Faculty Focus

Thomsen, Teri

Teri Thomsen, MD, JD

What is your hometown?

Princeton, Iowa

When did you join the University of Iowa faculty?


How/when did you become interested in science and medicine?

I grew up on a farm, so for as long as I can remember, I was interested in nature and how things worked.

As a child, I requested a microscope for Christmas, so that I could study cells and microbes; this led to my studying microbiology as an undergraduate. Medicine represents the ideal combination of pursuing scientific knowledge and applying that knowledge to help people.

What interested you to pursue a career in Neurology?

Before deciding to attend medical school, I was an attorney in Washington, D.C. While riding the subway to work, I read Oliver Sacks’ book “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for A Hat,” this opened up the world of neurological marvels to me. Years later, I met Dr. Sacks and was able to tell him that he inspired me to become a neurologist.

Is there a teacher or mentor who helped shape your career?

While a medical student and resident at the University of Iowa, Dr. Robert Rodnitzky inspired me to pursue a specialty in Movement Disorders.

How or why did you choose the University of Iowa?

I was born and raised in Iowa and did all of my training at the University of Iowa except for my fellowship. I returned to the University of Iowa after my fellowship because I wanted to help patients from my home state. I also enjoy the collegial atmosphere among the faculty and staff at the University of Iowa.

What kinds of professional opportunities or advantages does being a faculty member at an academic medical center provide?

• The ability to participate as a member of a research team
• The ability to teach medical students and residents
• The ability to network with colleagues at other institutions

Please describe your professional interests.

My subspecialty in Neurology is the treatment of movement disorders. The majority of my time is spent working with patients who have had deep brain stimulation surgery as a treatment for their movement disorders.

What led to your interest in Parkinson Disease?

I saw firsthand the devastation that Parkinson’s disease causes in the lives of patients and their families as a student. While in my fellowship, I was able to work with patients who had received a deep brain stimulator and witnessed the profound improvement that many of them experienced.

How does working in a collaborative and comprehensive academic medical center benefit your work?

The Movement Disorders Division works closely with the Department of Neurosurgery in managing deep brain stimulation patients.

What are some of your outside interests?

I enjoy reading, spending time with my husband, visiting family and friends, and playing with my dog and cats.

Do you have an insight or philosophy that guides you in your professional work?

Each day is a new day, so start fresh and do your best every day.

If you could change one thing about the world (or the world of medicine/science), what would it be?

I would wish for there to be no more wars so that time and money could be spent more productively on things such as improving people’s lives and advancing scientific research.

What is the biggest change you've experienced in your field since you were a student?

Declining reimbursements are pressuring clinicians to see more patients, so there is less time to spend with patients, which compromises patient care.

What one piece of advice would you give to today's students?

Pursue an area of medicine that excites you, one that will keep you engaged and enthused for the rest of your career. Try to avoid choosing a specialty based on money or lifestyle because that may not make you happy for the long-term.

What do you see as "the future" of medicine/science?

I believe that we are on the cusp of major breakthroughs in multiple areas of medicine including degenerative diseases, cancers, and presently “incurable” diseases such as HIV. As our understanding of the interplay of genetics and environment expands, we will be able prevent or cure many illnesses that currently take the lives of millions of people around the world.

In what ways are you engaged with the greater Iowa public (i.e., population-based research, mentoring high school students, sharing your leadership/expertise with organizations or causes, speaking engagements off campus, etc.)?

I have participated in speaking engagements off campus, such as speaking to a Parkinson’s disease support group and at community hospitals.