Resident Spotlight: Jennifer Creed, MD, PhD

By William Alexander

For Senior Assistant Resident (third-year) resident Jennifer Creed, MD, PhD, a recent day might include everything from studying traumatic brain injury to practicing neurocritcal care, and bicycling from campus to Morreene Road and back, all before heading home to a baby and toddler. In this week’s Resident Spotlight, we talk to Creed about the joys and pitfalls of neurocritical care, growing up in a tri-lingual household, and making the effort to travel with a new family.

What are your responsibilities within the Department? What does a typical day for you look like?
Our third year is a time to explore multiple neurological subspecialties including electrophysiology, neurodegeneration, headache and movement disorders. My typical day has changed quite a bit over the past year as I first started out on neuro-pediatrics, followed by EEG, EMG, clinics and am currently on a research elective. For the past four weeks I have been working in Dr. Laskowitz’s lab on a model of traumatic brain injury in the mouse. My days are varied but include surgeries, behavioral testing, tissue processing, immunohistochemistry and reading literature in the field of TBI. In addition, I still have my Wednesday resident clinic, help with in-patient services, and am working on a project with Dr. Swisher.

What areas of neurology and neuroscience interest you the most? What would your dream job look like?
I have really enjoyed all areas of neurology but I am particularly interested in critical care. I like the challenge of taking care of patients with malignant strokes, seizures, and post-surgical patients with aneurysms and brain tumors. I like thinking about how their neurological emergencies are influenced by other medical complications and that I am in the position to treat these problems as well. My dream job would be to practice in an academic center with clinical duties in the Neuro ICU and have protected time in the lab doing basic research in traumatic brain injury.

You’re known to ride a bicycle to get around Duke. What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of using a bicycle on Duke campus?
Yes, I did start biking recently, more so out of necessity, but it has turned out to be quite enjoyable. Coming from a major city, I have never needed a car so when I moved to Durham, I kept the tradition going and just found a place close enough so that I could walk to work. However, this year I had outpatient rotations at Morreene Road which was too far to travel by foot. I decided to give biking a try since my apartment complex is located halfway between Duke Hospital and the clinic. On any particular day, I would bike to clinic in the morning, head to Duke for noon conference, and then return to clinic, totaling about 30 minutes in travel daily. The least enjoyable aspects are probably the hills and worrying about the cars – I still use the sidewalk on Erwin since I don’t trust the drivers. The most enjoyable aspect is the freedom of getting around quickly. It has also been a great way to stay in shape.

How has your experience as a resident compared to what you thought it would be? If you could give one piece of advice to your former self when you were a medical student, what would it be?
I think residency has far exceeded my expectations. I love coming to work every day. My colleagues are so supportive and always make me laugh. The faculty are highly motivated and invested in our learning – they are very approachable and enjoy teaching on rounds. Looking back, I would advise my medical student-self to enjoy and take advantage of free-time. Once residency starts, we are understandably immersed in a new world with responsibilities that require much of our time and attention.

What do you plan on doing after completing your residency?
I applied to neurocritical care fellowships and just finished interviewing at programs along the East coast between Durham and Boston. The Match date is June 23rd so I will find out soon!

What passions or hobbies do you have outside of the Department?
I love to travel and have been to 5 countries, 12 Caribbean islands and 30 states in the U.S. (so far). The combination of residency and children has made it more challenging to get up and go but we still try to explore a few new places each year.  I also enjoy learning languages – in college, I was a French major and took year of Thai. And I grew up in a household listening to German, Russian and Latvian. I hope to pick up some Spanish when time allows. However, most important to me is my family – I now have two beautiful and energetic daughters (3 ½ years and 7 months) and an incredible husband who I have known for sixteen years!

Creed with her husband and two children.