Spotlight: Faculty, Resident, Student and Clerkship Director

Current Spotlight

 
Faculty
  • John Roberts MD: newly appointed Clinical Correlations Course Director for the First-Year Pre-Clinical Curriculum
  • Poonam Sharma MD, SFHM: newly appointed LIC Clerkship Director
  • Scott T. Hollenbeck MD: recipient of 2019 Clinical Skills Foundation Professionalism Award
  • Nick Hudak Mpa, Msed, PA-C: recipient of 2019 Support to Advance Research (STAR) Program (https://paeaonline.org/duke-colleagues-earn-their-stars)
Resident
  • Luke Gatta MD: recipient of the 2019 Clinical Skills Foundation Professionalism Award
  • Heather Levites MD: recipient of the 2019 Clinical Skills Foundation Professionalism Award

 

 

Our Previous Spotlights:

  1. Faculty: 
  2. Residents:
  3. Students:
  4. Clerkship/Course Director:
  5. Other:

     

 

John Roberts MDJohn Roberts MD

Hometown: Hattiesburg, MS

College/University: Rhodes College

Medical School: University of Alabama-Birmingham

Residency/Fellowship: Duke for both Internal Medicine residency and Nephrology Fellowship.

What activity do you enjoy when you are not teaching and/or providing patient care?  Definitely spending time with my wife and two awesome daughters. My wife and I have gone on bike tours of Denmark and Ireland. We took our kids to Amsterdam recently and saw lots of great art, flowers, and museums. I like to bike and run. I play Breath of the Wild with my oldest daughter. My youngest daughter still lets me read to her at bedtime. I’m sort of a music junkie. Mostly “rock” but also anything weird or off-kilter. I think female musicians right now are hands down making the best music ever. I listen to anything by Jenn Wasner (Wye Oak, Flock of Dimes) and Katie Crutchfield (Waxahatchee). Also Hop Along, Lucy Dacus, Boygenius, Mitski, Hinds, Grouper.

I have been at Duke for 10 years on the dot. Moved here after medical school graduation in 2009. Bought a house in South Durham. Told myself I’ll stay as long as they will let me!

What do you enjoy the most about working at Duke? Certainly the people and leadership at Duke make this a special place. The Internal Medicine and Nephrology program leaders have really supported me and fostered my career in medical education. I tell residency applicants that Duke really is the most “fertile soil” where you can grow into whatever you can envision for yourself. Also, Durham is a wonderful city for living and practicing medicine. The patient population here is incredibly diverse in a myriad of ways, and it’s a privilege to care for them. 

What do you enjoy most about teaching? Teaching is challenging, it provides this visceral sort of immediate feedback, and it is completely relational in nature. It’s not really about ME; it’s about this relationship with the student. There is a two-way street there. I should be able to learn from them as they learn from me. When there is this longitudinal relationship, it’s very rewarding to see your students grow and thrive. Even though it may be a story I tell myself, I like to think that I played some positive role in their development. Also, being a teacher requires some humility too, and you can’t just rest on your laurels. I’ve experienced this illusion of knowledge and experience (“I know so much! I must be great!”), and then through teaching and self-reflection it’s like “oh wow, I’ve unlearned so much over the years! What happened?” It’s been very important as a teacher to be aware that you heavily influence the learning environment and you have this weird effect on the culture and dynamics of the team and clinical realm. That is a heavy responsibility that I don’t want to forget. 

What (if any) educational committees are you a member (Departmental, University, regional, national)? I’ve joined a number of committees over the last two years. I’m on the curriculum committee here at the SOM and have been heavily involved in our curricular reform initiative, which has been incredibly fun and interesting. I’m also on the career advancement committee for the American Society of Nephrology.

