Taking care of others has always been strong personality traits instilled in me by watching my mother do the same for her family. Transferring that quality to becoming a doctor and providing care for others is due to the nurturing of my father. My journey into medicine started young and I cannot imagine any other calling in life than that of serving my community as a physician or taking care of my own family.
During residency, I had the opportunity to train with mentors such as Dr. Meador, who directed the pregnancy and epilepsy clinic. This experience provided training skills and understanding of the nuances of taking care of women with epilepsy and providing them with the support and confidence they needed to have healthy pregnancies.
When I joined Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan as an epileptologist, I learned early on about the significantly high infant mortality rate in Detroit and began to think about how epilepsy in mothers may also have high infant death rates due to a myriad of reasons. As I began my practice, I asked many young women of childbearing age about their family planning. I knew there was a definite need for a specialized clinic when a woman in her late 30s with long-standing epilepsy told me that she had always wanted children, but was told she should not due to the risk of birth defects due to anti-epileptic medications. Numerous pregnant women came in with seizures because they were told to stop their anti-seizure medications by their doctors after becoming pregnant and asking for advice. Another woman on anti-seizure medications had become pregnant because she was told her seizure medications would prevent her from having children and she took no other precautions. Even several years into my practice, I had a woman who had delivered a healthy baby tell me that the nurses and pediatricians in the hospital had physically stopped her from breastfeeding her baby after delivery.
Women with epilepsy are known to face a great amount of stigma and discrimination and here it was for me to see. Over the last six years, I have made it my mission to establish an Epilepsy and Pregnancy clinic where patients can meet with me to plan pregnancies, learn about the potential risks while taking seizure medications, learn about safety and breastfeeding benefits and maintain seizure freedom during their pregnancies. To make this clinic successful requires collaborations with other neurologists, primary care providers and, of course, the obstetricians and pediatricians.
As the mother of two little girls whom I also had during the last several years, I can understand the worry my patients went through with their own pregnancies. Swapping advice [and complaints] with my patients while we were both pregnant and then parenting advice afterwards, gave me the appreciation and connection to my patients and insight into the worry they had for their own children. Oftentimes, the most important part of the clinical visit was to provide confidence and reassurance to these mothers which formed a stronger physician-patient bond. My greatest pleasure in my clinical practice and with my patients is to meet their beautiful babies and watching them grow and develop into healthy little boys and girls over the years.