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Faculty Spotlight: Philip Davenport, MD

Monday, April 4, 2016

Newly returned from a whirlwind visit to Washington, DC to lobby for additional neurological research, Philip Davenport, MD, MSc, is our latest Faculty Spotlight. In this interview, Davenport talks about his work at Duke Raleigh Hospital, the most surprising thing he learned about Congress, and how his practice has changed over the past 20 years.

What are your responsibilities within the Department? What does a typical day for you look like?
My primary responsibility is in clinical neurology evaluating and caring for patients with neurological disorders and symptoms. I also participate in teaching second year medical students in clinic on an intermittent basis. Our clinic is also available to undergraduates for a shadowing experience, as well as residents and APP trainees, but have had few takers. My typical day consists of a combination of new consultations, follow up visits, EMGs, botulinum toxin injections, EEG interpretation, as well as other procedures such as skin biopsy and select nerve blocks. There is, of course, the usual flood of patient messages, phone calls, and paperwork to deal with on a daily basis, not to mention the occasional staffing and workflow issues. One week a month I cover Duke Raleigh Hospital for consultations.

You recently traveled to Washington, DC, to lobby for additional funding for neurology related research and relevant reforms. What was that experience like?
The most enlightening aspect of my three visits to Washington, D.C. is that our legislators and their staff really do care about our issues and opinions, as well as those of other constituents. The most important issue to me during this last visit was increased funding for the BRAIN Initiative to $300 million for FY 2017. This is an important new approach to understanding the basic connections and functions of the human brain, as well as the development of new techniques for such understanding. It is somewhat analogous to the Human Genome Project, in the hopes that in understanding the normal nervous system in greater detail, it will provide important new insights to disease processes.

How does your current clinical work compare to the care you delivered when you first became a neurologist? What’s one bit of advice you wish you knew when you first entered the field?
There have been two major changes in my practice over the years. First, my days are much busier. I have to see more patients in order to maintain a level income and to pay for increasing overhead.  Second, there has been a significant increase in the integration of information technology in my daily clinical work, for better and worse. I wish I had a better appreciation and understanding of financial and regulatory issues when first entering practice.

Have you recently read any books, articles, or websites that would be of interest to others in the Department?
The biography Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, offers a fascinating look at a successful entrepreneur with an absolute genius for technology and aesthetics who failed miserably in developing deep and lasting personal relationships. Despite his utter lack of empathy for others, his ability to surround himself with those who both tolerated his shortcomings, and compensated for them, were essential to his success.

What’s one thing that you wished your patients knew about neurological care?
I wish that some of my patients could understand that not all neurological symptoms are pathological, and that a good history and physical can be better than an MRI.

What passions or hobbies do you have outside of the Department?
I love to be outdoors enjoying golf, hiking, biking, boating, and fishing as well as spending time with family and friends, including our six-month-old granddaughter.