Neurology faculty members
By Iffat Ara Suchita, M.D.

What to Expect in a One-Year Epilepsy Fellowship

Specializing in epilepsy requires heightened empathy, fierce detective skills and the ability to unlock answers that others could not.

Many patients with epilepsy feel like they have lost their independence or sense of control. By the time they come to you, they may have tried several treatments and are likely beyond frustrated. You’ll navigate side-by-side with patients through challenges that are difficult to understand.

But therein lies the reward: An opportunity to help them regain control of their lives.

Each patient you’ll see during the one-year Epilepsy Fellowship at University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center is unique—their diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up culminate into specialized plans, because finding the right answers at this level of care requires a tailored approach.

As the director of UNM HSC’s Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)-certified epilepsy fellowship, I’d like to take you beyond basic requirements to answer pressing questions and offer an inside look into the life of an epilepsy fellow in the UNM HSC Department of Neurology.

After you browse these FAQs, you’ll see why there’s no such thing as a typical (or boring) day in this fellowship rotation!

“I benefited from wellness time during my training, so as the fellowship director, I want to make sure all of our fellows have the dedicated time they need to take care of themselves.”

—Dr. Iffat Suchita

Who should apply for the Epilepsy Fellowship?

The UNM Epilepsy Fellowship considers applicants who have finished their US neurology residency (an ACGME requirement). Both adult and pediatric neurology residents are welcome to apply. We also consider applicants who have completed other fellowships and/or are doing practice after residency and are now looking to focus on epilepsy care.

Applicants can apply for either a one-year standalone epilepsy fellowship or a two-year track program that combines with our neurophysiology fellowship and epilepsy fellowship.

You don’t need to check off a long list of specific accomplishments to be considered a top candidate for our fellowship. We welcome applicants with different backgrounds and career paths. To put it simply, in addition to proof of solid neurology training, we’re looking for an application that reflects your drive, compassion and work ethic.

We want to ensure this is the right fellowship match for you—and that it coincides with your passions and the vision you have for your life.

What are the benefits of this fellowship?

For starters, you’ll find Albuquerque is a beautiful place to work and learn. During your free time, you can hike, climb, raft or just relax in the natural beauty of your surroundings.

Your training experience will be anything but typical :

  • Our adult and pediatric epilepsy/EEG teams work together as a cohesive unit.
  • We encourage a friendly, healthy environment—altogether, you’ll get three weeks of academic leave during the fellowship and extra days for professional leave.
  • We’ll make sure you are comfortable in your learning space —we simply won’t accept an adverse working environment.

In addition to the allowed leave time, every three months you will get half days of dedicated wellness time to make sure that, amid all this focused epilepsy training, you take care of yourself.

Our Comprehensive Epilepsy Center is the only Level 4 center in New Mexico, and fellows gain experience in phase II monitoring (including sEEG, subdural grids/strips), epilepsy surgical care and neuromodulation (VNS, RNS, DBS). Upon completion of the UNM Epilepsy Fellowship, you’ll be proficient in a wide breadth of services.  

Our goal for you is to gain a comprehensive knowledge foundation of epilepsy care and all its complexities. Here is a summary of the hands-on experience you’ll get:

  • Various EEG analysis, which includes experience during EMU rotation, ICU rotation and Peds EEG rotation.
  • Intraoperative EEG monitoring for surgical cases and electrode verification.
  • Intracranial monitoring and SEEG phase II monitoring.
  • Management of refractory epilepsy cases with our epilepsy consultant.
  • Neuromodulation device management at clinics and inpatients.
  • Epilepsy patient care and epilepsy clinic patient management.
  • Epilepsy surgery processes and complex epilepsy surgical management.
  • Special epilepsy care , working with patients in specific subspecialized clinics, including the Epilepsy Pregnancy Clinic , Autoimmune Epilepsy Clinic and Ketogenic Diet Clinic

You’ll see a diversity of age groups as UNM provides epilepsy care for adult and pediatric patients. We see patients from New Mexico, Texas, Las Vegas and all over the Southwest; working in an epilepsy center with a high patient volume, you’ll be able to maximize on your year.

Related reading: UNM Doctors Pioneer the Use of Responsive Brain Stimulation to Treat Rio Rancho Teen’s Seizures

Is the fellowship flexible for my intended specialization? 

We strive to be individualized and flexible in our offerings. Whether you’re pursuing an academic career or planning to go into private practice, we try our best to accommodate your future goals and ensure you’re gaining exposure to the clinical aspects that matter most to you. Here are a few of our career flexibility options:

  • If you’re coming from a pediatric residency program or if your goal is to specialize in pediatric care, we can shift your schedule so you can spend more time working with children.
  • We try our best to be flexible as life presents varied (and sometimes unexpected) scenarios. We can flex your elective and leave time, so you don't have to extend your total time in the fellowship.
  • Your workload will match your progression—which is especially important when talking about EEG volume. You’ll see a gradual increase in the number of EEGs you review, and we enforce a cap on this number to prevent you from being overwhelmed.

How will I spend my year at UNM HSC?  

To help you envision what your year at UNM HSC will look like, here’s a breakdown of how you’ll spend your time:

  • 4-5 months in the EMU: The largest portion of your time will be spent in the Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU). You’ll use continuous video-EEG monitoring technology to help you evaluate, diagnose and treat seizures.
  • 3-4 months in ICU EEG reading : You’ll spend this time training in the ICU and conducting EEG readings. Unlike other institutions, we separate these two skills because we’ve found it helps fellows grasp the concepts much better.
  • 1 month of pediatric EEG : During this time, you’ll get a full understanding of the nuances of pediatric readings, side by side with specialists.
  • 1 month of electives : In elective time, you can pursue research or courses such as neuropsychology or neuroradiology or IOM (intra-operative monitoring) or Research.
  • 1 month of clinic time/QI Project : In clinic, you’ll work alongside clinical faculty.
  • Weekly Continuity Clinic : You’ll spend 3½ hours each week at the Continuity Clinic to focus on skill-building in biological, population and behavioral perspectives. 

Adding to the structured offerings, you’ll experience other ways to expand your knowledge base:

  • Epilepsy surgery conferences are held once every 7 days(depending on patient volume), and we usually present two cases at a time.
  • You’ll participate in Journal Club once a month to enhance your skills in scientific literature and research .
  • Once a week you’ll attend lectures given by the epilepsy faculty on various interesting EEG topics. Lectures are presented by our epilepsy providers, epilepsy neurosurgeons, epilepsy neuroradiologists and our neuropsychiatrist, to name a few.

Now that you have an idea of what our fellowship can offer, I’ll bet you have additional questions.

For more information about Epilepsy Fellowship requirements or information about how to apply, email us or call 505-272-3342.

Categories: Neurology