Trinity Health Of New England is pleased to introduce Dr. Veeresh Kumar, who joined the staff of Saint Francis Hospital last year. Dr. Kumar serves as the Chief of Neurology and the Medical Director of the Epilepsy Center, and is also an attending neurologist at Saint Francis. Neurophysiology is the study of brain wave activity and involves understanding an electroencephalogram (EEG)— a diagnostic test that records the brain’s electrical activity— to obtain and interpret the results. Dr. Kumar practices general neurology and has special interest in caring for patients with seizures and epilepsy as well as patients with various types of headaches.
He brings the perspective and accumulated skills and knowledge of his many years of training at several well respected institutions across the country. He completed residencies in Internal Medicine (1 year), then in Neurology (3 years) at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School. Then he went on to a one-year fellowship in Clinical Neurophysiology at Montefiore Medical Center – Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City and followed that with a one-year fellowship in Epilepsy at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia. During his fellowship in Epilepsy, he focused on the use of a new advanced type of EEG called a stereotactic EEG, as well as epilepsy surgery planning. He is board certified in Neurology and will be taking the board exam in Neurophysiology later this year.
Dr. Kumar says that while his goal is to expand neurology services across the Trinity Health Of New England system, he was hired specifically to launch an Epilepsy Monitoring Unit (EMU). He is proud to announce that this four-bed unit will open at Saint Francis Hospital in September. An EMU provides in-depth diagnostic and treatment services for people with difficult to diagnose or treat seizures and epilepsy. Typically, a patient is admitted for two to three days to an EMU, but sometimes, it requires up to a week. Although the unit is located at Saint Francis Hospital, it is available for patients throughout Trinity Health Of New England.
Dr. Kumar explains that a person may have a single seizure for a multitude of reasons and they may never have another. However, some individuals will go on to have more seizures. If a person has more than two unprovoked seizures, they are considered to have epilepsy. According to data collected in 2015 by the Centers for Disease Control, approximately three million adults (and close to a half million children) in the US have epilepsy. This represents 1.2 percent of the US population. Nearly 36,000 of the adults with epilepsy live in CT.
There are many anti-seizure medications available, and one will be selected on the basis of the type of seizure and the patient’s characteristics such as age, other disease states, and other medicines they take. If there is not adequate response with the first medication, another medication may be tried. If a patient’s seizures are not adequately controlled after a trial of two different medications, then they are considered to have intractable or drug-resistant epilepsy. Dr. Kumar estimates that approximately one third of patients with epilepsy have a medication-resistant form.
One possible treatment option for people with intractable epilepsy is epilepsy surgery. “There are various types of operations or procedures to control seizures, which may involve the removal of an area of the brain to interrupt the nerve pathways through which seizure impulses spread,” Dr. Kumar instructs. He further clarifies, “Surgery is only possible if the area of the brain where the seizure starts (the focus) can be accurately identified, and only if that area isn’t responsible for a vital activity such as speech or movement.” Currently, the process to determine all of this takes about six to eight months. He hopes that over time with advances in Neurology, this time can be shortened considerably.
Another big advance Dr. Kumar has implemented is the use of the “Ceribell”® at Saint Francis and Saint Mary’s Hospital. This is a rapid EEG device that can be used in an Emergency Room or Intensive Care Unit (ICU). A traditional EEG performed by an EEG technician typically takes about two hours to obtain and be interpreted by a neurologist. This new device can be used by a nurse, and an EEG study can be set up in five to ten minutes.
Other ways in which Neurology services are expanding within Trinity Health Of New England include:
- Hiring of five additional neurologists with varying areas of expertise, including pain management, Multiple Sclerosis, interventional neurology, neuromuscular disorders (such as ALS, Muscular Dystrophies, and Myasthenia gravis), and movement disorders (such as Parkinson’s Disease and tremors)
- Capability for continuous EEG monitoring in the ICUs at Saint Francis 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- 24/7 neurovascular intervention services at Saint Francis including thrombectomies, aneurysm coiling, and AVM management
- A dedicated headache and pain clinic has been created at Saint Francis with a multidisciplinary approach to treat patients with various types of headaches, including migraines. In addition to a neurologist, the team includes clinicians from Obstetrics and Gynecology, Nutrition, Psychology, Physical Therapy, and Integrative Medicine
- An Epilepsy clinic one day a week at Saint Mary’s Hospital
- EEG services at Johnson Memorial Hospital in Stafford Springs, Conn.
- Increased resources for the ambulatory (at home) EEG service, which has decreased wait times for patients from a few months to a few weeks
- Expansion of neurology services to Enfield site
How It All Started
Dr. Kumar grew up in India. He became interested in medicine after one of his siblings sustained a spinal cord injury resulting in paralysis of all four limbs (quadriplegia). It took the care and compassion of many providers, six months in an intensive care unit, and significant amounts of rehabilitation to restore function. He says, “This incident reinforced my belief in medicine and opened my eyes to the challenges faced by doctors. It inspired me to take up medicine.”
Dr. Kumar attended medical school in India. It was there that he grew interested in the workings of the brain. As part of the curricula, he participated in clerkships at McGill University – Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences in Montreal, Canada, and later moved to the United States for research at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. He says, “I was impressed with the advanced methods of investigation, treatment protocols, and vast resources that were available.” This experience was the catalyst for him to pursue advanced training in the United States. He continued to feel pulled toward Neurology and specifically Epilepsy for his career path. He emphasizes, “I was attracted to it because it is an art form of combining evidence from electrophysiology and neuroimaging with the patient’s presentation and using this information for diagnosis and therapeutic decision making.”
When Dr. Kumar is not taking care of patients or working on improving Neurological services, he enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking and mountain biking. He is also busy training his 10-week-old golden doodle puppy named Cooper.
Margaret M. Burke, Pharm.D., BCPPS, is a freelance medical writer with more than 25 years of clinical pharmacy experience, including board certification as a pediatric pharmacotherapy specialist. She lives in Manchester.
Photography by Cara Piauk