lecture at IHMC about the latest research on building and preserving brain health across people’s lifespans. The lecture was so popular we invited Tommy to join us for another STEM-Talk interview.
Tommy is a research assistant professor of pediatrics in the University of Washington Division of Neonatology. He was our guest on episodes 47 and 48 of STEM-Talk. Tommy received his undergraduate degree in biochemistry from the University of Cambridge and a medical degree from the University of Oxford. In addition to working with newborn infants who have brain injuries, Tommy also develops performance optimization strategies for athletes such as Formula 1 racecar drivers and Olympians.
As in our first STEM-Talk interview with Tommy, our conversation was so long and wide-ranging that we have divided it into two parts. In today’s episode, we talk to Tommy about the importance of metabolic health, especially as a way to protect ourselves from COVID-19. We touch on Tommy’s work at developing accessible methods to track human health and longevity, and also his research an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington where he studies ways to increase the resilience of developing brains.
In part two of our interview, we talk to Tommy about his continuing research into lifestyle approaches to improve health span and lifespan and physical performance. We also have a fascinating discussion about the physiological and metabolic responses to brain injury and their long-term effects on brain health.
[00:05:15] Dawn asks about an article Tommy and a colleague recently wrote, in which Tommy points out that it is becoming increasingly clear that underlying conditions associated with suboptimal metabolic health appear to be associated with poor outcomes in patients with COVID-19. Considering the nature of these underlying conditions, such as obesity and hypertension, he argues that lifestyle-based approaches to protecting ourselves from COVID-19 are likely to be one of our best tools in addressing this ongoing pandemic as well as future pandemics. Tommy summarizes his key points from the article.
[00:09:38] Dawn mentions that when Tommy was last interviewed on STEM-Talk, he had just become a senior fellow at the University of Washington and was in the process of moving permanently to the U.S. She goes on to mention that when she asked Tommy what brought him to the states, he said “a girl,” who he ended up marrying. The girl turned out to be Elizabeth Nance who was interviewed on episode 71 of STEM-Talk. Dawn asks how Elizabeth is doing.
[00:10:51] Tommy gives an overview of his work as a research assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington in the division of neonatology, where his focus is on ways to increase the resilience of developing brains and also ways to treat neonatal brain injuries.
[00:12:45] Dawn explains that Tommy gives a disclaimer at the beginning of his talks that “many of my best ideas are stolen.” She asks what are his best sources for ideas.
[00:14:42] Dawn mentions that when Elizabeth was on STEM-Talk, she mentioned that Tommy was constantly reading paper after paper, to the point that it is dizzying to look at Tommy’s computer screen. Tommy describes his research methods and how he goes about collecting material.
[00:16:51] Ken mentions that Tommy’s current research interests include the physiological and metabolic responses to brain injury and their long-term effects on brain health. Ken asks about this as well as Tommy’s work to develop easily accessi...