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Faculty Spotlight: Joel Morgenlander, MD

Wednesday, January 26, 2022
j morgenlander

Joel Morgenlander, MD, came to Duke as a neurology resident in 1987 and has stayed here ever since. During this time he has advanced our Department’s mission of neurology education, serving as director of our residency program for years as well as developing a postgraduate residency program in neurology for advanced practice providers (APPs), now in its seventh year. For this week’s Spotlight interview, Morgenlander talks to us about how neurology has changed since he came to Duke, and the joys and challenges of his work. 

What are your current responsibilities within the Neurology Department? What does a typical day look like for you?
I spend my clinical time either in the clinic, seeing my own patients or patients in the resident clinic or rotating on the Duke Hospital General Neurology and Consult teams. I enjoy having some variability in days and weeks. I am core faculty for the Neurology Residency Program and a resident faculty advisor. I also direct the Neurology APP Residency Program and run the Duke Neurology Concussion and Sports Neurology Clinic.

How has Duke and neurology as a field changed the most since you first became a neurologist?
I think the greatest change for Duke Neurology is our development as a Department. We have expanded all of our missions as directors of our own destiny and that was not possible as a division in the Department of Medicine. 

Neurology as a field has changed in two major ways. First, there are many more effective therapeutics in many areas of neurology. Second, we have expanded our expertise within an enlarged scope of neurology, developing new areas of subspecialty evaluation and care. 

The best thing about neurology that hasn’t changed is every patient interaction starts with a history and physical examination requiring lesion localization and formulation. There has always been something special about having the most critical skills to help people in your own hands.

The APP residency program you founded is now entering its seventh year. How has this program evolved since it began, and what hopes do you have for its future?

I believe the best way to prepare APPs for subspecialty practice is through expanded education. We are in our seventh year of the program and have had the honor to train some amazing APPs. In addition to their excellent rotations taught by our faculty and APPs,  we now have APP mentors who trained in the program, journal club and formal presentations by the APPs (both Ashley Lengel and Jake Gardner will present posters at the NC Neurological Society). Through our advocacy for the program, we have done 11 Grand Rounds at other Neurology departments across the U.S. in the past year and half and multiple institutions have started programs. We will start working together as a group to develop curricula and eventually have a certification exam.     

What do you enjoy most about your work?
God has enabled me to have this vocation of being a neurologist and I am blessed to have the opportunity to help people through neurological care and education. Every year we watch It’s a Wonderful Life at the holiday season and I truly believe we don’t fully comprehend the difference we can make with efforts big and small.  

What’s the hardest part of your job?
Still not being able to have more effective therapies for some of the disorders affecting our patients. Additionally, trying to help patients and families that have limited resources given the complexity and cost of care. 

What are you most looking forward to in 2022?
Increased efforts to develop Neurology APP Residency Programs and the rebranding of the Duke Neurology Concussion and Sports Neurology Clinic. This clinic will be a multi-disciplinary effort of Sweta Sengupta, Kelly White, and myself along with Duke Physical Therapy.

What other passions or hobbies do you have outside of the Department?
I enjoy time with my family and friends doing everything and running with the ODRC (Old Dude’s Running Club).

Morgenlander shared this photo of himself and his family.