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Fellow Spotlight: Suma Das, MD

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

This week marks our 100th “spotlight” interview with the faculty, housestaff, students, and staff that make up the Duke Department of Neurology. To mark the occasion, we’re returning to the subject of our first interview, Suma Das, MD. Das recently completed her residency with the Department and is continuing as our first neuro-immunology fellow. Das talks to us about how she’s grown over the past two years, what she’s looking forward to in her fellowship, and her recent wedding to Internal Medicine’s Kevin Shah, MD.

What are you looking forward to the most about the neuro-immunology fellowship?
The neuro-immunology fellowship is a way for me to delve deeper into a rapidly evolving field of neurology. In my two weeks as a fellow, I've learned that there is a lot more detail to neuroimmunology practice than residency allows for. I'm looking forward to working with Drs. Skeen, Eckstein, and Hartsell over the next year as I tackle these new topics.

Two years ago you were the subject of our first “Spotlight” interview. How have you changed or grown as a doctor since then?
Two years ago, I was just starting my third year of residency. It was a great spot to be in the thick of things- knowing how life in the hospital moves as well as getting to know colleagues and faculty in more outpatient based specialities. In the last two years, I'd like to think I've grown more patient and more willing to accept the unknown. This is especially true of Chief clinic over the last year- I became comfortable with saying "I don't know" and I think that has been useful, especially in neurology.

In addition to your interest in neuro-immunology, you’re also interested in neuro-ophthalmology.  What interests you the most about each of these subspecialties? How do these subspecialties align in your work?
I have always been drawn to the the detail of neuro-ophthalmology. Neuro-immunology lends itself to close care of patients with neuro-ophthalmologic conditions such as optic neuritis, neuromyelitis optica. Both of these specialties are unique in their own way: Neuro-ophthalmology is a vast world of tools, techniques, and detail. Neuro-immunology, on the other hand encompasses a broad range of conditions. It also demands a certain degree of comfort with newer immunomodulatory therapies, both for MS and other conditions. I like the challenge that brings and the new frontier of neurology that explores.

What plans do you have for after you complete your fellowship?
This is a hot topic for me currently. Training in medicine has been relatively linear for me- college, med school, then residency. This is the first time that several options exist and I'll be exploring them over the next year. I've loved academics and knowing so many experts in such vastly different subspecialities. I also am drawn to general neurology still be determined, it seems.

You got married this spring to a fellow Duke doctor, Kevin Shah, MD, one of our Internal Medicine doctors. Which of you has the tougher job?
I read this question out loud to Kevin and we both stared at each other for a moment. I think he has the tougher job at the moment- he's juggling quite a few titles and projects on top of providing primary care to his patients half the week. I'm still in pseudo-student mode- both with learning neuro-immunology as well as studying for my upcoming boards.

How do you manage to spend time together despite having two busy schedule?
We make a deliberate attempt to find time together, whether it be in the form of traveling or staying active locally together. We have a standing Sunday afternoon engagement with Flywheel in Raleigh and love our Monday night yoga at Yoga Off East on 9th street. It's an added bonus that we both are in medicine: when one is busy, the other generally understands. Recently, with the purchase of our new house, unpacking boxes, decorating, and gardening have quickly risen to the top of shared hobbies.

What’s one experience from your honeymoon in Italy that stands out?
We didn't have much time in Florence but we absolutely loved our wine tour in Tuscany. The wine itself was delightful but more than that, the history of the wineries we went to was amazing! We went to a castle that was built by the Pazzi family (longstanding rivals of the Medici). We learned so much about Florentine history during our day there, it made the day really stand out.


Das and Shah enjoy a brief respite in Italy before returning to medicine, a new house, and assorted chaos.