Skip to main content

Faculty Spotlight: Saurabh Sinha, MD, PhD

Monday, April 4, 2016

For this week’s faculty spotlight, we talk to Saurabh Sinha, MD, PhD. In this interview, Sinha talks to us about the past and future decades of epilepsy treatment, working with our neurology residents, and visiting New Delhi and Jaipur, the “pink city” of India last summer.

How did you get interested in neurology? How did you decide to specialize in epilepsy?
I was a very happy biomedical engineering student show had no intention of going into medicine. The only work-study job I could find that didn’t involve serving food or shelving books was for a lab working on computer modeling of electrical stimulation of the brain (as part of epilepsy surgery). I thought that this was pretty interesting place to apply engineering techniques and went to medical school with the sole purpose of becoming an epileptologist.

What are your responsibilities within the Department? What does a typical day look like for you?
My clinical responsibilities include seeing outpatients in the epilepsy clinic, attending in the epilepsy monitoring unit, intraoperative monitoring (one day a week), and interpreting routine EEGs (one day a week). I also spend time at the VA doing similar things. My non-clinical responsibilities include being Program Director for the Neurology Residency, Vice-Chair for Education and Medical Director of the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit.

Based on the above, there is no typical day — I live according to my multi-color-coded Outlook Calendar and task list and hope nothing falls through the cracks on any given day.

What did you study for your PhD in neuroscience? How has that knowledge influenced your medical career?
I did my PhD in a basic neuroscience lab. We built our own microscopes and light detectors in order to use optical imaging techniques to look at the spread of seizure activity in tissue slices. I learned a lot about basic neurophysiology that I still find extremely useful in my clinical practice and research. But most of all, it taught me how to think critically and solve problems.

You completed your epilepsy fellowship at Johns Hopkins ten years ago. How has treatment of the condition changed since then? What changes in treatment do you see coming over the next decade?
Unfortunately, treatment has changed surprisingly little. The variety of drugs has grown and they are generally a safer and more tolerable. However, the overall approach is still pretty similar. The availability of less invasive surgical techniques is beginning to change our approach.

In the next 10 years, the big change, I hope, is going to be neuromodulation. Using electrical and other stimulation techniques as well as drugs to modulate the brain and affect the processes involved in epileptogenesis and epilepsy.

How did you get involved with the Department’s residency program? What do you enjoy most and least about working with our residents?
It was really a matter of being in the right place at the right time. When I first showed up at Duke, I started to participate in conferences and resident education purely out of my interest in teaching. People saw this interest and offered me the opportunities that led to my current position.

I enjoy almost every aspect of working with the residents. The things I don’t enjoy have more to do with the paperwork and logistics involved in running a program.

You and your family made a trip to India this summer. Where did you go, and what were the highlights of that trip?
We spent most of our time in and around New Delhi, where most of our extended family is now located. Most of our effort was spent on surviving the heat. But we also did some sightseeing: we went to the Taj Mahal and also Jaipur, the Pink City.

What passions or hobbies do you have outside of the Department?
Cooking is probably my most consistent hobby. My kids and I usually pick out something new to make each week. Beyond that I enjoy traveling and pretend to enjoy hiking.