Neuroscience & Innovations of Literature. “Wonderworks” with Angus Fletcher, PhD

Photograph by Sarah Lagrotteria. Courtesy of Simon & Schuster

Name: Angus Fletcher, PhD

Specialty: Professor of story science & Literature at Ohio State’s Project Narrative

Location: Ohio State University. Columbus, OH

Today we are excited to have Angus Fletcher with us on the show. He is a professor of story science and literature at Ohio State University’s Project Narrative. He completed dual degrees in neuroscience and literature before receiving his PhD in literature from Yale. In addition to his teaching and research, Angus also serves a story consultant for Sony, Disney, BBC, Amazon, PBS and NBC/Universal.  Unlike many literary academics, critics and perhaps your high school English teacher, Angus takes a very different approach to literary scholarship. He studies literature’s practical usefulness, and the science behind it.  

His new book, “Wonderworks. The 25 Most Powerful Inventions in the History of Literature,” explores literature as a series of unique and innovative discoveries. These literary inventions had, and continue to have, unique problem-solving functions. Problem-solving functions that can now be studied with the modern tools and methods of neuroscience. 

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Humanity’s R&D Department. Science & philosophy of childhood with developmental psychologist, Alison Gopnik, PhD

Today we’re exploring the world of childhood, a “protected space in which they [children] can produce new ways of thinking and acting that, for better or worse, are entirely unlike any that we would have anticipated beforehand.” A protected space that exceeds, in length, that of any other species. A space of time that today’s guest has spent her career studying and often refers to as humanity’s R&D department.

Alison Gopnik, PhD is likely a familiar name to many of you, especially those of you who are parents. Currently a professor of psychology and philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley, Alison has published over 100 research articles and books including critically acclaimed bestsellers such as: The Scientist in the Crib, The Philosophical Baby and The Gardener and the Carpenter. Her public appearances include TED, Talks at Google, the World Economic Forum and even Stephen Colbert’s show. She is also a long-time contributor to the Wall Street Journal’s Saturday Review section.

We covered a lot of ground in this episode. How do young children and babies begin to understand the world around them? We will learn about something called, “theory theory,” a process that allows children to develop and test intuitive theories about their world. We’ll see how this process resembles Bayesian probability and how understanding childhood cognitive development may be a key to developing advanced AI. This is also something Alison is researching. No surprise.  She lives and works in the Bay area and she is even married to one of the founders of Pixar.

Anyway, this is one of our more fascinating episodes. As a father of two young daughters, and a long-time fan of Alison’s work, talking with Alison was a real privilege. With that said, let’s get started.

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“Nobody’s Normal” and the Stigma of Mental Illness. Anthropologist, Roy Richard Grinker, PhD

“Because everything we see is affected by how we see it, pure vision is an illusion.”

-Roy Richard Grinker

Today we are delighted to have Roy Richard Grinker with us. He a professor of anthropology and international affairs at George Washington University, and author of “Nobody’s Normal. How Culture Created the Stigma of Mental Illness.” Richard comes from a long line of research psychologists. His grandfather, Roy Richard Grinker, Sr. was a pioneer in American psychology, and studied under Sigmund Freud. He may have been one of the last people psychoanalyzed by Freud before Freud’s death.

We’ll talk more about that, and Richard’s unique lens on psychology and mental illness through history, anthropology and culture. Can science really answer the questions: Is there really such a thing as a normal human mind? Is there really such as thing as an abnormal mind? Well, let’s find out and with that said, let’s get started.     

Links and Resources:

Nobody’s Normal Book: https://wwnorton.com/books/9780393531640/about-the-book/product-details

Roy Richard Grinker Website: https://royrichardgrinker.com/

George Washington University Profile: https://anthropology.columbian.gwu.edu/roy-richard-grinker

Ted Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYVpTYKevxQ

“Tracing Health” with Research Program Director for the Public Health Institute, Marta Induni, PhD

Name: Marta Induni, PhD

Specialty: Principal Investigator at the Public Health Institute. Director of Tracing Health.

Location: Sacramento, CA.

Today we are delighted to have Dr. Marta Induni with us on the show. She is a principal investigator with the Public Health Institute. She is also director of Tracing Health, a program launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that provides contact tracing and scientific support services to counties and local health departments on the US West Coast.



