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Alumni Spotlight: Ambica Tumkur, MD

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Ambica Tumkur, MD, finished her residency at Duke Neurology three years ago, but she continues to draw on the lessons she learned there to this day. In this Alumni Spotlight interview, Tumkur talks to us about her work treating patients with epilepsy at the University of South Florida (and soon, Louisville, Kentucky), the lessons she learned as a resident from her mentors and colleagues, and her love of soccer, theater, and travel (three continents in three years!).

Where are you working now?
I am currently working at the University of South Florida as an assistant professor of Neurology and Epilepsy but am actually transitioning to a new a job in Louisville, Kentucky in a private healthcare group at Norton Healthcare. Currently, about 90% of my time is spent taking care of epilepsy patients and I will be continuing this at my new job.

I spend a lot of time teaching and supervising residents and although I won't be interacting with residents in my new job, I will have an opportunity to continue teaching nurse practitioners and physician assistants. I really enjoyed my epilepsy rotation during my PGY3 year and loved reading EEGs so, going into epilepsy was the right fit.

What does an average work day for you look like? What do you enjoy most about your work?
I divide my time between clinics in the morning and reading EEGs/teaching in the afternoons. I enjoy reading EEGs and trying to put the puzzle together and figure out what is going on with the patient. I also like all the new technologies and medications that have recently been developed to treat our epilepsy patients.Iit allows us to have flexibility when treating patients and always presents a new challenge

What elements of your time as a resident were most valuable to your current work?
The best thing I learned in my residency was the art of time management. Anyone who makes it through a Duke residency or fellowship knows how busy it can be, and Duke definitely prepares you for the demands of practice. The residency taught me a great deal about providing excellent care in an logical, efficient and cost effective way. These are lessons that I pass along to my residents as much as I can.

What’s one memory or experience from your time as a resident that stands out?
One day that stands out is my first day as a PGY4 and as a chief resident. I remember being on call and feeling stressed as the perfect storm was brewing: First,  It was July 1, second, the hospital had just transitioned to new EPIC system from an old EMR, and third the neurology service moved from the old hospital to the new working at the Duke Medical Pavilion. At Duke residents have a lot of autonomy-and having all these changes occur at that same time and being the chief resident was a little anxiety provoking. But in good news, everyone made it through in one piece!

Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for our current neurology residents?
The best part of my neurology residency was my fellow residents. I could not have asked to work with a better group. Medicine and neurology are hard, and having people you can rely on and work well with is the key for both your own health and that of the patients.

My advice to the current residents is to work together no matter what the situation. The Duke residency is a very a special family. Rely on one another to get through the hard times and celebrate together.

What passions or hobbies do you have outside of work?
I love to travel, play soccer and go to the theater. Travel plans include Dubai last year, Europe this year, and hopefully South Africa the next!

Tumkur poses in front of Dubai Burj Al Arab in Dubai...

...before heading into the nearby desert on an all-terrain vehicle.