What Does It Mean to "Think Outside the Box"?


As my wife and I were led into a darkened room adorned with effects from a late-1800’s era, the hostess wished us good luck and goodbye, then slowly swung the door shut behind her.  I quickly followed and attempted to twist the knob, which met me with a stiff resistance.  The door was securely locked.  My heart began to race. 

“Why don’t we try an Escape Room,” my wife asked me a week earlier when we were discussing ideas for our next date night.  Always game for new adventures, I agreed to go along with her proposal.  We went online and booked an appointment with a local Escape Room business.  The theme of this particular escape room was Sherlock’s Morgue*

The description of the room resonated with our backgrounds as healthcare providers – my wife an RN and myself a neuropsychologist.  “Test your knowledge of human anatomy as you engage in a battle of wits against outlandish scientists who are plotting to steal a piece of Sherlock’s brain to use as part of their plans to clone an evil genius!”  The paradoxically humorous yet serious description kept us enthralled for the days leading up to our date night.   

We now had 59 minutes and some seconds to crisscross through the clues planted around inconspicuous areas of the escape room.  Examining the flaky old wallpaper, I noticed a subtle change in the maroon red-and-gold fleur-de-lis pattern.  Picking up a magnifying glass from the nearby desk, I peered through the lens to carefully examine the design shift.  This is what I saw:

Red Nucleus.jpg

“An atom?” I thought to myself.  “What is it about this atom that might be associated with human anatomy?”  Then I noticed in the smallest of print underneath the atom, “I am a rostral anatomical structure involved in motor coordination.”  A snapshot picture of my date and my face at the moment would have put Rodin’s The Thinker statue to shame. 

I genuinely believe that the ability to resolve life’s conundrums is a quality that many AMPHL members have developed as healthcare providers with hearing loss.  Overcoming obstacles – whether in academics or the workplace – requires innovative "outside the box" thinking.

I believe that innovative thinking is a crucial part of what is becoming an established axiom: diversity is a strength.  Who would not want an individual whose character has been groomed, enhanced, and refined, not only by life’s vicissitudes but also the adversity inherent with standing apart from the crowd, whatever the distinction may be?

Recently, I came across a poignant article that moved me to tears.  The article was published on the Mayo Clinic website and entitled, "It Can Be Done: Mayo Clinic School of Medicine Evolves, Accommodating A Student's Disabilities.”  The article describes in detail the fantastic symbiotic relationship Dr. Leah Grengs Thompson, MD and the Mayo Clinic were fortunate to experience.  I encourage you to read this inspirational account (link posted below). 

As you read the article, please consider the context of our newly generated AMPHL Vision Statement, “Promoting equal opportunities in the health professions among the deaf and hard of hearing.”  Does our vision statement provide a catalyst for promoting transparent and fair technical standards at various educational institutions? 

Does our vision statement advocate the type of atmosphere that allowed Dr. Thompson to accomplish her vision as she broke down barriers to reach her goals?  Is our vision statement congruent with the Mayo Clinic’s endeavors to create inclusive and diverse environments?  Do you recognize the wonderful “thinking outside the box” that the article describes in multiple places throughout the piece? 

Consider the reverse as well: Are there things in the article that are damaging or negative to what we at AMPHL endeavor to stand for?  Is there anything that might be contradictory to our vision statement?

The much coveted but elusive flash of inspiration – better known as an epiphany – came almost simultaneously to my date and me.  My wife immediately grabbed the rustic treasure chest sitting on the floor beside the bookshelf.  On the chest securing the lid was a seven-dial word lock with bright red letters.  The letters on the padlock were imprinted in red.  I unconsciously fingerspelled each letter in my left hand as we both frantically turned the dials to align with the arrows and spell: N-U-C-L-E-U-S. 

As the lock popped open, the flood of eureka-related endorphins was a welcome relief for deciphering the first clue.  The Red Nucleus – that obscure yet essential anatomical feature located in the rostral midbrain of the cerebral cortex.  As part of the rubrospinal tract, the Red Nucleus fundamentally allows those of us who use a signed language to gesture with our hands as we engage in conversation.

My date and I peered into the opened chest and were thrilled to find another clue.  I grabbed my wife's hand, squeezed it, and asked, "Are you ready for some more thinking outside the box?"  

Link to above-referenced article, “It Can Be Done: Mayo Clinic School of Medicine Evolves, Accommodating A Student's Disabilities”: https://alumniassociation.mayo.edu/can-done-mayo-clinic-school-medicine-evolves-accommodating-students-disabilities/

*To protect the Escape Room’s business secrets, all comments in this article regarding the theme and clues have been revised and are the sole ideas of the author.


Jaime A.B. Wilson, Ph.D., LP, is AMPHL’s 2017-2019 President.  Dr. Wilson is a licensed clinical psychologist / neuropsychologist.  As part of the work in his private practice (Wilson Clinical Services, PLLC.), Dr. Wilson conducts comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations.  The field of neuropsychology is dedicated to learning about and diagnosing conditions related to the brain and nervous system.