Links and Resources:

Dr. Marta Induni Profile: https://www.phi.org/experts/marta-induni/

Tracing Health Program: https://www.phi.org/our-work/programs/tracing-health/

Dr. Marta Induni LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-marta-induni-622a8735

Targeting PTSD with two Navy SEAL Physicians. Sean Mulvaney, MD with guest host, Robert Adams, MD

Guest Host: Robert Adams, MD

Specialty: Special Operations and Family Medicine

Location: Raleigh, NC

Guest: Sean Mulvaney, MD

Specialty: Special Operations, Sports & Pain Medicine

Location: Annapolis, MD

Today we are thrilled to embark on a new adventure here on PeerSpectrum. The first episode of our new guest host series. We’re inviting back some of our most popular past guests and handing over the microphone. As Keith and I have learned over the past few years, there is an art and craft to interviewing. Playing on the field has given us both a deeper appreciation and admiration for the true masters of the game. Masters such as the late Larry King (who passed away just last month) and his very close friend, and our most recent guest, Cal Fussman. As we discussed last time, one of my all-time favorite podcast interviews was Cal Fussman interviewing Larry King, on Tim Ferriss’s podcast. It was a rare opportunity to listen in as two masters discussed their game. These types of conversations are likely more common than we think. It’s just not as common to hear them.

Today we are happy to have our good friend and past guest, Dr. Robert Adams back with us. As you may recall, Bob is a former US Navy SEAL and command surgeon for the army’s elite Delta Force. A recently retired family physician in the UNC health system, Bob is also the author of two books, “Six Days of Impossible,” and “Swords and Saints: A Doctor’s Journey.” 

Today Bob is joined by his good friend and former colleague, Dr. Sean Mulvaney. Sean is also a former US Navy SEAL turned army physician. Their conversation will take us all around the world from the battle fields of Iraq and Afghanistan, to a surprise birthday party for Colin Powell aboard a US Navy warship.   

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Big Questions with legendary interviewer & Esquire’s writer-at-large, Cal Fussman

Name: Cal Fussman

Specialty: Journalist and Writer at Large for Esquire Magazine

Location: Chapel Hill, NC

Think of someone accomplished, someone famous, someone you truly admire. Have you met them? If so, how did it go? What did you talk about? If not, what would you talk about? What questions would you ask them?

For us, today’s guest is just that person.  His name is Cal Fussman and he is a long time writer-at-large for Esquire Magazine through their “What I learned” series. He is also host of the Big Questions podcast. Cal has interviewed everyone and I mean everyone…Mikhail Gorbachev, Jimmy Carter, Bill Maher, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Jack Welch, Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood, Al Pacino, George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Bruce Springsteen, Dr. Dre, Quincy Jones, Walter Cronkite, Woody Allen, Barbara Walters, Pelé, Yao Ming, Serena Williams, Danny DeVito, Eric Clapton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Muhammad Ali. Just to name a few.

For amateur interviewers like us, today’s conversation was like getting to play 18 holes with Arnold Palmer. It’s like being one degree away from Kevin Bacon. Cal interviewed both by the way.

Cal is literally one of the best in the business. We discussed his extraordinary career and his new mission in our world of medicine. Most importantly we’ll cover how all of us can be more aware, more thoughtful and effective with the questions we use. With that said, let’s get started…

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Eisenhower’s Legacy of Lessons. “How Ike Led” with Susan Eisenhower

Name: Susan Eisenhower

Specialty: Author and President of The Eisenhower Group

Location: Washington, DC

On the release of today’s episode, we find ourselves in October of 2020. Still deep in the Covid-19 pandemic, and exactly one week away from the 2020 presidential election. Instead of piling on with our own opinions and speculation, we’re heading to the past for lessons and perspective that might, just might, help us make better sense of the world around us. Lessons from someone I think many of us wouldn’t mind having around today. A man who led the fight to liberate Europe from the darkness of Nazism. A man who spent decades patiently preparing and training for that role, never knowing if it would ever come. A man who’s deep footprint on history still shapes the world we live in today. A man who served through multiple heart attacks, strokes, and other severe illnesses. A leader tested by pandemics from the 1918 Spanish Flu to Polio. A true citizen of the world who, as Lyndon Johnson described, left, “America…a better nation—stronger, safer, more conscious of its heritage, more certain of its destiny—because Ike was with us when America needed him.”

