Skip to main content

Resident Spotlight: Casey Farin, MD

Monday, April 4, 2016

In addition to completing medical school and almost half of her neurology residency, Casey Farin, MD, has already traveled to three continents, and crossed swords with Olympic fencers. In this spotlight interview, Farin talks about her love of neuroimmunology, bonding with her fellow residents, and how and why she became a fencing expert.

What are your responsibilities within as a second-year resident? What does a typical day for you look like?
My Junior Assistant Resident (JAR) responsibilities range from running the general neurology service to managing 15+ (and sometimes 20+) patients on the stroke service to fielding anywhere from 5 to 15 consults over 12 hours during the day or at night. It’s a tough year! A typical day on most services starts with getting sign out from the night resident at 7 am, going over charts and seeing any unstable patients, and then rounding with the attending. That usually goes until noon, when we have conference. In the afternoons, we help call consults, put in orders, write notes, do lumbar punctures, write discharge summaries, and admit patients. We sign out sometime between 5 and 7 pm. Then I usually go home and write more discharge summaries.

What about neurology interests you the most? What would you most enjoy doing after completing your residency?
I studied neuroscience as an undergrad, so I’ve always been interested in how the brain works. Right now, everything about neurology interests me. Neuroimmunology has stuck out for me as one of the fields with the most active research and development of new treatments, and I like working with multiple sclerosis patients in particular. I hope to do a fellowship, maybe in neuroimmunology, and then develop a career that combines general neurology with subspecialty practice in a largely outpatient setting with some inpatient consult time. I really enjoy consulting for other inpatient teams and being the “expert” when they have a neurology question. I also really like trying to figure out the tricky, complicated cases.

Farin poses with her mother during a visit to British Columbia, Canada.

What is it like working with faculty here? What have been the most memorable experiences of your residency so far?
The faculty at Duke are incredible. I’m always amazed at how brilliant yet approachable everyone is. I alwaysfeel bad calling attendings at home, especially at night, but everyone has been incredibly helpful, even at 2 in the morning.

Even though it’s been very challenging, residency has been a lot of fun so far. The other neurology residents are fantastic people and have become some of my closest friends. Last May, towards the end of intern year, I broke up with my fiancé, who I had been with for almost four years. Before then, I hadn’t taken much time to get to know the other residents because I spent most of my free time at home trying to find the work-life balance that every relationship struggles with during residency.

Over the summer, I became really good friends with a few of my co-residents – the “neuro girls” as we’ve termed ourselves. They were the first real girlfriends I had made since starting residency. Olinda and I moved into an apartment together in August, and she’s become one of my best friends. The friends I’ve made in the residency program have been incredible in helping me get through what could have been a really difficult time in my personal life as well as my professional life.

You were an award-winning fencer in both high school and college. How did you first get into this sport? Do you still have time to pick up a saber?
I started fencing during my freshman year of high school. I had done tae kwon do and dance for a few years, and a family friend suggested it as a combination of those two interests. I also did a lot of theater in high school; I thought stage fighting was really cool and the theater directors were the fencing assistant coaches, so everything kind of fell into place. I picked the weapon most similar to stage fighting and pirate movies – saber – and I did pretty well with it in high school.

My senior year, my saber squad won our state championship and our varsity team won overall. In college, I competed against people who went to the Olympics and spent hours and hours per week taking lessons and practicing. I was pre-med and involved in research and residential education, and I ended up focusing more on my classes and other activities than fencing. I lost a lot in college fencing, but at least I lost to some incredible fencers. I fenced the girl who won the bronze medal in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. She beat me pretty badly, but it was fun.

I also fenced one girl who had competed in the 2004 Athens Olympics; her sister won the silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the bronze medal at the 2004 Athens olympics. I got 3 touches on her and lost 5-3, so I felt pretty good about that. I haven’t fenced since college, unfortunately. I still have all of my gear and I’ve been working up the nerve to try out the fencing club in Durham.

You also spent some of your undergraduate studies in Israel, where you traveled to Egypt, Ireland, Turkey, and other locations. What was the most memorable moment of that experience? Any plans to return to Israel in the near future?
I loved my study abroad experience. I went on Birthright [a non-profit organization that helps young Jewish adults visit Israel] after my freshman year of college and had an amazing time. A day or two into the trip, I started thinking about how I could get back to Israel for a longer stay. I ended up studying abroad through the Tel Aviv University Overseas Students Program. I decided to minor in Jewish history and civilizations so my classes there could count for something.

I spent most of my time in Tel Aviv; in my free time I would go to the beach, wander along the Tayelet (almost like a boardwalk), walk through Shuk Ha-Carmel (the main marketplace), eat fantastic shakshuka and hummus, and just walk through the city. The atmosphere there is very different. People are innately more suspicious; you can feel the collective tension when you ride on a crowded bus, and there are security guards in front of almost all stores and restaurants. In Israel, if you put down your bag and forget about it in a public area, they will literally block off the street and destroy it within an hour.

That sort of collective fear feels really strange, but you can walk around the city and see remnants of buildings that were bombed or small monuments and memorials from terrorist attacks. I haven’t been back to Israel since 2008. I’m not sure when I’ll get to go back. I miss it. It’s an amazing country with an incredibly rich history.

Have you recently read any books, articles, or websites that would be of interest to others in the Department?
I started listening to audiobooks during medical school when I had rotations around the state. I listen to a lot of audiobooks. I think I listened to 10 or so books during intern year. I would never have had time to read that many books during intern year, but I listen to them when I’m cleaning or cooking or driving. I like fiction the best, but I will read anything. The most recent book I read was The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. It’s about two French sisters and how they cope with the Nazi occupation. I’m also reading John Irving’s new book, Avenue of Mysteries. The best medicine-related book I’ve read recently was Atul Gawande’s new book Being Mortal. He did an amazing job on it.

What passions or hobbies do you have outside of the Department?
I love to bake. I don’t really have a specialty, I like trying new things. I usually end up bringing them to work or to parties because otherwise Olinda and I will eat them all. I drink a lot of tea, and I like learning about and trying new kinds of tea. I really like to read as well. I have a dog; she’s a 3 year old miniature Australian shepherd and she keeps my on my toes. I did a lot of choir and theater in high school; I still sing pretty often and I’ll actually get together with a couple of medicine residents and sing occasionally. I was in The Importance of Being Earnest in medical school but I haven’t done any acting since then.