These three University of Wisconsin graduates chose neurology as their specialty and share with Quarterly what they've been doing in the years since graduating.
Elizabeth Felton, MD '09, PhD '07
I am a neurologist at UW Health, where I specialize in epilepsy. I direct the Ketogenic Diet Program and co-direct the Women’s Epilepsy Clinic.
I also have interests in neurostimulation and patients’ transition from pediatric to adult care. In the Adult Epilepsy Dietary Therapy Clinic, I care for patients who have tried many medications and treatments, including surgery, with incomplete control of seizures. Several have experienced significant seizure reduction and quality-of-life improvements on a ketogenic diet. Some have been able to return to work after being on disability, and others have regained driver’s licenses. Several have had their longest seizure-free period in years.
As a medical student, I had a strong interest in neurology. During the doctorate portion of my dual-MD/PhD program, I interacted with neurologists, neurosurgeons and neurology patients. I became interested in the ketogenic diet for epilepsy while working with Dr. Carl Stafstrom. He has since moved to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, where I completed a neurology residency and an epilepsy fellowship. I subspecialized in epilepsy because I enjoy both the acute and chronic management of patients with seizures, and I enjoy working with adults and children.
In 2015, I joined UW Health and the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, the latter as an assistant professor in the Department of Neurology. For my first few years here, I was in the Centennial Scholars Program. One of its goals is for scholars to serve as role models for trainees from under-represented minority backgrounds. I am committed to this goal because I have benefited from several programs targeted at the success of minorities in science, engineering and medicine. I would not be in this position today were it not for those programs, so I feel it is my duty to give back.
I recently joined the Professional Advisory Board of the Epilepsy Foundation of Wisconsin. I’m also a member of several state and federal societies in neurology.
David McKee, MD '87
Toward the end of my third year in medical school, I was fairly certain that I would choose neurology, as I found the field very interesting. I was initially attracted by the fascinating functions and disorders of the brain.
By the time I finished my residency at Oregon Health Sciences University, I had come to find neuromuscular diseases to be satisfying. I completed a fellowship in neuromuscular diseases at the Montreal Neurological Institute and began clinical practice shortly after that. In 1992, I opened my own practice, Northland Neurology and Myology, in Duluth, Minnesota, and see patients at several locations in northeastern Minnesota. Over time, my practice has evolved from general neurology to about 90 percent neuromuscular diseases, in which the call is light.
In keeping with my impressions during residency, my most rewarding cases have involved patients who present with severe deficits caused by immune-mediated nerve and muscle disorders. Generally, these patients ultimately respond well to treatment.
I encourage future neurologists—and others—to give serious consideration to establishing an independent practice. Setting up a practice is not difficult; joining an existing practice is even easier. And I find it invaluable to maintain control of decisions about where and how I practice and to whom I refer patients.
I currently spend about 10 percent of my time as the medical director/chief medical officer of Integrity Health Network, an independent practice association that helps physicians build independent practices and navigate the complexities of insurance, government regulations and contracts. I’d be glad to reach out to anyone interested in pursuing private practice.
Julian Motzkin, MD '16, PhD '14
Currently, I am a fourth-year neurology resident at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). I also am a post-doctoral researcher in Dr. Allan Basbaum’s laboratory, where I study the neural circuits that contribute to pain.
At three diverse clinical sites—UCSF Parnassus, San Francisco General Hospital and the San Francisco Veterans Administration Hospital—I care for patients who have a variety of neurologic conditions, from peripheral neuropathy and migraines to more complex conditions characterized by disruption of thought and loss of self. Such a practice demands rapid adjustment, from quick thinking and emergent interventions to careful consideration of extensive diagnostic workups.
My most memorable patients are those at the ends of this spectrum. I think fondly of patients who have achieved complete neurologic recovery as a result of quick recognition and decisive treatment for potentially disabling strokes. I reflect with profound gratitude on the difficult moments during which I have been able to support families as they made end-of-life decisions for loved ones. My work feels most important in the moments I am able to be present with patients and families as they come to understand the significance of an illness.
When I complete my residency, I will begin a one-year pain medicine fellowship in the UCSF Department of Anesthesia. This will help me gain skills using multimodal approaches, including behavioral therapies, medications and procedures.
When I applied to medical school, I was already fascinated by the relationship between brain and behavior. I considered several specialties before deciding to pursue neurology.
This is a challenging, exciting field that is evolving rapidly. In my short time in practice, I have witnessed the emergence of new tests, therapies and devices that are fundamentally changing patients’ lives. For those drawn to the intersection between mind and body, this is an excellent specialty.