Skip to main content

Resident Spotlight: Olinda Pineda, MD

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Senior Assistant Resident Olinda Pineda, MD, is the subject of this week's "spotlight" interview. As she nears the end of her third year of her residency, Pineda opens up to us about her current work, draws on her past experience to offer advice to incoming second-year residents (don't be afraid to ask questions or admit you don't know something), and discusses her future (outpatient general neurology and inpatient neuro-hospitalist work at South Carolina's MacLeod Hospital in 2018, and a wedding in Honduras in October).

What are your current responsibilities as a senior assistant resident? What does a typical day for you look like?
Third year is a time where you can explore more of the subspecialties within neurology (epilepsy, neuromuscular, neurodegenerative, and elective time) and when you are on an inpatient service you have more of a supervising role where you can answer questions that med students, interns or JARs might have and hopefully share some insight into things we learned after completing second year. There isn't really such a thing as a typical day - this depends on what rotation you are on (clinic vs. inpatient vs. combined).

What is it like working with faculty here? What have been the most memorable experiences of your residency/fellowship so far?
I have really enjoyed working with the faculty here. I appreciate that they make themselves approachable and I am always able to ask questions and feel that they do value my work. I also have had the opportunity to interact with faculty outside of work at various mixers for medical students and different subcommittees. This year we formed a women's group to inspire mentorship and support for female physicians within Duke Neurology - this has been a very memorable experience for me and allowed me an opportunity to really get to know some of my co-residents, fellows, and attendings on a more personal level. This group is refreshing and very encouraging, I always leave feeling really happy and inspired. It is comforting knowing that I have such a great group to discuss ideas with and problem-solve with if any concerns arise.

Do you have plans for what you’d like to do when you finish your residency? What would be your dream job?
I have accepted a position at McLeod Hospital in South Carolina. I will be doing both outpatient general neurology and inpatient neuro-hospitalist mix. I definitely like the models that allow for both inpatient and outpatient and there is a huge need for neurologists in that area so I am looking forward to helping fill that gap. I don't know that I have figured out what my dream job would be exactly, but I certainly enjoy direct patient care and so will start with a clinical position in general neurology and keep an open mind and see what other interests/talents develop over time.

Do you have any advice for the incoming second-year residents? Based on what you know now, is there anything you would have done differently as a new neurology resident?
Second year can be hard because you just started feeling confident as an intern and then you basically start over again as a first-year neurology resident, so there is this fear of "not knowing something that you should've known.” I would say try to relax and just accept that there are a lot of things you won't know.

Ask questions and ask for help when you need it (and you will need it). The worst thing you could do is not ask questions if you don't understand something and get overwhelmed by trying to do more than you can handle. Everyone is very understanding and willing to help, especially regarding incoming second-years. I initially tried looking up things myself because I didn't want other people to know when I didn't know something but within a week quickly gave up and just asked tons of questions when I had them - it actually made it easier and I think attendings are more reassured if they know that you ask for help when you need it.

How did you first get interested in neurology?
My interest in neurology came from my medical school rotation. I just found that the days seemed to go by really fast and everything seemed to be so interesting. I was fascinated by the neuro exam and particularly the ability to localize lesions based on the exam. I liked that there were several subspecialties within neurology and that diseases we encounter can range from acute emergencies to chronic diseases. I also like that this is a growing field and new things are being discovered every day.

Pineda Spencer

Pineda poses with her fiance Ryan Spencer.

In addition to your other skills, you’re also bilingual in Spanish. Do you get many opportunities to speak in Spanish with patients at Duke? If so, what kinds of neurological issues are these patients dealing with?

I was born in Honduras but moved to New York when I was five years old. My parents never let me speak in English at home, and to this day I still speak to them in Spanish. My continuity clinic has at least 50% Spanish-speaking patients only - this is likely higher than other residents because they specifically get referred to me. I think patients are appreciative when they can directly communicate their concerns and hear explanations to their questions directly from me instead of a translator. Unfortunately, many of the barriers in health care within the Hispanic population come from communication issues, lack of access to care, and fear of legal consequences.  I find that many of my patients didn't understand discharge instructions or don't really know much about their diseases because they were too scared to ask someone who didn't speak their language and they often just nod and say okay. Many of the patients have issues affording medications and don't have primary care physicians due to lack of insurance. I've also heard from some patients that they waited so long to seek care because they were afraid of legal ramifications if they were asked about immigration status.

Have you recently read any books, articles, or websites that would be of interest to others in the Department?
I recently read an article that talks about physician burnout as a public health crisis and comes up with a few goals to try and address this issue. I think it's important to acknowledge burnout and recognize signs/symptoms as well as come up with some strategies to try and help each other when this occurs.

What passions or hobbies do you have outside of the Department?
I mostly like to spend as much time as able with my friends and family. Lately I've been busy trying to plan my wedding, which will be in October in Roatan, Honduras, where a lot of my family is. I like traveling to new places (as much as our schedule permits) and going to new restaurants.

Pineda family
Pineda enjoys Christmas with her sister and parents.