What is the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you?  Quotes and advice surrounding the meaning of work and finding your telos (purpose). I wish someone told me that there is no intrinsic value in just being super busy, but rather it’s worth arranging your life so you maximize time on things that give you energy and spend less time on things that take away your energy. So, try out a bunch of things and self-reflect on what seems to bring you energy and what seems to take away your energy. This is not about what is easy or what will “feel good”, but what is lighting the fire in your belly? (Because you need that energy and fire to persevere). Good quotes:

 “You may not be able to alter reality, but you can alter your attitude towards it, and this, paradoxically, alters reality. Try it and see.” -Margaret Atwood

“Passion has little to do with euphoria and everything to do with patience. It is not about feeling good. It is about endurance. Like patience, passion comes from the same Latin root: pati. It does not mean to flow with exuberance. It means to suffer.” -Mark Z. Danielewski

What is one of your characteristics, something about you, that would surprise others? I am an only child. I had no siblings and played lots of Nintendo growing up. I can take anyone on in Saved by the Bell trivia (except my best friend Charley). I also made electronic music in a past life (it may still be on sound cloud somewhere).

Tell us more about….

Well I’ve been fortunate to be heavily involved in our curriculum innovation initiative, and so far this has been quite an experience. It’s really forced me to reflect on medical education, where we’ve been, where we’re going, and what really matters at the end of the day. Like what do patients actually want or need? What knowledge, skills, and attitudes are needed to really have a positive impact for a given population? What will be the same or different about our profession in 30 years? The discussion/debate about the answers to these questions is really gripping.  Like, in light of machine learning and AI, we really need to figure out what matters most.

As knowledge continues to expand and AI comes onboard, we’re going to lose the knowledge game in due time. So, we will have to play a different game. We will need to focus on the things that only the human doctor can do. Thus, I think history taking and patient communication will be two things where we will always out perform the machines. We will still be the face of healthcare and there will still be value in touch and the physical exam. Even if we’re using handheld ultrasound or something else, there is also some intangible patient benefit that comes with the ritual of attention and touch from a purposeful exam. Doctors will still need to synthesize all the information, perform special procedures, and we will still need to be experts at problem representation and diagnosis. Machines will be too dependent on the things that are easy to measure (quantitative data in the EMR) and at risk of the garbage in = garbage out situation. The future of medicine will probably thrive with some synthesis between the doctor and machine. 

So, how do we construct the medical school of the future? We have to be experts at patient communication, patient education, history taking, and problem representation/diagnosis like I mentioned above. We will have to make room for understanding our patients in the context of a variety of environmental and social stressors. We will have to have the emotional skills to handle difficult situations and be present with a person or family through a moment of crisis. We will have to continually earn and maintain our patients’ trust. We will have to repair this relationship with the community, especially with disadvantaged and minority groups. We can have all the fancy technology, knowledge, or whatever we want, but if we are not treating people right in our society, communities, or clinics, then there will always be disparities and the kind of tough problems that can’t be neatly solved with a new procedure, pill, or diet recommendation. We really need to come face to face with the fact that our mission of promoting health & relieving suffering has to include a commitment to social justice. This requires a strong commitment to accepting a diverse student body, retaining a diverse group of faculty as teachers in the medical school, and equipping all of our students with the skills needed to overcome bias and maintain civility in healthcare settings. We can do a better job integrating social determinants of health, medical ethics, and the so-called “soft skills” of physicians into the teaching and learning of biomedical sciences. A fresh commitment in this direction will help our students become true change agents, in addition to being fabulous doctors.

 

Poonam Sharma MD, SFHMPoonam Sharma MD

Hometown: The Triangle now! Born in Nottingham, England, grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia, and delighted to be raising a family in the Triangle.

College/University: University of Virginia

Medical School: University of Virginia

Residency/Fellowship: Duke

What activity do you enjoy when you are not teaching and/or providing patient care?  Gardening (picked the first tomatoes this week!), reading mystery novels and sci-fi. Brainstorming about how to improve health care, how the world works and the qualities of leaders. Just did my first escape room – highly recommend!

I have been at Duke for …. many years. Did residency here from 2007-2010 and started on faculty in 2010.

