Episode: 210

Assessing the Impacts of Social Determinants on Population Health with Rob Fields, SVP, Chief

A Fascinating Story About Memory
EP. 310
15 min 7 sec

Thomas Dixon, Inventor of ME.mory

A Fascinating Story About Memory

A Fascinating Story About Memory

Episode 310

Recommended Books:

1776

Sherlock Holmes stories

Best Way to Contact Thomas:

thomas@yourdigitalmemory.com

Mentioned Link:

Company website

Facebook Page

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A Fascinating Story About Memory with Thomas Dixon, Inventor of ME.mory (transcribed by Sonix)

Welcome to the Outcomes Rocket podcast where we inspire collaborative thinking, improved outcomes, and business success, with today’s most successful and inspiring healthcare leaders and influencers. And now your host, Saul Marquez.

Saul Marquez: And welcome back to the podcast. Today I have an outstanding guest. His name is Thomas Dixon. He’s the inventor of ME.mory. He’s enjoyed working in psychology and education both inside and outside of the classroom as an instructor and researcher. He’s also invented a digital memory mobile app called ME.mory. You could find it at your digitalmemory.com. With over a decade of research and instruction experiences across a variety of settings, both nationally and internationally. Thomas has a personal story he wants to share about memory. Why it matters, and ultimately how to be patient focused. Thomas is a gentleman that I met at a conference, we were both speakers in Pennsylvania and he actually commented to me that every New Years, he spends it in a new country. He’s a dynamic and very intelligent individual and it’s a pleasure to welcome him to the podcast. So Thomas welcome.

Thomas Dixon: Very flattered with an introduction like that. Thank you. Thank you Saul, how you doing?

Saul Marquez: Doing really great man. I’m glad that you’re here. I’m glad that we’re having this opportunity to reconnect.

Thomas Dixon: Likewise. It was a pleasure to have met you at that conference.

Saul Marquez: So can you give us an example of how you and your organization have created results by say improving outcomes, by doing things differently?

Thomas Dixon: Yeah that’s a pretty easy one. Myself and others using ME.mory have such a smooth time whenever we’re visiting a medical provider because without having to review any of my notes or prepare any documents right before seeing my neurologist, I search ME.mory for seizure and then I instantly can share with my neurologist and he sense of when I last had that seizure, when I last felt as if I was going to have one. And we’ve seen this for myself as I shared but also for others and that they’re using ME.mory as an injury log of sorts. People are answering all types of questions that they would get spontaneously for such a purpose. So if a doctor would ask you, when did you last feel tension along your shoulders, you could search for shoulders or tension and share those results which are likely to be far more accurate than your own recall would be. People see what else they noted what had been happening at that time so they were able to share with “hmm looks like the tension may be related to this type of physical activity” you know and giving them a more accurate record also of when it happened, or what time of the day, where it happened. And again given that it was noted at the moment it’s as accurate if they saw it a week from now or any other amount of time afterwards. And this is really important I feel because people bias we have a present bias where we think that our present day is more similar to our earlier days than it actually is. And that’s why I like how ME.mory can eliminate a bit of that present bias and you could just be surprised by how you know that your life was a month ago, two months ago. A different example of that is when someone is in pain and that they may be in more pain than they were the month before, with the present circumstance that bias they may feel that greater amount of pain was also the case one month ago. But if they searched ME.mory for pain they would actually see that the number of mentions have increased drastically more recently rather than me I know what had been the case before. So that’s from a healthcare space but on a more lighthearted approach, I search ME.mory to see the gifts that I’ve given to somebody on previous birthdays or different things that we’ve talked about so that way I know I’m not you know rehashing the conversation we’ve already had but instead I’m able to follow up on the conversation and said “Oh yeah right. I know we talked about this last time. What’s happened since then?” yeah.

Saul Marquez: I think that’s awesome. And you know one of the things that is really neat and you alluded to this at the beginning Thomas is that you potentially have an advantage because of the computer in your pocket. We all have this computer in our pocket but our memories are all flawed and the things that you can recall because you’re taking note of, potentially we could lose track off completely. And so I think it’s neat that you have the ability to do that and search. There’s moments where maybe we feel and the listeners you know including myself will feel like ‘hey you know I’m having a down day. Why not pull out your ME.mory and search when you are super happy and remind yourself of those times. And I think this is an advantage that you have, Thomas that we don’t.

