COOKEVILLE – Neurologists, by nature, can be a somewhat compulsive breed. Double checking, investigating, crunching numbers.
Dr. Jay Turkewitz, a neurohospitalist at Cookeville Regional Medical Center (CRMC), admittedly fits the bill in that regard, when it comes to his patients and his work. And that can be an overwhelming positive when dealing with patients who are dealing with medical issues like multiple sclerosis, seizures or stroke.
“Being a good neurologist is like knowing that, if you’ve got to get to Cincinnati, you somehow have to get to I-75,” Turkewitz said. “The key is to recognize you’ve got a vascular problem, or a neuro- infectious problem, a neuromuscular problem. It’s not necessarily to know (right away) that the neuromuscular problem is facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy. It’s knowing the direction to go and what information to collect along the way, quickly, in order to make a decision. You have to be confident in your own ability to ascertain the situation.”
Turkewitz is likely one of the first neurohospitalists to practice in the country, with nearly 35 years experience in his field. He joined the Cookeville medical staff this past summer, and as a neurohospitalist, provides care predominantly for hospital inpatients. He and Dalia Miller, M.D., are working to provide round the clock coverage at CRMC.
Turkewitz, a New Yorker by birth, had an early introduction to medicine. His father, a general practitioner, was a “big influence,” on his life. Medicine, he says, just came naturally. Neurology was the first specialty he encountered during his senior year of medical school. It stuck.
“I enjoy neurology,” he said. “It’s challenging. We see people with very difficult illnesses. We provide comfort and a service to the patient, but at the same time, the challenge is enjoyable.”
Offering neurohospitalist coverage like this, according to The Neurohospitalist Society, the “unifying organization of neurohospitalists,” improves patient safety and outcomes; decreases patient length of stay; reduces stress on nursing staff; and allows for consistent hospital protocols and coverage.
Turkewitz said they are currently working to garner the hospital’s Joint Commission stroke certification. “Hospitals this size need 24/7 neurology coverage,
(especially) to complement what’s already an active cardiac program,” Turkewitz said, something CRMC has. “There’s things that overlap between the two (specialties).
“Up until now, people have been going outside the Upper Cumberland to get (neurology) care,” he added, estimating that 800,000 people suffer from stroke, for example, in the U.S. each year. “The level of service we provide is the level of service the American Heart Association recommends every person get if they’re having a stroke, whether they’re at another medical center or Cookeville Regional.”
While director of the stroke program at Charity Hospital in New Orleans in the late 1990s, he handled a majority of the inpatient acute neurological care, work necessitated largely by the approval of so- called clot-busters by the Federal Food & Drug Administration for stroke treatment. Since Charity, which has closed, was where students from Tulane and Louisiana State University (LSU) did their training, someone needed to supervise when it came to administering those drugs, which, if given to qualifying patients within the three hours window of a stroke, result in significant improvement for some. That necessitated a reduction of outpatient responsibilities, and, thereafter, it “just became natural to focus on hospital-based (care),” he said.
“The concept of a neurohospitalist is still very new,” he said.
While his schedule as a neurohospitalist can be particularly demanding – 30 shifts a month, typically – there is still time for hobbies outside of work. Turkewitz says he enjoys shooting sports, like shooting skeet, trap and sporting clays, playing golf and keeping in touch with his kids. He says the Cookeville area is a place where he can “ultimately retire,” and he particularly enjoys the local, hometown feel from the hospital’s doctors, staff and patients.
“The thing that attached me here was the ability to work for a locally owned and operated hospital facility, where the board of directors is committed to the community, where the administration is locally grown; it provides a different level of accountability,” he said.
“We’re here to serve the community, and the hospital is striving to provide the (necessary) programs because they have this local commitment. We’re all here to help people.”
Dr. Jay Turkewitz is a neurohospitalist at Cookeville Regional Medical Center. For more information, visit www.crmchealth.org.