What do you enjoy the most about working at Duke? The people.  I love being around people who are committed to excellence and still so kind and compassionate and also innovative and determined to improve the current state.

What do you enjoy most about teaching? Duke students are amazing! They push me to be a better clinician and person.

What (if any) educational committees are you a member (Departmental, University, regional, national)? Just finished up a term for the Society of Hospital Medicine NP/PA committee where we brainstormed about how to prepare NP and PA students for hospital medicine careers. I have also been in educational committees for the Internal Medicine residency program at Duke and for Duke Regional Hospital. I am in the AAMC LEAD program this year.

What is the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you? Enjoy the journey!

What is one of your characteristics, something about you, that would surprise others? I am a terrible singer. Even my 4 year old asks me to stop singing.

Tell us more about ….. I love learning peoples’ stories, challenges and perspectives. Embracing diversity as a strength is and will continue to be key in our growth. 

 

Scott T. Hollenbeck MDScott Hollenbeck MD

Hometown: Charlotte, NC

College/University: University of Florida

Medical School: Ohio State

Residency/Fellowship: New York Presbyterian – Cornell for General Surgery and Duke for Plastic Surgery

What activity do you enjoy when you are not teaching and/or providing patient care? Fishing and playing baseball with my kids.

I have been at Duke for …. 11 years

What do you enjoy the most about working at Duke? The pride that people have in working together as one team.

What do you enjoy most about teaching? Watching a student or resident become self-motivated by curiosity, discovery and a desire to make a difference. Trying to be part of that process. 

What (if any) educational committees are you a member (Departmental, University, regional, national)? Duke – Plastic Surgery Clerkship Director, Director of Microsurgery Training, Duke Flap Course Co-Director. National – Chair of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons Senior Resident Conference, Chair of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons Curriculum Development Committee. Chair of the Plastic Surgery Research Council Education Committee.

What is the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you? Try to focus on specific clinical and research interests as early as possible rather than try to do it all. 

What is one of your characteristics, something about you, that would surprise others? I’m very competitive, but that probably wouldn’t surprise anyone. My one special talent in life – Ping Pong!

Tell us more about ..... interest and advocacy for diversity: Sometimes I am asked to arrange a panel or a group of speakers for a meeting. I have tried to be more cognizant of selecting a wide array of speakers that represent diverse perspectives and life experiences. I think helping someone to truly believe in themselves is the thing I enjoy the most.  

 

Nick Hudak Mpa, Msed, PA-CNick Hudak Mpa, Msed, PA-C

Hometown: I am originally from the Cleveland area of Ohio. Having been in NC for 10 years and loving it, my family and I consider the great state of North Carolina our home state.

College/University: I earned my Master Physician Assistant degree from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh in 2004. While beginning my PA career in neurology, I concurrently earned my Master of Science in Education with a focus on community counseling from the University of Akron. I am currently a PhD student at North Carolina State University in the College of Education’s adult, workforce, and continuing professional development program with an emphasis on educational research and policy. It seems for me being a “lifelong learner” looks like being a lifelong student. That being said, I consider myself immensely privileged to have lifelong opportunities to continue my education and pursue my passion for learning and contributing in new ways.

What activity do you enjoy when you are not teaching and/or providing patient care? I am a “family first” person, so enthusiastically spend as much time as possible with my wife Laura and our three sons (ages 8, 6, and 4). We enjoy playing indoors, adventuring outdoors, traveling – the common factors are fun, exploration, and laughter.

I have been at Duke for …. 10 years – time sure does fly!

What do you enjoy the most about working at Duke? It is amazing to work at a place where so many people are dedicated to excellence– from teaching students to taking care of patients, from collaborating to strengthen education programming to disseminating research, from improving clinical learning environments to serving in leadership positions of national organizations. In the context of pursuing a most worthwhile mission, it is being with good people doing important work that makes working at Duke most enjoyable.

