Dr. Wendy Leonard
“Zebrafish: Practically People – The Salvation of the Human Species”
7th Annual TEDxWilmington Conference // 27 September 2018

Wendy Leonard for TEDxWilmington: Now What? 7th Annual Conference

Meet the Speakers: Dr. Wendy Leonard for TEDxWilmington
Fri. 17 August 2018

I’m still stunned, thrilled, and scared to death thinking about doing a TEDx talk. I imagine standing on that stage, as so many others have done before me. People whose talks have inspired me, engaged me, given me goosebumps; people whose talks have so profoundly embraced spreading that one idea worth sharing. They all amaze me. Their courage, their poise, their authenticity.

I can feel the excitement coursing through my veins; but then, the doubts and fears creep in. I wrote a quick note to the organizer/executive producer of TEDxWilmington expressing my humble gratitude when I learned I’d been chosen to participate. In that note to him, I also confided, “I’m scared to death.”

His reply? “If you weren’t, you would not be normal.”

I cannot begin to express how powerful and soothing those words were to me. I am so lucky to have some of the best friends and family in Universe. They are all so supportive of this intense adventure I’m taking. They say such kind, loving, and supportive things like, “You got this!” and “Enjoy every moment!” and “We can hardly wait!”

Here’s the thing: If it were just about me, that’s one thing. But it’s not. It’s about the whole team of dedicated folks who made our scientific documentary short film what it is: A powerful, compelling, important, award-winning film that could change how we conduct scientific research – impacting the rate with which we identify treatments, and even cures, for some of the most horrible diseases, such as pancreatic and breast cancer, Parkinson’s disease, addiction, Alzheimer’s, depression – not to mention a game-changer for rare diseases, that usually don’t get the funding they need. We, of “team zebrafish”, truly want to help spread the word; our team chose me. So, I’m all in! Goooo Team Zebrafish!

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the TEDx process: Dr. Wendy Leonard for TEDxWilmington
Wed. 29 August 2018

The TEDx process so far? It’s as daunting as it is exhilarating. Seriously. The self-inflicted mental barriers, juxtaposed to the streams of consciousness that veritably glow with Divine inspiration, are stunning. And you know what else? It’s super self-revealing, which is something I neither considered nor expected on this journey.

You know that famous Eleanor Roosevelt quote, “A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water”? I really get that. Thing is, generally speaking, I like hot water. Case in point, a few months back, I took one of those silly online “tests” to see what my ‘last five words’ would be before I die. The result? “I can make that jump!”

Here’s the thing: By nature, I’m curious. Heck, I’m a researcher: I delight in mining deep down into what others write, suggest, feel, and propose. Doing so greatly informs my writing. I’m also an active listener, by nature. I’ve said many times over the years that I’ve never really learned anything from talking, myself. But now, because of TEDx, I believe I may have to reconsider that last self-assertion.

TEDxWilmington has forced me to listen to myself, in a way I’ve never done before. Their process is rigorously iterative, for sure – but that’s my style, too, so it’s not that. What’s different, is the passionate support, and the wise, actionable critiques the TEDxWilmington team provides. And the kindness with which they do this is off the charts!

Oh my, I just figured it out: TEDx is like an honest-to-goodness mentor! I’ve never had a mentor before! They unabashedly want us to grow – challenging us to dig deep and self-reflect, whilst guiding us down a path of contemplation, inspiration, and self-realization.  It’s scary. It’s wonderful. Gratitude abounds.

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Reflecting: Dr. Wendy Leonard for TEDxWilmington
Weds. 3 October 2018

At the reception following everyone’s TEDx talk, a lovely woman – with the warmest, biggest, smile on her face (whom I hadn’t met prior) – walked right up to me, gave me a big hug, and said “Wendy, I have two words for you: Mind blown!” She then shared how she’d known nothing about Zebrafish (my TEDx topic), and thanked me for giving her hope for future treatments and cures! Another person came up to me and said that he “was sure” he wasn’t going to find my topic “of interest” to him, and how “boy, was I wrong!” …Then, there was the woman who asked how she could get this information sent to her husband, as he was a scientist, and how working with zebrafish would change everything for him at his lab!

When I sat down to write this blog, I’d planned on sharing how “mind blown” was the perfect phrase to illuminate my reflections on the entire TEDxWimington process – from submitting a cellphone video, through actually standing up on that stage and giving a talk. And that’s still true; but, there’s so much more!

For anyone considering going on this incredible journey: The process is far bigger than I had even imagined – and I’d imagined it was going to be one of the toughest challenges, ever! But, I didn’t do this alone; far from it. My friends and family were amazing; TEDx coach Dana Dobson was life-saving; and, the entire TEDxWilmington tribe were extraordinary, inspiring, kind, supportive, and exquisitely candid! And know this – particularly if you’re apprehensive about going on stage: I had been told by the awesome Ajit George (aka: Executive Producer & MagicDust maker) that the TEDxWilmington audiences are the best: Warm, highly engaged, and incredibly supportive – and they sure are! They veritably beam Love up onto the stage – with a palpable energy that can only be described as electric! From beginning to end, for me, this journey was life-changing, gratitude-filled, exhilarating, humbling, and truly magical.


An award-winning science documentary film writer, a biomedical science writer, journalist, and best-selling author, Wendy Leonard, PhD, MPH, elevates translating medical jargon into lay-friendly language to a whole new level: she demystifies it in a way that intrigues, excites, and builds confidence. A passion for empowering others, her books include: Color Yourself Smart: Human Anatomy – a scientifically rigorously, fun-to-read and color human anatomy book; the Utterly, Completely, and Totally Useless, Science Facto-O-Pedia– where she provides nearly 2000 facts covering 23 fields of science deciphering everything from amino acids to why knuckles crack, to nuclear fission (which she does in just 5 easy bullet points!); and, the WomenHeart All Heart Family Cookbook – where she illuminates the science, and cool-to-know facts, behind 40 cardio-protective foods. READ MORE

7th Annual TEDxWilmington Conference // Thursday September 27th 2018

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