Best Dinner Party Ever!

May 7, 2018

What do Shakespeare, Angela Merkel, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have in common?  They’re all on the guest list for “dream dinner parties” that our doctors would host.  Providence Brain and Spine Institute recently added specialists in MS and pediatric neurology.  Get to know our new providers in these fun interviews, including that question about imaginary party guests.

 

Elisabeth Lucassen, M.D. – MS Neurologist

Where did you complete your training?

I went to Penn State for medical school, University of Rochester for neurology residency, and was at the University Hospital in Basel for my MS fellowship.

How did you become interested in multiple sclerosis?

I didn’t get a whole lot of exposure to MS in my residency, and MS is something that came into my life more serendipitously. I ended up in the MS clinic in Basel while I was working on my board certification requirements for Germany/Switzerland and really loved what I was doing. They were complex patients, but ones that I could help. I liked the pharmacotherapy aspects of the field. I liked taking care of young women and discussing the pregnancy related topics, as women’s health was always an interest of mine.  

What is one piece of advice you would like to give to patients with MS?

I emphasize to my patients that we are a team in their care, and that what I can do for them is only part of the care plan. I emphasize the need to exercise, eat healthy, and to take care of their general health. My patients who do this seem to have always done better.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I don’t always feel that I have a lot of time for hobbies between work and having a family, but my husband and I try to incorporate our children into the things we love to do. We love the outdoors, especially going hiking and running (I ran several half marathons last year). We love to travel and we go to Germany about once a year to visit family. We love good food and wine, and are looking forward to discovering what this area has to offer. I enjoy going to the symphony, opera, or ballet.   

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party (alive or dead)?

Dinner party with living people—Barack and Michelle Obama, Angela Merkel, Sheryl Sandberg, Meryl Streep. With dead people—Queen Elizabeth the 1st, Mozart, Empress Elisabeth of Austria, Shakespeare, Hermann Hesse.

 

Alison Christy, M.D., Ph.D – Pediatric Neurologist

(Dr. Christy’s article on pediatric headache is also featured in this edition of eNeuro)

Where did you complete your medical training?

I did a combined M.D./Ph.D. program at Northwestern University in Chicago.

What made you specialize in pediatric neurology?

I planned for a long time to be an adult neurologist, with a focus on multiple sclerosis. I loved both neurology and immunology, and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Then I did my third-year clinical rotation in pediatrics. It was fun and interesting and I liked working with pediatricians. I came home and said, “I’m so happy every day. It’s too bad I’m not going to be a pediatrician.” As my husband pointed out, if it made me happy I should probably do it. It was absolutely the right thing to do.

Is there anything new and exciting in your field that you’d want other providers to know?

Most of our patients see us for seizures and headaches. Many other neurological conditions that affect adults can affect children too, like strokes, multiple sclerosis, and movement disorders.

The biggest advances in the last few years have been in genetics. It costs less to do the tests, and we are able to do more targeted testing. Even when it doesn’t change the child’s medications or therapy, a genetic diagnosis can be life-changing for families with a child with epilepsy, autism, or other neurological disorders. Parents can stop blaming themselves; it gives them an answer when strangers at the grocery store ask why their child is like that; and it helps them find a supportive community online.  

What is your care philosophy and how do you like to work with patients and families?

As a parent, I know how scary it is to bring your child to a doctor, even for something mild. You’re scared that something is seriously wrong, you don’t know what information to tell the doctor or what questions to ask, and you don’t necessarily remember what the doctor says. I think this is especially true in neurology, which is particularly scary. I strive to be there for the whole family, to answer all questions even if they seem silly, and to answer them again and again if needed. I try to reassure when I can but also help families prepare in case things get worse.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party (alive or dead)?

I love this question. I would start with Rita Levi-Montalcini, an Italian neuroscientist who set up a lab in her bedroom when the Nazis refused to let her conduct experiments, and who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1986 for her discovery of nerve growth factor. I’m sure she has some stories to tell.

I would also invite Mae Jemison, who was actually a physician AND an astronaut, plus a dancer and a writer and a scientist. Talk about overachieving!

I am fascinated by Jean-Martin Charcot, a French neurologist from the 1800s often referred to as the father of neurology. He studied hypnosis and “hysteria,” and I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t want to come to a dinner party with three female physician-scientists, but oh well.

Lastly, I would invite Lin Manuel Miranda, because I would love to hear a rap musical about Levi-Montalcini, Jemison, Charcot and me at a dinner party.

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