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Resident Spotlight: Suma Das, MD

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Welcome to our inaugural resident spotlight. In this recurring series, we’ll talk to residents, faculty and staff within the Department of Neurology about their work interests, expertise, and life outside of Duke. Today we’ll talk to third-year resident Suma Das, MD, about how she became interested in neurology, what her typical days look like, and exploring Durham and North Carolina with her colleagues.

Where did you come from before you came to Duke?
I grew up in Rochester, NY (for the most part) and hopped over to the next stop on the Thruway for undergrad at the University at Buffalo, where  I finished a degree in biomedical sciences with minors in English and Pharmacology/Toxicology. I went straight from there to medical school at SUNY Upstate in Syracuse.

How did you get interested in neurology? What areas of interest do you have within the field?
I knew pretty early on in medical school that I wanted to be part of a dynamic field that allowed for continuity of care. I had my neurology rotation pretty late (April) of my MS3 year but had been exposed to it while doing research in epilepsy as a first year medical student. The spectrum of neurological disease I was exposed to as a medical student really helped cement my interest. I had found a field that not only allows for strong doctor-patient relationships, but also a field that fosters critical thinking and keeping up to date with the latest advances.

I’m interested in neuro-ophthalmology and neuro-immunology, and I plan on completing fellowships in both.

What does a typical day look like for you as a resident?
The neurology residency program at duke is different from year to year. As I recently completed my PGY-2 (JAR) year, I can speak to that best. In general, JARs are divided between three inpatient rotations- general neurology, stroke, and inpatient consults (there’s elective, neuro ICU, and the occasional night float in there too).

On the inpatient floors, a usual day starts with sign out at 7 a.m., catching up on overnight changes and seeing new patients. Rounds usually start by 8:30 and go until 12 depending on the size of the service. After an hour-long break for our noon conference, the afternoon convenes with helping the interns place consults/orders, teaching the medical students, and catching up on any pending work such as discharge summaries.

While on inpatient consults, the days are either 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., depending on who is on call. While on the consult pager, you field all new consults and divide them out among the day team as well as run all the stroke codes for the ED and the hospital.

What is it like working with faculty within the Department?
The attendings within the department are very approachable. We have a weekly Interesting Case Conference where 7-10 faculty members are usually in attendance. It’s a great opportunity to learn from attendings in various subspecialties while discussing current cases.

As a JAR, you have the luxury of working with both general neurologists as well as the stroke/neurocritical care attendings. The nice thing about the PGY-2 year is that you become comfortable calling and staffing your patients with a wide host of attendings. Going into the PGY-3/SAR year, this allows for less of a formal and more of a familiar atmosphere with the attendings.

What have you enjoyed the most about being a resident at Duke? What aspects of the residency have been the most surprising?
I had not done any sub-I’s or away rotations prior to coming to Duke- it’s always different when you’ve seen things done only one way. The culture at Duke is a unique one. Residents are encouraged to come up with plans and think independently all while having the ability to turn to a senior or call attendings (on their cell phone) if needed. During your intern year, you really learn to think on your own about acute medical care issues. A surprise for me has been how often I have relied on those skills while either in the Neuro ICU or taking part in caring for a sick patient on the floor.

What passions or hobbies do you have that are not related to neurology?
My last 2+ years at Duke have really allowed for be to embrace Durham and its surroundings. Friends in the division of Internal Medicine that I met as an intern and I have driven to the beach, gone to the NC State Fair, and even driven to the mountains. I highly recommend Asheville in the fall–there are some beautiful hikes off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Locally, we’ll attend food truck rodeos and explore the newest restaurant to open here (there’s always something new).

Have you recently read any blogs, articles, books or other material that would be of interest to the Department (or your fellow residents)?
I recently have been following Oliver Sacks’ writings in the New York Times (links to two of his recent articles can be seen here and here. He’s a fellow neurologist and a great writer. It’s always interesting to have this insider’s perspective on something we so frequently encounter.

Also, with all the cases I saw as a JAR, I’ve been inspired to buy Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan. It’s a memoir of a young woman who was diagnosed with autoimmune encephalitis.