Thomas Dixon: Well thank you for that. Yeah. I’m saying how I have that ME.mory users having that overall that they can search for something that they know they’ve enjoyed, that makes them happy, and maybe they wonder the last time they were at that music venue. So they search for the name of that venue and in a way relive that experience which is something that we see a number of uses of technology for that purpose. How many of us have gone back to look at text messages, to look at emails and such in order to re feel some of what had happened then.

Saul Marquez: Yeah that’s a great application. So can can you share with the what the listener a time when you made a mistake or fail a setback that you had and what you learned from it?

Thomas Dixon: Yeah I separate my life a bit. I’ve done this less and less now because it’s been a long enough time that the distinction feels increasingly meaningless. But I talked about my old life as before my injury and my new life you know. So my old life plan I was gonna become a psychiatrist for youth and it wasn’t a mistake for me to attempt the pre-medical coursework again after my injury. You know I had to find out what I could or could not do. And we want to discover you know if I could handle the physics and the organic chemistry coursework that I had been taking at the time. So I did all right in the coursework but of course all right is not what you need to do to get into medical school.

Saul Marquez: Right.

Thomas Dixon: The sheer amount of memorization and all the variables I had to keep track of at a free medical coursework environment. My pre injury self I handled it very well. But it was impossible after my injury. And even if I did say manage to enter medical school, how much I would be required to recall the memories not just you know the factual information but what has been happening recently that would only increase over time. So I had to end that that path and that goal of mine in face of my new life my reality and also even if I did get through medical school somehow, ethically, I wouldn’t want to be seen by me you know if I were a medical doctor. So from an ethical standpoint I thought it wouldn’t be appropriate either.

Saul Marquez: And in that I’m sure that was a tough, tough thing to grapple with but also you’ve accepted it and you’ve done so many awesome things. What did you learn from that failure?

Thomas Dixon: Sure sure. I learned and I’ve accepted with distinction I made with old life and new life that there really is not such a thing as recovery in brain injury. Now that’s not to say there will be no return and functioning because there is a bit of a period where you do recover some and you so like my memory is better now than it had been right after my accident. But that is it’s just true that I’ll never ever be the same as I had been before my injury. And I even feel that discussing recovery and brain injury can be invisible disability discrimination to some extent in the sense that if I lost my leg in an accident, how many people would talk to me about recovery? They would instead talk to me about adapting, adjusting, using prosthetic advices, what my scope of mobility would be. And one of the things that’s a relief is that when you accept you’re different, it can be pretty liberating you know like you give yourself permission to let that old self go and you can instead answer who are you today who will you be now. What are the opportunities that you’re going to explore and be open to Once you’re able to leave yesterday behind you.

Saul Marquez: That’s awesome man what a great lesson that you’ve taught us and walk through your personal experience to just kind of highlight the fact that accepting who you are, the things that you could do, becomes the new launchpad for the things that you could contribute to others and and you’ve really done that during the the digital medical summit that we were together. I mean I after your talk I was definitely inspired. And that’s what caused me to say man I want to share this guy’s story with the listeners and I’m so glad you’re here now. You’ve done so many awesome things since then and before then but you know since then you’ve done so many great things. What would you say one of your proudest medical leadership experiences has been to date?

Thomas Dixon: Well it was quite a shock and surprise to be able to watch live when Tomas Ryan had mentioned me in his TED talk titled Are your brain’s memories ever actually loss?” And that I was watching it live by an online stream at that moment and I share that as I think medical leadership can mean creating examples for how people can choose to behave within the medical context and as a result of what he had shared about me, I believe it led likely led to others considering their own flexibility in approaching how to handle episodic memory loss. So I felt proud and that I’d created the narrative which others could feel was empowering and that would have advanced their own approaches even if they didn’t take exactly my own. They would want to move forward in how they think about their own.

Saul Marquez: I love that. Tell us about an exciting project or focus that you’re working on today.

Thomas Dixon: Sure. Well I am definitely waiting with bated breath for releasing my memoir which I have tentatively titled “I’m sorry. That’s awesome.” And the reason I’ve titled it that is you tell people that you cannot remember your life. You know the events of your life and they pretty much always say “I’m sorry.” And then you tell them that you’re living with a digital memory and in the span of a few seconds they’ll say “that’s awesome.” And I’ve heard that I’ve heard it so many times. I said that is the perfect title for my memoir. Now…

Saul Marquez: I’m sorry. That’s awesomne. I would buy that one now.

