An Interview withDr. Andrea Abousamra

Doctor-Patient Relationships and the Practice of Neurology: An Interview with Dr. Andrea Abousamra


The Practice of Neurology 

Dr. Abousamra decided that there was something exceptional about the practice of neurology. 

“I find neurology in itself to be unique in the sense that you use your physical exam and your history-taking skills to make a diagnosis. Modern medicine has shifted away from physically examining patients and more towards relying on diagnostic tools and test results. I love that in neurology you have to combine both to reach a proper diagnosis,” Dr. Abousamra said. 

There is a great deal of diversity in the patients she treats and their conditions. What she finds most fulfilling, though, is the relationships with them. 

“I value the bonds that I form with my patients. That has been a highlight of my career. For me, explaining complex medical conditions to patients is challenging but I enjoy explaining evidence-based medicine and allowing patients to play an active role in their treatment plan,” Dr. Abousamra said. 

She ensures her patients’ role in their own care, an empowering approach for someone trying to cope with a severe neurological illness. 

“As a neurologist, I am present during some very challenging times for patients and it is being in these situations that allows me to form long-lasting relationships with patients and their families,” Dr. Abousamra said. 

 

One Patient’s Case 

Dr. Abousamra pointed to one patient who had a significant impact on her. This case required moving beyond the assumptions of others and getting to the real root of the problem. 

“I believe he was in his late 20s and he presented with acute psychosis. He had some history of mental health issues, so people just automatically chalked it up to that,” she recalled.

However, it was ultimately discovered that he actually had autoimmune encephalitis, a condition in which the immune system attacks healthy brain cells. It causes brain inflammation and various neurologic and psychiatric symptoms, including psychosis. 

“We were able to get past the bias of his history of psychiatric illness. We did a full workup and were able to discover and treat autoimmune encephalitis. It was a long, long haul for him. But eventually, he returned to baseline. He was able to live his normal life,” Dr. Abousamra said. 

 

The Future of Neurology 

The Impact of COVID-19 

As it did in the medical profession worldwide, the pandemic created uncertainty in Dr. Abousamra’s practice. 

“In the beginning, we didn’t know what to expect. The resources were limited and it was challenging to provide the typical excellent standard of care for everybody. Every part of the staff was trying to navigate through that together,” Dr. Abousamra said. 

She acknowledged that the pandemic was very challenging, but it made everyone much stronger. Since the beginning, they have managed to alter their forms of practice. One thing that has emerged from the pandemic—and that will stay—is telemedicine (i.e., the medical practice which uses technology to deliver long-distance care). 

“It was a great opportunity. It limited exposure, but still, we were able to provide patient care at a time when people were afraid to be out and about and see people in person,Dr. Abousamra said. 

 

An Evolving Field 

In neurology, innovation is a constant. 

“Neurology in and of itself is always evolving. One of the most exciting parts of neurology is all the research that goes into it. The new treatments that have come about in the past decade have been amazing. It’s had such a positive impact on patients,” Dr. Abousamra said. 

There have been several significant advancements in the field of neurology, including

  • Advances in stroke research have stimulated fruitful discussions on organizing the stroke care pathway. Studies suggest the conventional approach of awaiting the stroke patient’s arrival at the hospital might soon be outdated given that flying doctors, mobile stroke units or direct admission to the angiography suite are gaining attention. 
  • The FDA granted approval for Aducanumab (AduhelmTM) to treat Alzheimer’s disease. This therapy addresses the disease’s underlying biology. 
  • In the last 10 years, scientists have enhanced what we know about headaches. This research has promoted the development of novel disease-specific treatments, such as monoclonal antibodies. 
  • Influenced by the pandemic, sleep telemedicine services have become valuable and popular for patients with sleep disorders. 

“There are new treatments coming out that are making quite a difference. There’s a new Alzheimer’s drug that’s been a long time coming. We have come a long way in treating multiple sclerosis and primary headache syndromes. So, there are always these advances and research going on. There are more options now and better outcomes for patients. They are living more normal lives as compared to 20 years ago. It’s definitely evolving,” Dr. Abousamra said. 

 

A Parting Reminder 

With more options for treatment and a better chance at the best outcomes, Dr. Abousamra has even more to offer her patients and more with which to bond with them. She will continue to keep her patients well informed about their healthcare and help them understand what is available to them. 

Her advice for others entering the profession: experience is key

“Learn, read and see as much as you can. Even if you’re not in residency yet, shadow someone and do as much as you can in whatever area interests you. Stay motivated and you will achieve your goals,” Dr. Abousamra said. 

Dr. Abousamra believes her native Michigan has much to offer new neurologists. 

“Neurology is up and coming with lots of opportunities. If you’re here in Michigan, neurology is an excellent field with plenty of opportunity, that’s for sure,” Dr. Abousamra concluded. 

For more information about MIND, visit MindOnline.com.





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