Tom Hooven and his familyWhat are you currently doing, professionally and/or personally?

I’m an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Newborn Medicine in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics. I run a research laboratory that uses molecular genetics and bioinformatic techniques to better understand the interactions between bacteria, pregnant mothers, and newborn babies. The goal of this work is to develop better preventative and treatment approaches to avoid the worst complications of bacterial infections in pregnancy and early newborn life. I also serve as an attending physician in the neonatal intensive care units at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and Magee-Women’s Hospital of UPMC, where our teams care for newborns and infants with complications of prematurity, congenital malformations, and other neonatal illnesses. I teach medical students, residents, neonatology fellows, and research scientists training at the University of Pittsburgh and affiliated institutions.

How did you get there? Where did you attend college? Are there some career moves or other key experiences or relationships that have inspired you?

I attended college at Yale University, where I benefitted from a true liberal arts education that let me study broadly, with very few constraints. I did not enter college planning a career in medicine or science. (I thought I’d be an English major!) I think having the freedom to explore many topics allowed me to find a calling in medicine that I hadn’t expected. It was a result of realizing that I wanted a career that combined reason and science with humanitarian goals.

How did your MPA experience prepare you for your life today? How did MPA inspire you to dream big and do right?

My high school years at MPA were truly formative. I was taught to work hard, think creatively, and seek a deep understanding of academic topics, but also to value humanitarian concepts like social justice and empathy. All of this continues to resonate in my daily work as a physician-scientist. One of the most important things I learned at MPA was how to write and edit. As a middle school and high school student, I did not understand how fundamental to success strong writing skills would prove to be, but from my current perspective it’s hard to overstate. Regardless of one’s professional field, the ability to clearly and effectively communicate through writing is a tremendous asset. I’m grateful for the careful thought that went into the writing curriculum at MPA. Finally, I think the social atmosphere at the school helped me develop a confident sense of self that has been very valuable in my professional (and personal) life. I had talented, supportive, and ambitious friends at MPA who helped me think about the world in interesting, creative ways. I think we encouraged each other to be good people from a young age, and that set a trajectory for many of us to try to benefit others through work, charity, volunteering, and art.

What’s next? Do you have any aspirations–personal or professional–that you’d like to share?

I’m enjoying my work as a physician and researcher. My attention these days is intensely focused on developing and executing scientific experiments that teach us new fundamental facts about host-pathogen biology. I hope that I can succeed in solving some of the puzzles we’re working on, and that the people I’m training can go on to make even bigger contributions to science and medicine. I’m also the father of two young kids. I hope that they grow up to value the core MPA philosophies of lifelong learning and compassionate community involvement that have been an inspiration to me.

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