Tom Hooven


What do Tom Hooven '97 and Jake Gyllenhaal have in common? When The New York Times featured Hooven's story in a column on "love, loss, and redemption" several years ago, it was Jake who narrated Tom's piece for NYT's Modern Love podcast. "That's the extent of our relationship," laughs Hooven.

Hooven moved to the Twin Cities from Connecticut in seventh grade. As a new student, he found MPA to be an embracing community—one where he quickly developed friendships
with buddies he's stayed in touch with over the miles and years. One of them—Jeremy Drucker '97, in fact—told us of
the Gyllenhaal connection.

Today, Hooven is a neonatologist at Columbia University's Children's Hospital of New York, where he splits his time between working with very sick babies in the neonatal ICU and doing research on infectious diseases, primarily studying Group B Streptococcus, a bacteria that causes serious infections in newborns. "About a quarter of the population carries it, and it can be treated before delivery. But not all exposures are detected, and untreated cases can be extremely dangerous for newborns." Hooven's aim is toward vaccine development, so that immunity could be passed
along to babies.

At MPA, Hooven found the perfect school for his personality. He jokes that he was a perennial bench-warmer in sports, but says he thrived under the combination of MPA's supportive yet rigorous academic environment. "Writing served me probably best of all, because I use it so much in my work. Likewise, theater classes taught me a lot about confidence and public speaking—both foundational to what I do in my career. And science classes instilled that same love of exploration that I found in the arts. By trying new ideas and testing them in Mr. Shapiro's and Mr. Thomsen's classes, I discovered that science could be a deeply creative pursuit."

After MPA, Hooven attended Yale, where he set out to be an English major. Toward the end of his undergraduate experience, however, he took a turn. "I backed into med school in the weirdest way," he explains. "I took a computer science course and a philosophy course and got hooked on the workings of the human brain. Once I added neuroscience, psychology, and molecular biology classes to feed my growing curiosity, a light clicked. That's when I harked back to my MPA roots and realized that I wanted to be doing scientific work in a way that helps people. I've found that my willingness to be open to exploring different things has helped me carve a unique path."

Medical school at the University of Michigan in Ann Arborgave him exposure to many specialties through his clinical rotations as well as the opportunity, as a prospective clinician, to discover his calling. As soon as he got into pediatrics, he knew that those were "his people"—a tribe that included medical colleagues, the young patients, and their families. "And, for me, neonatology is just pediatrics amplified. I'm driven by the opportunity and the challenge of making a positive impact at the very start of a patient's life." His eagerness for the field is palpable.

Hooven and his wife Christina, along with their two children (Sam, age six, and Maya, age four) live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in what he describes as a too-small apartment. He's looking forward to coming back to campus and exploring MPA with his family, especially the new Makerspace.