Jacob Wood, MD, joins the UNC Department of Surgery as an Assistant Professor in the Division of Vascular Surgery. He sat down to discuss what inspired him to become not only a doctor but a vascular surgeon and how he weaves his passion for art into his work.
Dr. Wood received his Bachelor of Science degree from Weber State University summa cum laude in 2009. His medical degree was awarded from Boston University in 2013. He then completed his General Surgery residency at the University of Connecticut, followed by a Vascular Surgery fellowship at the Medical College of Wisconsin, which he completed in July 2020.
Dr. Wood joins our Department of Surgery as a vascular and endovascular surgeon in the Division of Vascular Surgery. Dr. Wood has a particular interest in human anatomy and physiology. As an undergraduate, he served as a Human Anatomy instructor and Laboratory Coordinator and received the Arnold Award in Human Anatomy. His publication credits include medical illustrations for three textbooks.
What inspired you to become a doctor?
In college, I fell in love with the science behind human biology and human anatomy. As I continued through my education, I found enjoyment in the clinical aspect of medicine, applying the science I was learning to improve other people’s lives. The converging of those two areas of interest are what drew me to pursue a career in medicine.
What inspired you to become a surgeon?
While growing up, I was a very tactile child. I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands, and making things has been a passion of mine. For these reasons, I anticipated surgery would be the direction I would go in medical school, and I confirmed it as I went through my clinical rotations. Nothing else quite captured my interest.
There is a type of creativity that’s involved in surgery. If you get multiple people in a room with one problem, you’ll get a bunch of different answers as to how to best solve it. I also like how intricate and elegant surgeries are, from the simplest to the most complex.
What are you hoping your contributions will be to your specialty?
As a vascular surgeon, I am dedicated to caring for patients all types of vascular disease, but I anticipate focusing on patients requiring limb salvage and maintaining their quality of life. These are individuals who have wounds or poor circulation for whom we are trying to prevent amputation. I think education and knowledge are powerful tools and ones I believe play a big role in helping these patients. That’s primarily where my interests can be found.
What brought you to the Department of Surgery at UNC?
I wanted to find a place where I could join a group of really motivated surgeons that want to push the specialty of vascular surgery forward. I wanted to be in a team of people dedicated to caring for patients, as well as a place that could allow me to pursue research and train the next generation of surgeons. I think I found it with the people at UNC.
Why did you choose academic medicine?
Teaching is a passion of mine. Throughout my undergraduate studies, I gravitated towards things involved with education, being a teaching assistant in various labs such as human anatomy lab and human physiology, and tutoring. Then throughout residency, I found a lot of satisfaction with teaching the medical students.
When considering my career in medicine, I decided I wanted to be somewhere I can teach and encourage others; try and inspire medical students to pursue surgery, and inspire residents to pursue vascular surgery. I feel honored that I can help shape the lives of people that are trying to learn.
I also chose the academic route because, in an educational environment, as compared to private practice, I have the opportunity to be involved in moving the needle forward in science. Through research, both clinical outcomes and device innovation afford me the chance to help push things forward, and that is exciting.
Did you have a profession you wanted when you were a kid?
I always anticipated I would go into something related to art. As I mentioned, I’ve always loved working with my hands, drawing, and painting. Creating art is a passion of mine. Once I started getting closer to figuring out what career path I wanted to take, I realized I didn’t want to make a hobby that I enjoyed in my career. It would have turned into an obligation, a job, rather than something that brought me joy.
Art is still a part of my life, although, with two little kids, it doesn’t happen very often. But when I can, I like illustrating. I’ve started to create some medical illustrations for book chapters and journal articles. But when I find the time, I enjoy working on portraits and landscapes using graphite or watercolor, although oils are probably my favorite medium.
If you could pick the brain of someone alive or dead, who would it be and why?
I’d love to pick the brain of Claude Monet. I’ve always been enthralled with his vision of the world around him, how he saw things, how he interpreted that onto the canvas.
What is one thing you wish your patients or co-workers knew about you before they met you?
I wish patients knew that I was compassionate and that I cared about them. I want my patients to get the best results possible, and I’ll do whatever I can to get to accomplish that objective. That’s my ultimate goal for everyone.
If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
I would tell my younger self to believe in yourself and that you’re capable of more than what you think you are.
What do you do when you aren’t working?
I am trying to get my kids to bed. I spend my free time hanging out with the family. Moving across the country, we are looking forward to exploring the area and seeing everything that North Carolina has to offer.
How would you describe yourself in one word?
If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
If I could have a superpower, it would be the ability to slow downtime to get everything done. There’s just so much to get done in a day, trying to make time for everything, it would be nice to slow downtime, so I can pack it all in.