Thomas Dixon: Oh thank you. Thank you. So yeah I think that’s a catching title I think people are going to be very curious why those words would go together. But that’s been my life experience. So as of now, I’ve written my book, I’ve extended it and I’ve fully edited it twice. I actually wrote this book by reading my memory from the beginning to the present day, while I was writing it. So I had the experience of reliving my post injury life through reading my book. And that was pretty surprising to recognize my life again as it got closer to the present day because you know of course it felt distant when I was writing you know from years and years ago and then it was one year ago and I’m like “Oh wow. Yeah.” So there are also other developments I would say that are related to my story which will be very shocking if they’re going to proceed. But for right now I think speaking on them would be premature. So yeah. So other than that the newest version of ME.mory sustains our team’s attention and we look forward to releasing it very soon.

Saul Marquez: So with ME.mory where can folks go to check it ou, download it, like how can they how can they experience ME.mory.

Thomas Dixon: Okay well our website is www.yourdigitalmemory.com. And it’s available currently on iPhone. We do have the older version and currently better than you know retooling the older version we’ve been preparing the newer version.

Saul Marquez: Got it.

Thomas Dixon: So we’re expecting that to be released later this year hopefully soon. And we’re looking for the release of the update of the iPhone version and also the Android version.

Saul Marquez: Outstanding so they could check you out at that website and folks what I’ll do is I will put together links to Tommy’s app as well as his website and all of the transcript for our discussion today. You’ll find that at outcomesrocket.health/memory. So Tom, getting close to the end here of the podcast, this has been really really fun. What I want to do is build a medical leadership course. It’s a syllabus of what it takes to be successful in the business of healthcare. The one on one of Thomas Dixon. We’re going to write a syllabus. I’ve got four questions for you. Lightning round style followed by a book that you recommend to the listeners outside of I’m sorry. That’s awesome when it comes out.

Thomas Dixon: When we release it first and then I can recommend it.

Saul Marquez: Awesome.

Thomas Dixon: Okay. Okay. Preorder it. How about that before it’s even published.

Saul Marquez: That’s right. That’s right. You gave it you gave me the link. I will go to it and preorder.

Thomas Dixon: Oh thank you.

Saul Marquez: Absolutely. So what’s the best way to improve health care outcomes?

Thomas Dixon: Well it’s kind of fitting in that I had shared earlier about that new life, old life distinction. So I think one of the best ways to improve healthcare outcomes is for people to admit the present day. So when I say that I also mean the prevalence of technology that exists now we see pros and cons related to how health care outcomes are influenced by so much information online and also the number of workarounds patients could be embracing if health care institutions would own up to the modern day. So I found it’s interesting in that I will tell so many people about the cognitive dissonance I’m finding folks are exhibiting when I would they would tell me the write down my memory notes and say notebooks like physical notebooks and then they would take out their phones to keep track of something else. So that was kind of surprising that they would tell me to write it down and then would make a calendar note. So there’s that bit that I want to see more and more people bridge that gap in terms of how we’re using mobile phones in the health care space. I want to just see more people accommodate that because nowadays we should admit. Yeah I mean I think we do admit that what we intended to be a phone is now a digital assistant and instead the health care ramifications of that related to how it could be developed further for say in research and development I believe that direction will continue to improve health\care outcomes in a variety of unexpected ways.

Saul Marquez: What’s a big mistake or pitfall to avoid?

Thomas Dixon: Well the, if you build it they will come. I believe that could be hampered when there are little to no efforts to educate or inform people of how to make use of newer tools. I’m going to go ahead and say that I’m still a young adult but I’m now closer to 40 than I am to 20 so I don’t know if I still am. But I’ve been considered a digital native and that I had my first cell phone back when it would take minutes to receive a text message. It’s you know there are so many people. Yeah I know right. The phones have not just the phone definitely. There’s so many people who are at my current age when those mobile phones were first emerging. So if I’m not a digital native let’s go ahead and call me a digital immigrant. Okay. So even with the newer features that we have on our devices our digital immigrants comfortable using them. And that’s one of the reasons why I’m trying to keep ME.mory as straightforward as possible while allowing for complexity when a user searches for that complexity. I just wanted to be as simple as any search engine if you want to find that you type it and you hit enter. And then if people want to get deeper they can click within menus that way they don’t have to face complexity if they don’t want to. I’m going to say consider how important using these devices well can be when you’re interacting with others and with the opportunities we have access to if we’re messaging well finding meaningful results that makes the difference nowadays between say getting the promotion or maintaining the friendship. And this is something I think we’re far behind on. But why aren’t we teaching students yet within schools on the use of this modern technology?

