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Fellow Spotlight: Krystal Sully, MD

Thursday, April 19, 2018

This week’s “Spotlight” interview shines on Krystal Sully, MD. Sully talks to us about her experience at Duke as a clinical neurophysiology fellow and why she’s looking forward to a future in academic medicine. She also discusses the lingering effects of gender bias in medicine and how that bias can be reduced for women patients and providers.

What are your responsibilities as a clinical neurophysiology fellow? What does your average work day look like?
My duties as a clinical neurophysiology fellow mostly revolve around reading EEGs for Duke Hospital and the VA. I help to manage the epilepsy patients in the epilepsy monitoring unit (EMU), and I see patients in clinic. There are some additional modalities as well, such as evoked potentials, that fall under our pervue in addition to EEG studies.

What are you hoping to gain from our clinical neurophysiology fellowship? How will that knowledge complement your background in child neurology?
This fellowship has helped me to gain a better understanding of epilepsy conditions, how to diagnose and classify them, and how that information can help point to different treatment options. Specifically, this additional year of fellowship training has taught me more about the role of surgical options for patients with epilepsy. Seizures are not an uncommon reason to see a child neurologist, but as a specialist in epilepsy, I will be better able to help my patients with intractable epilepsy from determining the etiology of their seizures to finding the appropriate treatment/management course.

In your "Women's Health and Epilepsy" interview, you mentioned the continuing effects of gender bias in medicine. What part of medicine do you think most needs improvement in this regard? How and where have you observed gender bias personally?

Gender bias in medicine starts with recognizing that it exists. Thankfully, this process has started. There are regulations in place now to ensure the inclusion of women in research studies so that physicians do not have to guess whether study results may apply to their female patients.

As personalized medicine emerges, I hope that we better approach the variances of female health through the life cycle. From the provider side, I am most excited by the increased number of female physicians and providers in the field. This is very important as female healthcare workers serve as forceful advocates for women’s health.

What has been the most memorable part of your fellowship experience so far?
This year has been an incredible experience! As physicians we all work hard, and it truly is the people with whom you work that make the experience memorable. Beyond the patients that remind me of why I do what I do, my coworkers are the people that I see day-in and day-out. I have made lasting friendships here and forged professional relationships which I look forward to reconnecting at future neurology conferences.

I have also had the honor to work with some of the best mentors and most enthusiastic teachers who challenge me think critically and show me that neither novelty nor humility in medicine wanes with experience.

What plans do you have for after you complete your fellowship? If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
I accepted an exciting academic position job in Texas that will start after I have completed my fellowship at Duke. It is my dream job-- I will be working as a clinician seeing patients and reading clinical neurophysiology studies such as EEGs. My job will combine all the elements I wanted: academic medicine to allow me to teach and inspire the next generation of physicians; a strong university connection so that the hospital is connected to research opportunities that I may offer to my patients; and a friendly staff that works as a team.

What passions or hobbies do you have outside of Duke?

I’m looking forward to getting back out on the tennis courts as the weather warms up, although I don’t need a rainy day for an excuse to curl up with a good book.


Sully (top right) tours New York City with her family.