Reading the journey of neurosurgeon, James Doty MD, does indeed have a fantastical element to it. He was born into a family where his mother was ill and his father an alcoholic. A world characterized by uncertainty, violence and few prospects. At 13 he began taking drugs and was beginning to get into trouble. By chance, at this time he walked into a magic shop where he met the owner’s mother. This meeting changed the trajectory of his life. She recognized that he was at a crossroads and took him under her wing. She taught him how to meditate over the next six weeks. This changed his perspective and “allowed him to see a way out of hopelessness”……….”We are the ones who create our worldview – not some outside event”. She helped him to set himself on a path towards higher education. Ultimately, he applied to Tulane Medical School and convinced a skeptical admissions committee to see beyond his less than stellar GPA. To train and practice as a neurosurgeon became his next goal. He accumulated wealth and fame through his career in surgery and as an entrepreneur investing in biotech, focusing particularly on Accuray, makers of the CyberKnife, eventually becoming president and CEO. BUST… along came the dotcom meltdown in 2000 and his money ($74 million) and assets evaporated. He was only left with $3 million in debt and his shares in Accuray. He had previously committed these shares to a philanthropic trust. All advised him to cash out. Instead, he went ahead with his commitment, all $30 million of it. This act changed his life again. He was finally rid of the “monkey” on his back, that kept him tied to chasing the money/asset/event that would might finally make him feel that he was O.K. This act truly liberated him.
He went on to found the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE). Through the scientific study of such as behaviors compassion, altruism and empathy, he seeks to develop and promote these qualities in both individuals and society at large.
“We have to go from this viewpoint that our family is defined by our mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle”—he thumped his desk—“to saying the world is my home. And not be overwhelmed by that, to have a sense of open-heartedness about that. That’s what’s going to save our humanity.”– James Doty