Barrow Welcomes New Residents
Each year, on July 1, Barrow Neurological Institute welcomes new residents in neurosurgery, neurology, neuropsychology, and other departments.
We talked to three of our incoming residents and asked them to share their thoughts on taking the next step toward a career in the neurosciences.
Clinton Morgan, MD – Neurosurgery
“I think I’m appropriately nervous,” said Clinton Morgan, MD, who will spend seven years in the Neurosurgery Residency Program at Barrow. “I think the thing that sort of sets Barrow apart nationally is the intense clinical volume of complex cases that the institute has. It’s really unmatched.”
As a medical student at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashvhille, Tennessee, Dr. Morgan did a 4-week sub-internship at Barrow in October 2015. He said the exposure to a high volume of cases is the reason he learned more in the first week of his rotation at Barrow than in the entirety of any other rotation.
“I think what set this rotation apart was the heavy emphasis on being in the operating room as much as possible,” he said.
The Oklahoma native decided he wanted to pursue a career in medicine shortly after arriving at Washington University in St. Louis for his undergraduate degree. Although he majored in Spanish language and literature, he spent much of his time in a laboratory researching novel treatments for chronic pain. He focused on a new therapy called optogenetics, which involves using lasers to manipulate individual nerve pathways.
Dr. Morgan’s research progressed slowly while he was in medical school at Vanderbilt, but the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Research Fellows Program allowed him to return to Washington University School of Medicine and devote a full year to the project. He co-invented a now-patented device that uses optogenetics to wirelessly manipulate spinal pain circuits.
Upon returning to medical school, where he had been developing an interest in neurosurgery, he completed his rotations and began applying for neurosurgery residency programs.
“I wanted to be in a place where I felt I would get the absolute best training possible and be around people I saw as role models, not only for their operative skills but also for their ability to balance work with family life,” said Dr. Morgan, whose wife had a baby in January. “I think Barrow traditionally does a great job of choosing residents who have a support system behind them. There’s also a genuine sense of family among the residents.”
Dr. Morgan is keeping an open mind regarding specialties, but he is particularly excited to learn more about functional neurosurgery and spinal neurosurgery.
“I think functional neurosurgery more than any other subspecialty of neurosurgery is going to expand its breadth of indications, and I’d love to be a part of that,” he said. “Whatever small contribution I could make to that would be very rewarding over the course of a career.”
Dr. Morgan is also looking forward to enjoying outdoor activities in Arizona, such as hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking, and golfing.
“My wife and I are thrilled to be here,” he said. “It’s a huge move for us geographically, but we’re excited for the experience to come. This is an absolutely tremendous program.”
Justine Chan, MD – Neurology
Justine Chan, MD, also had exposure to Barrow before she matched with the institute for a 4-year neurology residency program. She attended the Creighton University School of Medicine, which has a campus at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.
Dr. Chan primarily studied at the university’s Omaha campus but spent two months in Phoenix for a neurology rotation.
“I’m familiar with the residents, the hospital, and a lot of the attendings already,” she said. “It’s nice knowing I have people who I’ve already established connections with, and a lot of my classmates from Creighton also matched with programs here in Arizona.”
She said the large number of patients is one of the reasons she applied for residency at Barrow.
“The neurosurgery department here attracts so many neurological cases,” she said. “I don’t want to go through residency not seeing that many patients or not seeing a variety of neurological disorders. I’d rather see a lot.”
Dr. Chan has been fascinated with the brain since she took a dual enrollment psychology class at a Seattle community college as a high school student.
“I was really interested in how the brain works, how the mind works, and addictions – especially how drugs affect the brain and its reward system,” she said.
Dr. Chan initially wanted to major in psychiatry when she enrolled in the University of Washington as an undergraduate but changed her mind after taking her first neurobiology class.
Still interested in psychiatry and internal medicine, she kept an open mind about potential career paths when she started medical school, but her interest in neurology persisted.
“A disorder of the brain can affect your personality,” she said. “If you lose your personality, it affects who you are.”
Dr. Chan sees herself eventually working in an academic role that allows her to teach and conduct research.
A foodie, Dr. Chan is looking forward to trying different restaurants around the Phoenix area. She also likes that Arizona offers outdoor activities and lots of sunshine.
“I think part of going and choosing a residency is trying to pick a place where you know you can learn a lot medically but also a place where you have life balance, too,” she said. “So, Arizona is a great place to be.”
Kevin Zalizniak – Neuropsychology
Kevin Zalizniak has been finishing his PhD in clinical psychology at the Illinois Institute of Technology and clinical internship in the Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry at the West Virginia University School of Medicine.
In addition to seeing patients, Zalizniak has been working on a research project that differentiates implicit and explicit memory systems in Alzheimer’s disease.
I was mostly excited about the quality of the training. I’m hoping to leave here ready to practice independently in an academic-medical setting.
-Kevin Zalizniak, Neuropsychology Resident
He thought he would focus mostly on psychotherapy when he applied for his PhD program, but he discovered in training experiences that he was interested in neuropsychology.
“I worked with some great people who encouraged me to pursue it,” Zalizniak said. “I like that it’s analytic but also involves patient care. It allows me to draw on medical knowledge and psychological science, and it’s fulfilling that I still get to work with patients.”
Having earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Loyola University Chicago and grown up in the suburbs there, he said moving to a town of about 30,000 people in West Virginia for his internship was an adjustment.
While he is nervous about moving across the country again for the Neuropsychology Residency Program at Barrow, he said he is looking forward to the sunshine and the big-city feel of Phoenix.
“It’s a wonderful program for neuropsychology, and I was excited to match here,” he said. “I was mostly excited about the quality of the training. I’m hoping to leave here ready to practice independently in an academic-medical setting.”