Thomas Talbot is a doctor, award-winning of builder of ‘serious games’ and virtual reality simulations, a consultant, speaker, and published author (“Androids: Build your own more lifelike robots”, “Virtual Reality Applications to Address the Wounds of War”). He’s a visionary when it comes to robotics, the Internet of Things, Human Computer Interaction & Innovative Devices. He’s also a nice guy, always willing to lend a hand. And, he keeps himself busy. He is (simultaneously) a:
- Principal Medical Expert of Creative Technologies for the University of Southern California, where he works with a medical virtual reality team on state of the art advances in virtual reality and technology for health.
- Adjunct Associate Research Professor of Medical Education at the University of Southern California, where he mentors students and collaborates in research studies.
- President of his own company, Talbot Medical VR Consulting, where provides expert services for creative design, medical simulation and IT concept development, keynote speeches and lectures (and more).
Oh – and there’s his military expertise. He has 11 years of active duty experience as a Founding JPC-1 Medical Simulation Chair, TATRC Medical Simulation Chief Scientist, Pediatrician, Battalion Surgeon, and USAMRICD Course Director.
Thomas Brett Talbot (his friends call him Brett) grew up in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, an auto industry town. Brett’s dad was an insurance exec, his mom a socialite. “I grew up around cocktail parties and playboy bunnies, but you wouldn’t know it from looking me”, he noted. Brett’s tendency to buck convention and explore life started early. When speaking of his school days he noted, “I was smart, but I didn’t do my homework.” He explored the woods near his house and liked inventing things. He was a dancer (jazz), was in production at Madison Square Gardens, and, at age 11, won a disco contest. He played classical guitar. He wrote for his high school newspaper and helped start a school TV station and assisted with production. Oh, and he reviewed restaurants. “It was a great way to get a free meal for a date”, Brett noted with a smile.
Brett attended the prestigious Hillsdale College, known for supporting freedom around the world, completing a double major in Spanish Literature & Political Science. After teaching Spanish for a year, he decided to go to medical school. Needing additional college credits to qualify, he earned a Master’s of Science in molecular biology at Wayne State University in Detroit. There, he made friends with military medical students and decided to join the Army.
Brett found getting his Master’s degree fun and creative, but that was not true of medical residency. “It’s an abusive, toxic environment. A third of my class dropped out and I was always getting in trouble. I came at things from a different perspective.“ He always looked for ways to improve thing and built some of the first medical websites and wrote an educational application for women’s health – all while in completing his residency.
By the time Brett finished his pediatric residency at the Lackland Joint Airforce & Army base in San Antonio, he was in his 30’s and ready to marry. His strategy? Go to an Army base near a university. He convinced the Army to send him to Ft Riley Kansas (instead of Alaska) and it paid off. A nurse he worked with introduced Brett to her daughter, who was attending college. “I instantly knew I would marry her”.
In 2005 the Army sent Brett to Iraq as a battalion surgeon. His already high level of enthusiasm during our interview picked up when he described his experience there. They were bombed on their first tour. “It was fun”, he said. “Really! I had no worries (well, except getting killed). I had a guitar and would sit on banks of Tigris River and play Arabic-influenced music. I was in a war zone and I was happier than I had been in years. I felt creative, energized.” Why? “For the first time in a long time, I was getting enough sleep.” He decided he would pursue a medical career that doesn’t involve being on call.
He was next assigned to the Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense (USAMRICD), the nation’s leading science and technology laboratory for medical chemical countermeasures research and development, located at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD. While there, the Telemedicine & Advanced Technology Research Center (TATRC), based at Ft. Detrick, noticed him and brought him in to run a new multi-million research program.
In 2009 Brett moved to Frederick, a place he had wanted to live for a while. “I was attracted to the high quality schools, great lifestyle and affordable cost of living. I love driving by cows next to the road, walking downtown, and, now, being able to work downtown.” He had become a national figure in simulation and wanted to continue to make his mark on this industry so, in 2011, he continued such work as a civilian under his own company name, Talbotics Virtual Reality Medical Consulting, and also began doing research with the University of Southern California.
So, what brought him to Cowork Frederick? “I was working at home in my basement in my underwear. I was too isolated. Here I can be around people. Here there’s more energy, more excitement. The people are awesome. I get to learn from other people, lawyers, book authors, etc. I also really like the downtown location. I wouldn’t share desk normally, but don’t mind it here. This is a wonderful way to work in the new economy. You lose your humanity when everything is done over the Internet. We cowork for some of the same reasons we go to church. We need to be connected, to be part of something bigger than ourselves.”
Reflecting on his journey and how he ended up where is now, doing what he does, he said “It’s pretty wonderful how it all came together: TV production, writing, programming games in high school, medicine … I’m very fortunate. I love what I do and I’m one of the only people who gets paid to do what I do.” Brett has always dreamed big and mused, “People think you’re kidding when you tell them about your big ideas – they nod their head and humor you, then seemed surprised when really do it.” Speaking of which, that college student he met while at Ft. Riley? Yep! He married her and they now have five (5!) children.
His advice to others? “Be around people who support you and empower you. Don’t settle with being comfortable. Challenge yourself.” He shared a favorite quote from an Auntie Mame book, “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death” and then added, “The world is such a wonderful place. You should explore everything, try everything.” And then, with his mind still swirling with thoughts – which I’m certain is frequently the case – he ended with “Do what you’re good at.” I asked how do you know what you do well? “ If you’re good at it, it’s easy.”