AINA Lifetime Achievement Award - Dr. Ram Ayyar Interview

15 May 2019 10:33 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

Ritwik Bhatia was able to sit down with Dr. Ram Ayyar for a special interview after the announcement of the AINA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019. Congratulations to Dr. Ayyar! Read more about Dr. Ayyar and his lifetime experiences in the excerpt below.

Dr. Ram Ayyar Interview

What attracted you to neurology?

I wanted to be a surgeon just like my father. I had the choice of being a surgeon

or an internist with subsequent subspecialist training. I decided to pursue neurology after completing two years of internal medicine, in large part due to the influence of excellent faculty mentors. My other interests were cardiology and endocrinology.

Who were your mentors as you started in academic neurology?

My mentors when I started in academic neurology were in Newcastle upon Tyne,

England. Newcastle University was one of the top neurological centers in the world at that time. Lord Walton attracted neurologists from around the world as did  Dr. Henry Miller who subsequently became Vice Chancellor of Newcastle University. The center had an outstanding reputation for work done in general neurology, neuromuscular diseases and multiple sclerosis, just to name a few areas. The mentors went out of their way to be helpful to all the physicians they had attracted from around the world. Even today long after I finished my training I have a close relationship with the surviving mentors.

How were your mentors helpful to you?

They were helpful by example. I observed and learned the art of taking a complicated history and how to examine a complicated case. My mentors conducted themselves in a pleasant and non-intimidating fashion. I still remember every joke they told me. All had a great sense of humor.

From an academic standpoint we were encouraged to disagree with them. I remember when Dr. Henry Miller was flying to London to discuss a CPC, he approached me to discuss a case. I gave him my top three choices and he did not agree with me. Upon his return from the CPC he told me that I was right and he was wrong. He, like so many other mentors, gave credit when credit was due.

What lessons from your training have you brought to your career as an attending ?

I trained in India, United Kingdom and Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. I firmly believe that learning is a lifelong process and we can learn different ways of problem solving and practicing medicine from different people in different countries.

What would you say to an aspiring neurologist, Indian- American or otherwise, who would like to give back to India?

In India we did not have fancy equipment. We relied on a complete history and a thorough physical examination. So to trainees who want to go back to India to give back, I would say: do not go there with the idea that “ I am going to teach them”. You should go there to learn. Indian neurologists are very smart and the pathology you see there is incredibly challenging.

What are the most seminal discoveries in neurology during your career?

The field of neurology has exploded in the last few years. Genetics, immunology, neuromuscular diseases, stroke and multiple sclerosis and movement disorders are some of the areas advances have been noted.

What interests do you have outside the hospital?

I love sports. We have season tickets for college and professional football (Miami Dolphins and Miami Hurricanes).

I played tennis and cricket in my younger days. I was the state high school singles and doubles tennis champion in Kerala. I played cricket for my state in the Ranji Trophy, which is similar to the NFL and MLB in the United States. I could have gone further but decided to pursue the medical profession like my father, uncle and grand father.

Our sons are excellent golfers and one of them is a professional in Miami.

I enjoy travel with my wife and two sons and have met many friends and fellow neurologists from around the world.

Last but not least I like to follow politics!

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