Julie Youssefi, MD, discusses being the University of Kentucky College of Medicine’s epilepsy fellow in 2020-2021 – and how being the fellow gave her the tailored experience she needed. 

Julie Youssefi, MD, became interested in epilepsy care during medical school and neurology residency training at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.

“The more I learned about it, the more I was drawn in,” she said. So, she opted to gain additional specialized experience through the year-long epilepsy fellowship at UK.  

Today, as a clinician and educator, she is thankful for that extra year of training.

The UK College of Medicine Department of Neurology’s epilepsy fellowship program is a robust, comprehensive postgraduate training program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). Dr. Youssefi recommends the program for epileptologists-in-training who want to learn a thorough and comprehensive approach to epilepsy care. 

The training includes at least six months of full-time patient care, one month of elective time, and additional time for experience in patient care, research, neuropsychology, psychiatry, or neuroimaging. The program covers everything from electroencephalogram (EEG) interpretation and medication management, to intracranial monitoring and planning, surgeries, postsurgical care, and coding neuromodulation. 

Each year, the fellow works alongside physicians at UK HealthCare, which is the college’s clinical enterprise and a Level 1 Trauma Center taking care of Kentucky’s sickest patients. Because the epilepsy fellowship program is open to only one fellow per year, that trainee has access to a multitude of interesting cases. 

“For me, any one of the attendings might have seen a really interesting patient and said, ‘Hey, why don’t you jump in and follow along?’” Dr. Youssefi said. “Essentially, I got to pick and choose to make sure that I had the variety I wanted.”

In addition to a multidisciplinary approach to the management of individuals living with epilepsy, and a very active surgical program, UK’s epilepsy fellowship offers ample opportunity for clinical research exposure. Program director Meriem Bensalem-Owen, MD, said that the fellow is able to engage in clinical trials as a sub-investigator or join the research alliance and closely work with scientists and biomedical engineers.

Dr. Youssefi also touted the “very warm, supportive, and knowledgeable group” of mentors who were invested in her education and her success, including Dr. Bensalem-Owen, MD, and neurosurgeon Farhan Mirza, MD. 

When Dr. Youssefi completed the fellowship program in 2021, shortly after, she joined the UK College of Medicine’s faculty. Her fellow clinicians and researchers are “one big family” who continue to support her career endeavors. Plus, UK’s program is located in Lexington, Ky., which has a diverse population, numerous activities, and is known as The Horse Capital of the World. She loves living in Lexington, which she said is a very family-friendly city.

Under the Office of Medical Education, Dr. Youssefi is supporting students who strive to follow her career path. As the advanced development director for neurology, she advises fourth-year medical students who are interested in applying to neurology residency programs. 

“It’s really fun when I get to expose them to aspects of epilepsy care that they might not have known existed,” she said. “It’s one of my favorite things to teach about in clinic.”

Ultimately, Dr. Youssefi is appreciative of the fellowship training that allows her to provide exceptional mentorship and specialized care. 

“Seeing patients go seizure-free from making the right diagnosis, whether that’s prescribing the right medicine or getting them a surgical treatment, it’s very rewarding,” she said. “You get to help somebody and give them a new lease on life.”

Interested in applying for the fellowship? Click here for more information. 

For interested candidates, UK offers a second-year fellowship in its ACGME-accredited Clinical Neurophysiology Fellowship Training Program. Additionally, UK’s team collaborates with the Epilepsy Foundation of Kentuckiana (EFKY) and if interested, trainees are encouraged to participate in community activities that raise epilepsy awareness.