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Fellow Spotlight: Benjamin Barnes, MD

Friday, February 7, 2020
B Barnes

Benjamin Barnes, MD, was first drawn to neurology as a medical student, after he became fascinated by the details of a condition he saw in one of his patients. Now he’s halfway through his neuromuscular fellowship at the Duke Department of Neurology. In this week’s “spotlight” interview, Barnes talks to us about the research he performed as a resident to learn more about comorbid conditions for patients with ALS, his future plans at the Medical College of Georgia, and enjoying tea and participating in strongman conditions when he’s not at Duke.

What are your responsibilities as a neuromuscular fellow? What does a typical day for you look like?
My primary responsibilities include performing procedures such as nerve conduction studies, EMG, repetitive nerve stimulation, skin and muscle biopsies, botulinum toxin injections, and ultrasound; and rotating through clinics of our various neuromuscular attending physicians.

How did you first get interested in neurology? What interests you the most about neuromuscular diseases?
I first realized I was interested in neurology as a 3rd-year medical student while on an internal medicine service. We had admitted a patient with neuromyelitis optica, and I spent most of the night reading about the disease because I found it fascinating. The following morning I presented the patient, but when I started to discuss her disease one of the IM residents cut me off and said "yeah yeah, she has some kind of 'weird neuro thing', but what do her labs look like..."

As a resident you completed a research project for patients with ALS. What topic did you examine, and what did you find out?
We reviewed about 20-25 clinical files of patients with ALS who had undergone tracheostomy and mechanical ventilation to try to establish the prevalence of various comorbidities in that population that had been incompletely described in the literature. We found a lot of respiratory complications, as expected, but also a reasonable number of GI complications that may or may not be related to long term immobility.

What plans do you have for after you complete your fellowship? If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?
I have accepted an assistant professorship at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta, where I will start in August of 2020. I don't know that I could think of a more ideal job than what I will be doing, which sounds a little corny I know. 

What passions or hobbies do you have outside of Duke?
I enjoy drinking tea and taking part in strength sports. I have competed in 3 strongman competitions, and am planning on entering a powerlifting competition here in June.

B Barnes tea cozy

In this photo Barnes enjoys both the outdoors and his favorite beverage.