Andrew Girithiran, MD
Assistant Professor, Movement Disorders Division
First, tell us a little about your background and how your path led to Vanderbilt.
I grew up in Carbondale, Illinois. My dad is from Sri Lanka and mom is from Southern Illinois. They met at [Southern Illinois University], so I grew up there. I did my undergrad at SIU in Physiology, then went on to do my medical degree at University of Missouri—Columbia. I did my residency at Vanderbilt, then went to Portland for fellowship training in Movement Disorders. After my fellowship, I returned to Vanderbilt to join the faculty about a year ago.
What drew you to neurology, specifically movement disorders?
I’ve always followed what clicks with me and what’s most interesting. I liked everything in medical school, and it was hard to decide on a specialty. Initially I was thinking I would do internal medicine, so I scheduled that rotation in the middle of the year with the hope of having more experience under my belt to “show off!” Neurology ended up being the first rotation I was assigned to, and I loved it. I spent the rest of the year wishing I was back in my neurology rotation! I followed that feeling and haven’t looked back since.
One of my first experiences working in neurology was in movement disorders. Throughout my training, I really enjoyed working with those patients. In movement disorders, the neurology exam is especially important. I liked to be able to walk into a room and kind of know what’s going on with a patient without waiting on test results. There are no diagnostic tests for most movement disorders, so I like being able to do the detective work.
What have been some of the highlights of your time at Vanderbilt so far?
What I like most about Vanderbilt is the people. I love my colleagues. One of my interests is medical education. I’ve enjoyed working with residents and medical students now that I’m back on faculty.
What kind of advice do you like to share with residents and medical students?
For medical students, it sounds cheesy, but I share with them my journey to where I am now. I’m really happy with my career. I followed what clicked and made me happiest. So I tell students to look for what gives you that feeling and to follow it. After all, if you spend all of these years working toward a career, it better be something that you love doing!
Likewise for residents, there’s such a breadth to neurology with so many different paths from which to choose. One of the advantages of residency is getting exposure to all of the sub-specialties and fine-tuning what you want to do. Find what clicks and makes you happiest.
That’s the goal. In the end, you want to be doing what you love to do.
What kind of hobbies and other interests do you like to explore?
My main hobby has always been music. I play guitar and dabble in other stringed instruments as well. I like playing music; I used to enjoy going to live shows, though that has changed recently with COVID. Lately I’ve been learning a lot more bluegrass. One of my friends in medical school was a really good banjo player and got me interested in bluegrass, which transitioned well into living in Nashville.
When I was in Portland, I developed an interest in making cocktails at home. I mostly enjoy bourbon cocktails—like an Old Fashioned and some others. Cooking became another hobby of mine. Especially with the pandemic, it’s been a personal project to be trying different recipes. Lately I’ve been learning my family’s Sri Lankan recipes.
What are you currently reading/watching/listening to?
Lately I’ve been into audiobooks; it’s been a nice bedtime ritual to relax before sleep. Because I’m a nerd I enjoy reading about neurology even outside of work. I collect vintage neurology textbooks. It’s interesting to learn about neurology before we had MRIs and scans. There’s still a lot to learn from these master clinicians who first explored neurology.
Where do you seek and find inspiration?
Professionally, my patients really do inspire me. They inspire me to be better, learn more, and do more research in the field. My colleagues also inspire me to be a better neurologist. I’ve had a lot of good role models throughout my career.
Music is kind of my go-to source of inspiration on a personal level. If I’m having a tough day, I just like exploring new music or learning something new on guitar. That’s how I relax and hit the refresh button.
Which of your Neurology Department colleagues would be your Amazing Race partner?
Hands-down it would be Tom Davis because he has a motorcycle and is one of the smartest people I know.