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Resident Spotlight: Colleen Stack, MD, MBA

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Colleen Stack, MD, MBA, was first drawn to neurology when her sister was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Once she started learning about the subject, however, the third-year resident soon felt it was right for her. In this resident spotlight interview, Stack talks to us about her time as a resident, how she hopes to combine her knowledge of the financial and operational sides of health care with her clinical practice, and about making time with her son count when she’s not at Duke.

What are your current responsibilities within the Neurology Department? What does your average work day look like?

I am currently a PGY3 at Duke Neurology. This year is really exciting because we get more exposure to more specialized subjects including EEG and EMG, as well as more elective time to explore what we would like to ultimately pursue in the field.

How did you first get interested in neurology? What about the field interests you the most?
When I was in medical school my little sister was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I initially became interested in neurology for the purpose of understanding what was happening to her and helping her as much as I could. However the more I became engaged with the field the more I fell in love with neurology for so many more reasons. In many ways we know less about the brain than about any other organ system, and I believe this field will see tremendous advances in the course of my career.  

What have you enjoyed most about your residency experiences so far? Can you describe one or two moments that were especially memorable?

Without a doubt I have enjoyed the people – co-residents as well as faculty – the most. One of the reasons I decided to stay at Duke in the first place was that the residents are incredibly smart and talented, but are also kind, are team players, and are extraordinary people overall.

Do you have plans for what you’d like to do once you finish your residency? What would be your dream job?
Prior to my Duke neurology residency I worked in the medical device industry for six years, mostly in the field of neuromodulation. I am fascinated by clinical neurophysiology and will be doing this fellowship at Duke 2018-2019. Ultimately I would love to combine my love for medicine and business for the greater good, for example by working in a hybrid position of clinical neurology combined with technology transfer or medical device start-up incubation.

In addition to your MD, you have an MBA and a bachelor’s degree in English and women’s studies. How did you decide on each of these areas of study, and how do they influence your current work?
When I worked in the world of medical device start-ups I wanted a deeper understanding of the aspects of healthcare we are not taught in medical school such as operations, strategy, and finance, and decided to pursue my MBA with a concentration in Health Sector Management. Ultimately the experience left me fascinated with the business of medicine and how those skills can be leveraged for the benefit of patients and society on a large scale. My background in women’s studies taught me invaluable lessons in critical appraisal, healthcare and other disparities, and patient advocacy.

What passions or hobbies do you have outside of the Department?
I am a mother to a wonderful nine-year-old boy Cheikh-Abdou who is the light of my life. We try to counteract the busy hours of residency by making the time we have together really count. We love doing art and science projects together, taking trips, going to festivals or art shows, and spending time with the rest of my family (I’m a Durham native!) I also love to travel and explore new places and spend time outside of the hospital with my fabulous co-residents and friends outside of medicine.

Stack and her son Cheikh-Abdou pose in their Halloween costumes.