Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Seven minutes in Stroke - Veronica Olavarria

What inspired you towards neuroscience?
The complexity of the brain with its potential and its connections to the rest of the body. It is very interesting the pathophysiology of the neurological diseases that we know so far.

2. Why stroke?
Because it is a devastating disease with so many consequences and I think that I would like to contribute in some way to its knowledge and to help patients with stroke.

3. What have been the highs so far?
Fortunately there have been several highs in the past years, more for ischaemic stroke like the use of intravenous thrombolysis, the performance of decompressive craniectomy for malignant infarction and recently the use of thrombectomy and the organization of stroke units for all types of strokes.

4. What have been the lows?
The slow progression in prevention, in decreasing the incidence of stroke and better accessibility to neurorehabilitation, that also need to be improved, especially in low income countries.

5. How do you balance work life with the needs of home life?
It is always a challenge, sometimes you have to make some sacrifices. At this moment I try to work part time at the hospital and outpatient clinic, and also working on night shifts, so I can share more time with my family, with full support from my husband to work this way.

6. Who are your most important mentors and how did you find them?
While I did my fellowship in neurovascular and neurointensive care programme at the Instituto de NeurocirugĂ­a Dr. Asenjo in Santiago, Chile, I met Dr. Pablo M. Lavados, who is my mentor and he encourage me to do research in the stroke field, and after some years he introduced me to Dr. Craig S. Anderson from The George institute, Sydney, Australia, who taught me to simplify when is possible the way to do research at patient level and the importance of pragmatic clinical trials.

7. What are your most important collaborations and how have you built them?
The most important collaboration have been the Head Position and Stroke trial between The George Institute for Global Health, Sydney, Australia and our stroke team at ClĂ­nica Alemana de Santiago, Chile. Some years ago (2011) in Chile we invited Dr. C.S. Anderson to a Conference and with my mentor we presented to him the idea of the trial about the best position of the head in the acute phase of stroke, and he supported the idea. We applied at a local level to get funds to do a pilot study and together we also applied to a research grant from the Australian MRC to do a phase 3, the main phase of the trial, which is ongoing and will finish this year, to answer a simple but a relevant question. This collaboration has meant a contribution also to our knowledge as a group about conducting clinical trials in stroke at large scale.

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