Next Generation: Thomas Ohno-Machado Lobbies for Federal Research Funding

One in a Series of Occasional Stories About Faculty Members’ Children

Dr. Lucila Ohno-Machado and Thomas Ohno-Machado with Senator Barbara Boxer Lucila Ohno-Machado, MD, PhD; her son Thomas and California Senator Barbara Boxer.

Recently, to his mother’s wonderment, 17-year-old Thomas Ohno-Machado revealed that he is interested and quite active in politics.

It seemed to happen overnight, his mother said, and without any particular encouragement from his parents. “It doesn’t run in the family,” she mused.

Thomas, a senior at Torrey Pines High School, is the oldest of Dr. Lucila Ohno-Machado’s three sons. Lucila Ohno-Machado, MD, PhD, is associate dean for informatics for the UCSD School of Medicine and professor and chief of the Division of Biomedical Informatics in the Department of Medicine.

Thomas is now the founder and president of the Torrey Pines High School Autism Awareness Club and an advocate for children with disabilities. He and his friends have successfully organized a funding drive and raised money to benefit a local school for children with special needs.

One day out of the blue Thomas asked Dr. Ohno-Machado, “Mom, can we go to Washington, DC?”

It turned out he had written to Senator Barbara Boxer’s office and arranged to visit and express his concerns about federal support for biomedical and behavioral research, particularly for the National Institutes of Health, and for the increasing numbers of children who have special needs.

Dr. Ohno-Machado agreed to go. She arranged for him to add a one-day visit to Washington DC to a trip she had already scheduled. He purchased his first suit, from Macy’s, and carried it on the plane so that it would not wrinkle in flight.

She suggested he prepare for his audience with the senator, and he assured her, “Don’t worry.”

They arrived at Senator Boxer’s office and, with the Archbishop of California and a California judge who had come in with them, waited their turn to speak with one of the senator’s staff members.

The time came. Prepared with statistics to back him up, Thomas Ohno-Machado expressed his concern and asked to know what the senator was going to do about federal medical research funding and the rising numbers of special needs children in the United States.

The senator’s staffer responded by showing Thomas documents detailing how Senator Boxer and another senator are addressing these issues.

Said Dr. Ohno-Machado of the meeting, “I didn’t speak a single word.”

She and Thomas had tried but weren’t able to set up a visit to California Senator Diane Feinstein’s office on the same trip. In a separate solo trip, Thomas visited the governor of Massachusetts and a school for special needs children in the Boston area. Recently, he pressed his causes at the San Diego mayor’s office.

He is headed to UC Santa Cruz this fall. He plans on a political career.

Dr. Ohno-Machado is still marveling at how a strong interest can reveal itself so suddenly in one’s offspring.

“He’s very excited about it,” she said. “He has a bright future.”

Facebook Boosts Voter Turnout

In 61-million-person experiment, researchers show online social networks influence political participation, with close relationships mattering most

About one third of a million more people showed up at the ballot box in the United States in 2010 because of a single Facebook message on Election Day, estimates a new study led by the University of California, San Diego. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


Dr. James FowlerLead author of the study report is Dr. James H. Fowler, professor of medicine in the Division of Medical Genetics and professor of political science in the Division of Social Sciences.

Dr. Fowler’s research is concerned with social networks, behavioral science, evolution, politics, genetics and big data. In recent medicine-related studies, he has examined the dynamics of alcohol consumption, smoking and obesity in large social networks.

Researchers Find a ‘Liberal Gene’

Liberals may owe their political outlook partly to their genetic make-up, according to new research from the University of California, San Diego, and Harvard University. Ideology is affected not just by social factors, but also by a dopamine receptor gene called DRD4. The study‚Äôs authors say this is the first research to identify a specific gene that predisposes people to certain political views… Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom

Dr. James Fowler

Lead researcher of the study is James H. Fowler, Ph.D., Professor of Medicine in the Division of Medical Genetics and Professor of Political Science at UC San Diego.