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Neurology establishes EEG/epilepsy course and introduces new epilepsy fellowship

KU Neurology establishes EEG/epilepsy course and epilepsy fellowship

Seven residents and fellows from KU Medical Center and Children’s Mercy completed the EEG/epilepsy course, including Mark-Victor Siwoski, M.D. (front right), KU Neurology's first epilepsy fellow.
Seven residents and fellows from KU Medical Center and Children’s Mercy completed the EEG/epilepsy course, including Mark-Victor Siwoski, M.D. (front right), KU Neurology's first epilepsy fellow.

Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder in the United States, but the education of physicians caring for these patients has not kept pace with evolving treatments. To help close that knowledge gap, the University of Kansas Medical Center's Department of Neurology established an intensive electroencephalogram (EEG)/epilepsy course and introduced a one-year epilepsy fellowship.

"Epilepsy is a disease that, despite its high prevalence and incidence amongst neurologic disorders, remains poorly understood and, unfortunately, poorly managed," said Carol Ulloa, M.D., associate professor of neurology, Epilepsy Division chief and director of The University of Kansas Health System's Level 4 Comprehensive Epilepsy Center. "We must train the next generation of neurologists and epileptologists to overcome these barriers and provide excellent evidence-based and patient-focused care."

Seven residents and fellows from KU Medical Center and Children's Mercy, including the KU Epilepsy Division's first fellow, Mark-Victor Siwoski, M.D., completed the two-week course in its debut, Aug. 5-16 on the KU Medical Center campus in Kansas City.

Slated to become an annual offering now, the course joined other similar efforts nationwide, such as at Cleveland Clinic, Case Western University, Mayo Clinic and University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.

"I think a dedicated course will improve training as it will set the framework for future learning and practice," Siwoski said. "During fellowship, there is an immediate need to maintain subspecialty knowledge, and undergoing a comprehensive review at the beginning allowed further reinforcement during the year."

The inaugural version of the EEG/epilepsy course included a mix of lectures and interactive activities that sequentially built on one another. A team of instructors from KU Medical Center and Children's Mercy led the educational effort, representing adult epilepsy, neurophysiology, pediatric epilepsy, advanced surgical topics, neuroradiology and other disciplines reflecting the care people with epilepsy require.

In a departure from the long-standing tradition of requiring trainees to juggle clinical demands and educational obligations, the course offered participants protected time away from clinical responsibilities that they dedicated to establishing a strong base of epilepsy knowledge.

"It's challenging for residents because they have so many clinical responsibilities. When the trainees go to a lecture knowing they have to get back to take care of patients, it creates pressure where their minds aren't fully there. It's incumbent on us as faculty to find methods to improve our education's effectiveness," said Patrick Landazuri, associate professor of neurology at KU Medical Center, epilepsy education section chief, director of the fellowship and course director. "With the way our course is structured, each lecture will reinforce the previous lectures due to the order in which lectures are presented. The strong knowledge base course participants establish will ideally improve trainees' clinical care right away."

With the course established, the Epilepsy Division's attention turns to the longer-term goal of growing the educational effort into a regional and national platform to enhance care for people with epilepsy. Meanwhile, the new fellowship, which began July 1, also will be part of the division's push to address the critical need for better trained epilepsy physicians.

The year-long fellowship is part of a relatively new and evolving national trend of epilepsy-specific fellowships that emerged after the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology approved a subspecialty certification in epilepsy in 2010.

Developed with strong support from the KU Department of Neurology and designed with the fellows' educational needs in mind, the new fellowship places a heavy emphasis on surgical training combined with a high volume and diversity of surgical cases, making it a competitive opportunity for advanced epilepsy training. The chance to participate in the new epilepsy course also is a hallmark of the fellowship.

"We've taken the approach that it's our role to make sure fellows are ready, and when they start clinical work they should be functioning at a high level. It shouldn't be sink or swim," Landazuri said. "In our fellowship, there's ample opportunity to see both classic straightforward cases as well as more complex cases. When the fellows graduate, they will be ready. The fellowship gives them the tools to practice in the environment of their choosing."

In fact, the chance to expand his skill and knowledge as a physician is one of the reasons Siwoski was attracted to the fellowship. Having completed his residency in neurology at KU Medical Center, he already knew patients received high quality care. Looking ahead to his fellowship training, he prioritized cutting-edge techniques and technology, exposure to a large patient volume and a compassionate epilepsy team, all of which KU had, in addition to a rapid growth of surgical management within the division and the chance to learn from a multidisciplinary group of experts in the epilepsy field.

"I aspire to continue working at a tertiary care hospital so that I may continue to hone my skills and improve my ability to provide the utmost quality of care for my patients," Siwoski said. "The epilepsy fellowship is in line with these goals as they provide me the tools to treat patients suffering from intractable epilepsies and related neurological conditions with expertise, be it with surgical planning or otherwise."

For the epilepsy division, educating current and aspiring physicians lies at the core of its vision of achieving improved care for people with epilepsy. The course and the fellowship are strong, purposeful steps in the right direction.

"Our division of five epileptologists can only see so many patients," Landazuri said. "One of the solutions must be making sure the residents and fellows we get to work with leave KU Medical Center as not only adequate, but excellent epilepsy physicians. No matter where they go, we'd like them to be leaders."

KU School of Medicine

University of Kansas Medical Center
Department of Neurology
Mailstop 2012
3901 Rainbow Blvd.
Kansas City, KS 66160
Phone: 913-588-6970
Fax: 913-588-6965