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JFK Physician Spotlight: Spozhmy Panezai, MD

JFK Medical Center is proudly affiliated with more than 900 physicians representing every major medical and surgical specialty. Along with their expertise, each brings a unique background, perspective and approach that contribute to JFK's longstanding hallmark of excellence and personalized care.

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This month, we're pleased to introduce Dr. Spozhmy Panezai, attending neurologist and director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center at JFK Medical Center's New Jersey Neuroscience Institute, as well as associate professor at Seton Hall University School of Graduate Medical Education.

Office Location: JFK New Jersey Neuroscience Institute, 65 James Street, Edison, New Jersey

Area of Specialty: Stroke & Neurological Diseases

Medical Certifications & Training: Board certified in Neurology, Clinical Neurophysiology, and Vascular Neurology; Fellowships in Neurovascular Medicine and Neurophysiology, SUNY- Stony Brook; Chief Resident in Neurology, SUNY-Stony Brook; Internship, Jersey Shore Medical Center; Medical Degree, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Q: Where did you grow up?

A: I was raised in Matawan, New Jersey, though I spent many summers in Pakistan with my extended family. Those experiences not only broadened my view of the world, but also taught me a great deal about patience, strength, compassion, personal interaction and other values that have helped me become a better doctor.

Q. Do you speak other languages?

A. Yes, I speak fluent Pashto, or Afghani. There are a few other languages I understand though my speaking is limited, such as Hindi and Urdu.

Q. Why did you decide to become a doctor?

A. My father was a cardiologist. In fact, he practiced at JFK Medical Center for many years. There were always medical books and stethoscopes around the house, and he sometimes took me to work with him. So I guess you could say that medicine has always been a part of my life and I knew early on that I wanted to follow in my father's footsteps.

Q. What attracted you to neurology?

A. While I enjoyed all of the sciences, I took a special interest in my neuroscience course in medical school and had the opportunity to shadow some of my father's colleagues in this specialty. Ultimately I felt that neurology was the field of the future because there is so much yet to be discovered.

Q. What is the biggest misconception about your field?

A. People often ask why I chose a specialty where there are so few treatments and cures. While it is a true that we have a long way to go in terms of research and intervention, it is important to recognize how far we've come – especially with regard to stroke care. There was a time when we couldn't offer any treatment to stroke patients. Now we have clot-busting drugs, like tPa, that can dissolve blood clots and minimize brain damage when administered quickly. Imaging innovations also provide more information than ever before, telling us when a stroke occurred and which parts of the brain may be saved through surgical procedures. As research continues, we're close to some exciting breakthroughs, including medications that target clots in the brain with fewer risks and better outcomes.

Q. What do you find most challenging about being a doctor?

A. That's hard to answer. I'd have to say the biggest challenge I face as a doctor is the same challenge faced by every working mother: how to balance my time between career and family – and how to be excellent in both facets of my life. I need to keep up with all the latest medical information and provide the best possible patient care... and then go home and help my children with their homework.

Q. What is most rewarding?

A. The best part about being a doctor is making a difference... helping my patients feel better – not just physically, but also emotionally and psychologically. Taking the time to explain an individual's illness and treatment options while also listening to his or her concerns can mean a lot. Being a doctor isn't just about medicine; it's about people and improving their quality of life.

Q. What makes JFK a special place to practice?

A. First, I have a history with JFK. I grew up in the area and my father practiced here, so the hospital has always felt like home. I feel especially privileged to work at the Neuroscience Institute, which provides the unique combination of a community hospital and an academic institution. It gives me the opportunity to experience both settings while collaborating with some of the top physicians in the country, including neurologists in every subspecialty. I also appreciate that we offer rehabilitation right here, so I can follow my patients through the entire continuum of care.

Q. If you couldn't be a physician, what career would you have chosen?

A. I'd probably be in the art field, since I've always loved drawing, painting and interior decorating. I hope to rekindle that interest with an art class.

Q. What is your favorite thing to do when you're not working?

A. Being with my kids. I have three young children – all under the age of five – and there's nothing that compares to their unconditional love and our time as a family, whether I'm teaching them how to play soccer or tucking them into bed.

Q. What is the most important piece of advice you have for patients?

A. Be your own health advocate, and don't be afraid to ask questions. Understanding your disease is the first step toward healing.