A Conversation with Tom Reid

Tom Reid
Assistant Clinical Professor

Tom Reid

You just returned from vacation, did you not? Where did you go and what was the best part?

The first week, I stayed in San Francisco because some very good friends from Rochester, where I trained, were visiting. After that, we went to Boston where my girlfriend ran the marathon and did a personal best of 3:32:47. I went to cheer her on and be her support.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up all over the place. I was almost born in Bangladesh, where my father was a general manager for Pfizer, but my mother was advised to go to a tiny little birthing home in Bangkok run by Scottish nuns. On my 21st birthday, I went back and met the nurse who had been present at my delivery, and we got a photo of my mother and me. My family also lived in Athens, England, and Australia, so I traveled back and forth a lot.

Tom and Claire

So then, is it fair to say that oenophilia is an affliction that you suffer? Can you recommend your favorite remedies?

Actually, I didn’t start drinking until the age of 31 but, when I did, I decided that I should know something about what I’m drinking. I started picking up books, so while I’m not a crazy wine connoisseur or at a sommelier’s level, I enjoy drinking and talking about wine. My current challenge is to find a good bottle of Pinot Noir under twenty dollars and, as far as I can tell, that’s not possible. I’ve been to some nice restaurants that do a prix fixe menu with certain wine pairing, where we learn how the chef and the sommelier think about why certain things go together. One of the things that’s refreshing about wine is that it’s so subjective; it’s impossible to be truly an expert.

Do you have a sweet tooth and how do you satisfy it? What is your favorite flavor?

I assume you’re talking about ice cream since you asked about a flavor! I think there’s a genetic predisposition, as my father, brother, and I would tell our mother that we were going out for male bonding and instead went for Ben and Jerry’s. I started making ice cream a few years ago and spent four months perfecting my recipe for vanilla and, using reverse engineering, back-calculated the amounts of fat, sugar, and other things from the nutrition labels of Häagen-Dazs. Remember, I was a chemist!

What is your favorite social media?

I was a big tech guy when I was younger, interested in all kinds of computer programming and, just out of college, worked as a web software consultant. Possibly because of all the work I did in computer sciences, I’m acutely aware of the lack of privacy so I watch my Facebook privacy settings very carefully. I have no personal interest in Twitter but I understand why others might.

You once mentioned to me that you sing. Do you also play an instrument?

I play guitar a bit but learned mostly to accompany myself. I was in a rock band for a little while, actually a group of docs during residency who got together for talent shows. I was also in several a cappella groups in high school and college.

Are you a history buff? Is there an era to which you are particularly drawn?

I like the Revolutionary War and have listened to many audio-books about the Founding Fathers. What is fascinating is that history illustrates how what happened and how we learn or remember what happened are often very different. When we learn about people as real people instead of historical characters or symbols, it becomes much more rich. I also like reading about World War II—such a sweeping conflict that changed the world in such a brief period.

I believe you are also a certified massage therapist. How did that come about?

Since an incident with vanilla scented massage oil in college, I had always been interested in learning more about the discipline. Towards the end of my Master’s program, when I needed a few months to finish my thesis and the rest of the year to apply to medical schools, I decided to move to D.C. in part to be near my girlfriend. I filled the remainder of the year studying massage therapy. Because of the way we practice medicine, there isn’t much of a place to use touch but there are a couple of techniques that I can still use in a professional situation to ease discomfort. For instance, there’s an occipital ridge pressure point technique I sometimes use to help with tension headaches.

Your CV shows that you’ve been involved in photography projects for hospice patients and immigrant children. How does photography speak to you?

I’ve always liked photography and got into it about ten years ago. I tend to be drawn to people more than to landscapes. People are dynamic, faces are fascinating, and portraits capture things in stillness that you don’t see when you normally just look at a person in life. Anyone can have an interesting expression and a face tells a story with its lines, wrinkles, or rheumy eyes. It’s something true about the person, and the process, for me, is about internalizing.

What kinds of people are you attracted to?

People who are passionate. Constitutionally I respond to people who are interesting, quick, snappy, and a little crazy. In some ways, I’m like that too, having been diagnosed with ADHD as a child. But I think that can be an advantage as well as a disadvantage. It shapes what your personality is but not entirely to the negative. The older I get, the more I respect people who are more balanced, who seem to have a core, who know themselves, who don’t need to prove things, who are more humble. I appreciate that.

Who offered you the best advice, on any subject, and what was that advice?

My dad is from New Zealand and is eminently quotable, and his father was from Scotland, so there is a real storehouse of bizarre expressions that have never been heard in the United States and probably New Zealand! I’ve heard all of them at least a few dozen times over the years. My favorites include, “Life consists of little things,” “An expert is someone who has done it once before,” and “Getting it right is easy. Getting it done is hard.”

Name your least favorite household chore and your best excuse for avoiding it.

Cleaning the bathroom. I’ve hired someone to take care of that.

What three words would your best friend use to best describe you?

My best friend likes to mock my vocabulary so these are his picks: lexiphanicist, meritorious, and perspicacious. My own words would probably be enthusiastic, curious, and distractible.

Thank you, Tom!

- by Oralia Schatzman

View Tom's professional bio | See previous faculty interviews