Wood earned his bachelor's degree at Wittenberg University in Ohio. He became interested in Asian art during a junior year abroad at the Kansai University of Foreign Studies in Hirakata City, Japan. He completed his master's and PhD in Asian art history at the University of Kansas. While researching the cult of the eleven-headed Avalokitesvara for his dissertation he lived in Taiwan and Japan and traveled extensively in Asia. After graduating in 1985 he worked at the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan and at the New Orleans Museum of Art. He has also taught courses at Kansai University and Kinran Junior College in Osaka, Japan; at Tulane University in New Orleans; and at UAB.
Wood arrived in Birmingham just as the museum was putting together five exhibitions as part of the Birmingham Festival of Arts 1987 Salute to China. He oversaw a major reinstallation of the Asian art galleries in 1988, and then repeated the process as the collection moved to seven newly-renovated gallery spaces in 1993. Wood was promoted to chief curator in 1996 and the endowed position of Virginia and William M. Spencer III Curator of Asian Art in 2000. He curated major exhibitions, including "The First Emperor: Treasures from Ancient China" in 1996; "Images of the Floating World: Japanese Prints From the Birmingham Museum of Art" in 1998; "Kamisaka Sekka: Rimpa Master – Pioneer of Modern Design" in 2004; " Fashioning Kimono: Art Deco and Modernism in Japan" in 2010; and "All the Colors of the Rainbow: Uzbekistan Ikats from the Collection of Peggy Slappey" in 2016.
- Wood, Donald A. (2000) Asian Art in the Birmingham Museum of Art. Birmingham: Birmingham Museum of Art/Craftsman Printing ISBN 0931394465