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Lori Cook, Ph.D.

You might expect a place that deals with brain injury to be sterile and serious, but Lori Cook and the Center for BrainHealth are neither of those things. Cook, head of pediatric brain injury, is a bundle of positive energy packed into a petite frame, and her excitement about conquering her to-do list is evident in her brisk steps through the hall. “This is such an exciting time to be a part of brain research, because so much of the news is very positive,” says the Irving resident and mom of one.
There is no such thing as a typical day when you’re dealing with traumatic brain injury, but the constant challenge keeps Lori motivated. The Center for BrainHealth is first and foremost a research center, which allows it to bring in clients from the community who might otherwise slip through the cracks and offer them services free of charge. On any given day, Cook can be found meeting with clients, conducting research at the center or teaching classes in conjunction with the University of Texas at Dallas. Whatever the task, she’s laser-focused on her goal to help children who are struggling. “The brain is the most modifiable organ in the body, and just by using it you can promote growth,” she says. “We are searching for what we can do from a therapeutic standpoint to promote that recovery.”
The way she casually tosses out terms like neuroplasticity and neuron regeneration, you’d think Lori had been working in neuroscience all her life, but she actually trained as a speech pathologist at TCU and only happened into brain research. “I was assigned as a research assistant on this pediatric brain study, and 12 years later I am the head of the same study,” she says. Her passion for her work bubbles to the surface as she begins talking about legislation that will allow the Center for BrainHealth to lead Texas in a massive case management system for any children with brain injury. “The dream is that from the moment a child has an injury, someone will guide them through the system, getting them the care they need into adulthood,” she says.
With everything on track professionally, Lori added the role of mom to her résumé when she and husband Brian welcomed Levi to their family 18 months ago. Although she admits that she struggles with “typical working-mom guilt,” she’s settled into her new position easily. She credits the presence of her husband and extended family with helping her find a balance between parenting and career, and quickly realized she can’t “do it all.” She credits motherhood as a gift that allows her to slow down and enjoy the simple things in life. “Our best moments as a family are when we are just hanging out the living room enjoying the thrills a toddler can get from a simple game of catch,” she says.
Combining her career with the joys of motherhood has brought one unexpected side effect. Lori’s knowledge about brain injury and childhood development make the typical bumps and bruises of childhood even more nerve-wracking. “The more you know, the more you fear,” she says with a smile. But she quickly adds the advice she’s given to countless patients and parents. “There is always going to be risk,” she says. “But even after injury, we can be confident that there is a good chance for recovery. We should never let fear stand in the way of letting kids follow their passion.” Switching quickly from the role of doctor to mom once again, she says, “I still wish I could wrap my son in bubble wrap, though.”