Seven minutes in stroke with Dr. Nneka Ifejika

1. What inspired you towards neuroscience?
The concept of cortical reorganization. I likened it to learning the world is round after centuries of believing the world is flat.

2. Why stroke?
Family history. My maternal grandfather died of a likely ICH during my mother's first year of medical school.
My mother had a right PCOMM aneurysm coiling during my fourth year of medical school, and a clipping during my second year as an attending physician.
My family isn't alone, there's a critical need to stop the cycle of stroke.

3. What have been the highs so far?
Being included as a part of the family by stroke survivors.
It is an honor that has enriched my life and given me an intimate perspective on cultural dynamics, food preferences and customs among different ethnic groups.

4. What have been the lows?
Having a research idea that is a little premature.
Sometimes you have a concept that is cutting edge, but the technology hasn't caught up to accomplish the protocol.

5. What do you believe is unique about your work?
The combination of social, cultural and behavioral aspects of healthcare with mobile information technology.
We use apps for everything, from banking to social networking. Why not use it for healthcare?

6. Who are your most important mentors and how did you find them?
Dr. James C Grotta - as a resident, I cared for the rehabilitation unit patients on weekends to earn supplemental income.
Dr. Grotta, at that time the newly appointed Chairman of Neurology, noticed that I worked a disproportionate amount of weekends compared to my colleagues (medical licenses can be quite expensive)!

Within a few months, he hired me as the junior Neurorehabilitation faculty member. When I took an interest in stroke outcomes, he encouraged me to complete the 2 year UTHealth Clinical Research Curriculum, providing the foundation for my first NIH award.

I meet with Dr. Grotta every two to three weeks.  We talk about a variety of topics - he has worked in the Native American Health Service, volunteered during the American Civil Rights Movement and held NIH funding for decades.  He has taught me to have breadth and depth to my life experience.
To expect the unexpected.
To face adversity with grace and dignity.
And sometimes, to ask for forgiveness, not for permission, when going after something you believe in.


Dr. Jon E Tyson - He is the Director of the Center for Clinical Research & Evidence-Based Medicine at UTHealth.
I conceived the idea for Swipe out Stroke as a student in his Advanced Clinical Trial Design class.
 He is my mentor for the Masters' of Science in Clinical Research program and my institutional career development award.
Dr. Tyson is tough, yet kind and immensely supportive.
He inspires me to work smarter, utilize creative interventions and to take time to give back and mentor others.

Dr. Sean I Savitz - Dr. Savitz is an elegant example of an academician.
He's evenly keeled, brilliant and perceptive. Dr. Savitz's mind works in a stream of consciousness - he can see the structure of a manuscript from a single PowerPoint presentation.
We speak several times a week - I grab either my "Sean" notepad or my Smartphone to rigorously scribble ideas.
He's a mentor that is a wonderful example of where I want to be.

7. What are your most important collaborations and how have you built
them?
Dr. Elizabeth Noser has been my clinical partner since recruiting me to join the UTHealth Stroke Team. She is the Director of  Community Outreach, which is a key component of my work serving minority populations.  We sponsor the annual UTHealth Stomp out Stroke event, which provides free health screenings, stroke education and entertainment to thousands of Houstonians.

Dr. David E Rivers at the Medical University of South Carolina chairs the National Conference on Health Disparities.  The annual symposium has provided a platform for my work, and I joined the Advisory Board in 2015.  This year I'll give the Keynote Speech to the undergraduate and graduate students on "Successes (and failures) in Conducting Clinical Research".

As a member of the inaugural class of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (AAPM&R) Leadership Program, I received two years of training in health advocacy, strategic planning and  media skills, which has helped me spread the message of caring for underserved populations using mobile applications.
I presently serve on the AAPM&R's Health Policy and Legislation Committee, taking our message of health equity to members of the United States Congress.
As a Washingtonian, it's an honor to come home, and hopefully effect change.
Seven minutes in stroke with Dr. Nneka Ifejika Reviewed by Carmen Lahiff-Jenkins on Tuesday, April 12, 2016 Rating: 5

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