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Staff Spotlight: Hillary Yu, MSN, NP-C

Friday, August 12, 2016

Hillary Yu, MSN, NP-C, is the subject of this week’s spotlight interview. Yu talks to us about the joys of treating patients with headaches and related issues, her previous experience as an oral surgeon in China, and what it’s like having a daughter who’s also at Duke.

How long have you been at Duke? How did you decide to come to the Duke Neurological Clinic?
I joined Duke Neurology in October 2013. Before coming to Duke, I practiced in general neurology at Christiana Care Health System in Delaware for 5 years. I had a chance to visit Duke in 2012 when my daughter was accepted to Duke Pratt School of Engineering. I was attracted by the fabulous location, campus, weather, and world class Medicine and Health Systems. Another personal reason I joined has been to visit my daughter without the need of six hours of driving.

What are your responsibilities? What does a typical day for you look like?
All of my work is clinical in nature. My responsibility is to see outpatients with migraine, primary and secondary headaches, face pain, certain neuropathic pain and headache-related neurological issues. Monday is my administration day and I spend more time on paperwork and reading articles.

My typical clinic days look like pretty busy from Tuesday to Friday at the Morreene Clinic. My schedule is very structured and about 12-15 patients each day. I have two slots for new consultation patients, one slot for Botox, and rest slots for returns on my typical clinical days. I will check Mychart in-basket messages to answer patients’ questions and send prescription refills between the patients and end of the day. We are always busy and also facing certain challenging patients with drug seeking behaviors and psychological issues, but I am happy with the team, especially fully supported by Dr. Collins and Adkins.

What do you enjoy most about treating patients with headaches, pain and related issues?
The most enjoyable part of my work is when patients tell me that they’ve had been free of headaches for days or weeks since receiving nerve blocks or Botox injections, after having daily headaches for months (or years). I also enjoy to educate the patients to understand the proper management of the migraine including abortive, preventive and rescue therapy as well as some lifestyle changes, not only getting “pain pills.”

Before coming to Duke your previous work included being an oral surgeon in China. Can you tell me about that work? How does that work compare to your work here?
In China, high school graduates are able to directly admit to medical/dental school after passing a series of national tests. The programs including pre-medicine are anywhere from 5 to 8 years depending on the majors and degrees. Successful graduates can elect the favor fields/subspecialties to practice after graduating.

I graduated from a medical university, majoring in oral medicine including dentistry, oral and maxillofacial surgery, periodontics and prosthodontics. I loved the oral surgery and dentistry at that time. The work days were rotated in the clinic for outpatients and hospital for inpatients. The clinic duties included extracting teeth, small sinus and gum procedures, minor facial trauma repair, small cyst removals, consultation and hospital admission for oral cancer,  big tumor, cleft lip and/or palate and related issues.

It was an extremely stressful job and had to work inpatient and outpatient settings with prolonged working hours. I am not sure the comparability is reasonable since the job responsibilities and medical systems are completely different between the U.S. and China. I like what I am doing right now.

Have you recently read any articles, books, or websites that would be of interest to others in the Department?
I read an interesting article in Science Translational Medicine about the pathogenesis of migraine which has been a mystery. The researchers provided evidence from rats that migraine was triggered by central effects on trigeminocervical neurons and identified a therapeutic target, PAC1 receptors. They compared the two similar vasodilator neuropeptides, VIP and PACAP-38, only PACAP-38 caused migraine in patients. It concludes the migraine is likely to be triggered via PACAP-38 acting on PAC1 receptors within the brain. The article was shared and discussed at the Headache Journal Club, which Dr. Liedtke and Dr. Collins attended. Here’s a link to the article.

What is it like having a daughter who is also at Duke? How often are you able to see her?
It is great. She comes home on the weekends and eats the favorite foods I cook for her. I can hug her and support her at her final weeks when she feels stressed out.

What’s one thing that you’re looking forward to in 2016?
I may go back to school for my DNP (Doctor of Nurse practitioner) degree.

What passions or hobbies do you have outside of the Department?
Yoga and Zumba. I have practiced Yoga for about 10 years; it really helps to maintain my emotional and physical health. I also started Zumba about 2 years ago and I feel more energized after one hour of sweating. I like the classes at the Fitness World and enjoy 3 hours of Yoga (each class is about 1 hour to 1.5 hours) and 2 hours of Zumba (each class is about 1 hour) every week. I also enjoy cooking. I collect many recipes and cook on the weekends.


Yu visiting her daughter in Seattle last summer while the latter completed an internship at Boeing.