What do you enjoy most about teaching? I continue to most enjoy the transformational process of education I witness with students as they acquire new knowledge, develop clinical skills, nurture humanistic attributes, and widen their view of how they can positively impact the health of patients and communities. These moments are most evident when the learner has that “aha moment”, follows their curiosity to ask the next question, makes a patient feel like a person, demonstrates the ability to work well on a team, gains insight from constructive criticism, and builds humble confidence over the course of their education.

What (if any) educational committees are you a member (Departmental, University, regional, national)? At the national level, I am a member of the Mission Advancement Commission on Faculty Development for the Physician Assistant Education Association. At the university level, I am a member of the Healthy Duke workgroup on physical activity and program planning. At the school level, I am a member of the Curriculum Innovation Workgroup for the Doctor of Medicine Program, the School of Medicine Curriculum Committee, the Committee on Appropriate Treatment of Learners, and the Interprofessional Education Clinic Committee. I am also a member of several committees in the Duke PA Program, including curriculum, progress and promotions, and admissions.

What is the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you? As I tend to be a “yes person” when being asked to help and lend effort, one valuable piece of advice I received from a mentor a few years ago was that it is sometimes okay to say “not now” or “not yet”. I still struggle to apply that advice, but it reminds me that I only have so much bandwidth and that I need to respect my personal and professional responsibilities and priorities.

Tell us more about …

Nick Hudak, wife,  three children on vacation

Photo caption: Nick Hudak, his wife Laura and 3 sons, pictured with a long-time family friend!

 

Luke Gatta MDLuke Gatta MD

Hometown: Brooklyn NY

College/University: Saint Louis University, in St. Louis, Missouri

What (if any) educational committees are you a member (Departmental, University, regional, national)? DUH Ethics Committee (University), Diversity & Inclusion Committee (Departmental)

What is one of your characteristics, something about you, that would surprise others? I still listen to baseball on the radio.

What is the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you? Have a list on your phone of all the ways to say “thank you”, in as many languages as you can.  When using the “blue phone” to consent a patient in Rohingya at 3:00 in the morning, you can gain a lot of trust if you conclude the conversation with an expression of gratitude in their native language.  Your patient will not forget this act of kindness.

What do you enjoy most about Duke? There is a stretch on the hallway between Duke North and the Duke Medicine Pavilion in which one can look out at across the campus and see the Duke Chapel.  In this fifteen-second walk between the two buildings, I take stock in the honor of our vocation to care for our neighbors.

 

Heather Levites MDHeather Levites MD

Hometown: New York, NY
College/University: MIT
What (if any) educational committees are you a member (Departmental, University, regional, national)?  American society of plastic surgery membership, recruitment, compliance and development committee
What is one of your characteristics, something about you, that would surprise others?  I used to be very shy! No one believes me when I tell them, but I didn’t start to come into my own until college. It took me surrounding myself with other like minded people to realize that there’s no need for shyness, people
will like you for you.
What is the one piece of advice you wish someone had given you?  If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of others. Eat well, sleep, exercise, but most importantly,
do something to treat yourself every once in a while- it goes a long way. Secondly, medicine is partly the art of the human connection. Laugh, be yourself, and be relatable. It helps patients, staff, and your team feel comfortable, less intimidated and is good for morale!
What activity do you enjoy the most?  I still love to dance! I went to a performing arts high school and although I don’t have much time for it anymore I try to incorporate it in my life as much as I can.
What do you enjoy most about Duke?  My co-residents. I chose this program for the strong women above me, and am proud to see the strong women
coming up behind me.
Tell us more about....
Although I’m not formally involved in diversity or advocacy groups, mental health is always at the forefront of my mind. My younger brother suffers from schizophrenia. Seeing him struggle growing up was paramount in shaping my treatment of others. You never know what anyone is going through- the smallest gesture to make a student or other teammate feel included can do more than you know. Happiness is infectious, and I strongly believe that you get what you give.