Today’s guest knew Ike well, though she never addressed him as General or Mr. President. She called him grandpa because Susan Eisenhower is one of Dwight Eisenhower’s four grandchildren. She is a writer, policy strategist and national security expert who leads the Washington, DC based consulting firm, The Eisenhower Group.

Her recently published book, “How Ike Led, The Principles Behind Eisenhower’s Biggest Decisions,” and her personal perspective growing up with her grandfather are the focus of today’s episode. With that said, let’s get started.

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The Quantified Surgeon. Haptic sensors, wearables, and performance analytics. Stanford surgeon scientist, Dr. Carla Pugh.

Name: Carla Pugh, MD, PhD

Specialty: General Surgeon. Professor of Surgery

Location: Stanford University School of Medicine

You’ve no doubt heard this famous quote from science fiction writer, William Gibson, “The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.” What better way to describe technology and medicine?  The runway for technological innovation and adoption is just a little longer in our world. What other profession or industry can you think of that still uses pagers and fax machines?

So where can we look for a sneak peek into the future? How about sports? Motion tracking sensors, video analysis, performance modeling, biometrics, wearables, “Moneyball” data analytics. This is old stuff for the coaches, trainers, scouts, and team managers who use these technologies every day. But what can we learn by putting this same technology to work in the operating room? To answer that question, we’re thrilled to have Dr. Carla Pugh with us today. Dr. Pugh is a professor of General Surgery, and Director of the Technology Enabled Clinical Improvement Center at the Stanford University School of Medicine. She is one of the world’s leading researchers in the use of sensors and simulation technology to assess and quantitatively define hands-on clinical skills. This was a fun and eye-opening episode on what is coming around the corner. With that said, let’s get started…

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The Mad Men of Medicine Avenue. Investigative Journalist and PHARMA author, Gerald Posner.

Name: Gerald Posner

Specialty: Author and Investigative Journalist

Location: Miami, Fl

All right, welcome back. If you think you have a pretty good handle on the opioid crisis, the pharmaceutical industry and how it all works, today’s episode may challenge that assumption. It certainly did for us. The modern pharmaceutical and biotech industries are like no other. How they got to where they are is a story like no other. The same businesses that have given us incredible lifesaving advances have also given us disasters like the opioid epidemic. The history of the pharmaceutical industry is more complex and captivating than you might imagine. 

Today’s guest in award winning investigative journalist, Gerald Posner. He’s written twelve books including national best sellers such as “God’s Bankers,” “Mengele. The complete Story,” and The Pulitzer Prize finalist, “Case Closed.” His latest book, “Pharma,” is master class history of the modern pharma and biotech space. Understanding that history is critical to understanding the present opioid crisis. In-fact, we didn’t even cover the opioid crisis until the final 15 minutes of the podcast.

With so much to cover, we asked Gerald for an extra 30 minutes beyond our usual hour. Even that wasn’t enough, but it was lot of fun, and hopefully all the reason you need to read the book yourself.  With that said, let’s get started…

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Overcoming rejection. Renowned transplant surgeon & heart transplant recipient, Dr. Robert Montgomery.

Name: Robert Montgomery, MD

Specialty: General Surgery. Transplant Surgeon.

Location: NYU Langone Transplant Institute. New York City.

Imagine losing your father at 14, losing your brother a decade later, and looking down the barrel of the same heritable heart condition that killed them both. Imagine learning in your first year of surgical residency that your continued existence will depend a new implantable device, called an ICD. A device so new, you will likely be the first surgeon in the world to have one implanted. A device that will allow your life to continue, but most likely put an end to your surgical career.

That’s exactly what happened to today’s guest, one of the nation’s renowned transplant surgeons, Dr. Robert Montgomery. Robert has performed over 1000 kidney transplants and his research has advanced the field in areas such as desensitization, multiple organ transplants, gene and cell-based therapies, and perhaps most famously, domino paired donations. And if that’s not enough, he is also credited in the Guinness Book of World Records for most kidney transplants performed in one day.

One more thing…Robert is also heart transplant recipient. A heart transplant performed by the very surgical team he hired, and currently leads as the director of the Langone Transplant Institute at NYU. Wondering about the Ave Maria intro music? Well, that’s Robert’s wife, world famous mezzo-soprano, Denyce Graves. Get ready for a wild journey of an episode. With said, let’s get started.

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