Kyle Blackburn, MD
Texas, United States
My journey with neuroimmune disorders began when I was a medical student on pediatric neurology. We admitted a young girl with a diagnosis of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM), now on her third admission to the hospital with worsening neurologic symptoms. I had to google ‘ADEM’ to learn what it stood for (this was one of the many things you don’t learn in medical school), and in doing so learned of new discoveries being made in autoimmune diseases of the brain and spinal cord. That first encounter was one of the pivotal moments in my decision to become a neurologist.
Six years have passed since that first patient, and I have worked with many others dealing with rare neuroimmune disorders. During my brief time as a neurologist, there has been significant progress in recognizing the causes of neuroimmune disorders (for example, the young girl I saw as a medical student likely had MOG antibody disease). New treatments are available for disorders like neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder (NMOSD), with others coming down the pipeline. The outlook has truly never looked brighter!
I am privileged to work with patients and families during their most vulnerable times—in the hospital before diagnosis is secured, during the first few weeks adjusting to life at home, and during episodes of relapse. The relationships I build throughout the process of diagnosis and treatment are among the favorite parts of my work. Because of my experience as an SRNA James T. Lubin Fellow, I have gotten to hear stories from around the world, while also working to improve our understanding of neuroimmune disorders. Also, I get an excuse to go to SRNA Family Camp as an adult—what could be better than that?!
My hope is that we continue to push the needle forward every year. That we will be able to provide more answers where they were once lacking. That we will one day not just prevent worsening but also have ways to promote healing. That we will figure out what causes autoimmune disease in the first place. And I hope that while we strive for cures, we will continue to support one another along the way.
Kyle Blackburn, MD
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