DSS Talk Features Stanford Neurosurgeon

K. Patricia Bouweraerts
Doctor James Doty Image

James R. Doty, MD

Can the mind join forces with the heart, biologically speaking?

A neurosurgeon might be able to answer this question. Even more so, a brain specialist who leads a center that scientifically studies altruism. Add to that the credentials of being a New York Times bestselling author, and someone who has spoken at the United Nations Plaza, TEDxUNPlaza.

James R. Doty, MD, will appear at Truckee Meadows Community College as the first featured presenter in the 2018 Distinguished Speaker Series (DSS). Dr. Doty is a professor in the department of neurosurgery at Stanford University, and the director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE).

Dr. Doty’s presentation is titled “The Power of Compassion to Change Lives.”

  • When: Friday, Feb. 23, 6 p.m.
  • Where: V. James Eardley Student Services Center, Red Mountain Building, Dandini Campus, 7000 Dandini Blvd.
  • Tickets: Free for students, $5 general admission; call 775-673-7182

The heart and mind can adapt to unexpected change, he says. Northern Nevada has been experiencing rapid change since 2014, spurred by the construction of a gigafactory east of Reno and Sparks. Residents are adjusting to the need for more housing. Workers across the U.S. are adapting to more automation in industry.

“For many, rapid change creates anxiety and fear as it represents uncertainty,” Dr. Doty said. “Yet it is change that results in growth and the development of wisdom, even if the change at first seems a negative. Being compassionate in such situations to oneself and to others will dissipate these negative feelings and allow one to embrace those around them and allow for change within themselves for the better.”

Doty is a well-regarded expert on the neuroscience of altruism. He practices compassion, from financially supporting health clinics, to endowing college scholarships at many colleges and universities, to serving on nonprofit boards such as the Charter for Compassion International and the Dalai Lama Foundation.

The presentation is sponsored in part by TMCC Student Government Association (SGA) and the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino, Reno. TMCC students and staff members have been inspired by Dr. Doty's book.

"Over winter break, I read Dr. Doty's book 'Into the Magic Shop' and found the book to be life-changing,” said Nicholas Kimutis, TMCC student. “I'm incredibly excited that he is coming to speak at TMCC."

Following Dr. Doty’s one-hour talk, there will be a question and answer period, with a book-signing opportunity to follow.

James R. Doty’s Book, “Into the Magic Shop”

“Into the Magic Shop,” is a memoir of experiences that describe Dr. Doty’s journey from an impoverished childhood into a scientific career, and proficiency as a successful surgeon. Then he uncovers an even more formidable journey to discover what it means to become deeply compassionate in his life and work.

Dr. Doty presents talks on compassion and affirmation—techniques that can change people’s physiology and health, and allow the brain to function and make decisions that are more effective. In addition, he teaches that one’s awareness for other individuals’ suffering helps people to connect in more meaningful ways—when the mind is calmed and aware, the “executive control area” of the brain can think through interactions with others more effectively and compassionately.

February is Heart Health Month

In addition, Dr. Doty’s presentation happens during Heart Health Month.

President Lyndon B. Johnson originally declared February as American Heart Month, with the first observance in 1964. President Barack Obama reaffirmed the national celebration during his two terms.

The introduction of “Into the Magic Shop” opens with a story of a young boy who needs brain surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. A problem occurs during the surgery that initially appears unfixable.

Then, Dr. Doty remembers a lesson learned not in medical school or residency, but something wise he gained from studying with a childhood mentor, a woman whom he met in a small magic shop many years ago. This wisdom transformed the outcome of the surgery that day. What he learned, in fact, inspired his “quest to discover the mysteries of the brain and the secrets of the heart.”

The Distinguished Speaker Series

TMCC has invited distinguished speakers to present special presentations since 2000, and the DSS was officially formed in 2002. Guest presenters have included well-known television producers, archeologists, photographers, activists, explorers, mountaineers, scientists and artists.

Dianne Cheseldine, Professor of Foreign Languages Emerita, founded the series and continues to be a driving force in securing expert presenters each year. She met Dr. Doty when another speaker in the series, Douglas Stoup, a polar explorer, asked her if she knew of Doty’s work.

“He introduced us—we emailed back and forth and then we set up a conference call,” she said. “Dr. Doty is a vibrant and intriguing individual and will lead an unforgettable presentation.”

For more information about the Distinguished Speaker Series, please call 775-673-7182.