Saul Marquez: It’s a great point to very great point. How do you stay relevant as an organization despite constant change?

Thomas Dixon: It’s important that we admit that we could be surprised by what the users actually want from us. And then we have to be working to meet their needs and request. So we could be top down you know in how we believe people will use memory but we can let our progress be bottom up and users can show us how they wish to utilize it instead. Now of course we’re going to present an image of what ME.mory allows people to do. But why don’t we see the streams in the past that the users carve out themselves and then modify the approach given what they want from our app to give you a sense of that, patients, or maps, our people are using memory to record their children’s lives. It’s something we’ve noticed and also to record the lives of the elderly. So even though I’ve called it ME.mory we’re seeing that people are using it for other people and that can be a bit of a surprise too. So maybe that’s the direction we want to explore further.

Saul Marquez: Awesome. What’s an area of focus that drives everything in your company?

Thomas Dixon: Short I will answer that as my view that memory loss is universal. Okay. And there’s nobody I’ve met who wants to have a worse memory instead of a better one. So we’re looking at ME.mory as a service that everybody could use. And we you know we separate that into our need based users and our want based users is one way we talk about it and people will say to me “you know me me is an app for people with memory loss” and without missing a beat I say “yeah you” because I think of that as the nature of memory loss as a universal you know as a human trait. So I’m thinking as our company grows, we’re going to be growing alongside this evolving relationship with how we’re using our devices as a storehouse of information that we recall whenever we seek to recall it.

Saul Marquez: Outstanding. That’s a really great point. And yeah you know we’re all having a lose memory is a part of all of our lives. So keeping this in perspective is really great Tom and I appreciate you highlighting these very interesting facts and your passion for it and in the projects that you’ve you’re working on. What book would you recommend to the listeners?

Thomas Dixon: Well I’ve definitely been a fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories. I found myself pretty impressed by David McCullough’s 1776 and how many times we came close to losing the war for our independence for any of a variety of reasons. You know the troops had signed up you know conscription they’d sign up for a certain amount of time. And when that time was up they went back home. We also have a stronger national identity now than a state based identity. You know I think of myself as an American first rather than a Pennsylvanian and back then state identity mattered so much more. And there are the politics of having the group, the troops from the various states getting along with each other. And even that outside of the troops themselves there were a number of times we made very risky and daring escapes in the middle of the night when the British were approaching. So I felt that this was a very entertaining read for a time centuries back told by a famous historian. What’s not to love about that.

Saul Marquez: I love that. What a great book to recommend in a little piece of history there. Folks again you could get all of the things that we discussed links to the application. Our full transcript with Thomas Dixon go to outcomesrocket.health/memory you’ll find it there. Thomas this has been a blast. I’d love if you could just share a closing thought and then the best place where the listeners can get in touch with you.

Thomas Dixon: Okay. Well once I had been asked what I would tell myself if I was able to go back in time but unable to change what has happened to me. And I said to the person I would say “you will be surprised but you will be okay.” And I think that’s likely true for all of your listeners. Surprises are certainly in store for them but they will most likely be all right.

Saul Marquez: Love that. Great closing thought. And what would you say the best place for the listeners to get in touch with you is if they wanted to reach out.

Thomas Dixon: Yeah sure. Feel free to send me an e-mail. thomas@yourdigitalmemory.com and we also have the Facebook pages for ME.mory and for myself. So if people wish to reach out to me there, feel free to reach out.

Saul Marquez: Outstanding so I get those links from you Thomas so that I can include him in the show notes. Again folks, you can reach Thomas through those links, all of them are available including his email address at outcomesrocket.health/memory. Thomas this has been a blast. I really appreciate you making the time to be on the podcast, share your story. It’s always inspiring to hear from you my friend. Keep up the awesome work.

Thomas Dixon: All right well thank you very much.

Thanks for listening to the Outcomes Rocket podcast. Be sure to visit us on the web at www.outcomesrocket.com for the show notes, resources, inspiration, and so much more.

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