Dr. Keerthana Akkineni, Assistant Professor, Inpatient General Neurology

Dr. Keerthana Akkineni joined the Vanderbilt Neurology faculty as a neurohospitalist in August of 2020. In that time, her positive relationships with her colleagues and residents with whom she works closely have brightened even the most challenging days. She and her husband look forward to hopefully soon adding to their list of travel memories (which include getting stuck in a snowstorm in the Arctic Circle), and in the meantime they’re enjoying Tennessee’s parks and trails with their two dogs, Bella and Axon. \

Tell us about your background.
I grew up in Texas, and went to high school in Coppell. I did my Neurology residency training at Houston Methodist Hospital, which is a very busy hospital, so it was great to train there. I did my fellowship training in Clinical Neurophysiology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, affiliated with the Harvard Medical School. I was interested in Vanderbilt because my parents decided to retire here [in Nashville], and I wanted to be closer to family. Neurology is always interesting for me, especially since it is very patient-centered. This is true for all medicine, but especially neurology because people really worry when something is wrong with their brain. It’s always interesting to figure out which diagnostic mystery we are dealing with today. My subspecialty interest is epilepsy; I like to read EEGs and explore the different treatment options. I also have an interest in women’s health and epilepsy, and this is something I would like to work on in the future.  

What is your favorite part about your job?
I like the patients that we see. In Tennessee, people are in general so nice and trust in Vanderbilt, so it’s been a pleasure caring for them. Working in a large tertiary academic medical center you get to see so many rare, complex disorders, which helps you grow as a physician. There’s a very high level of intensity being on the consult service—it’s very busy and you see critically ill patients. While challenging, the intensity is also what makes it fun. My colleagues are very supportive, and so it feels like we are solving problems together. My favorite thing is hanging out with the residents, and working with them. We are a team, and we work together to figure out what’s going on with our patients.

What’s the best advice you give to residents?
Training can be so stressful, but when they’re on my service, I want them to realize that it’s not about getting here and getting in the hours, but it’s about being here and caring for patients—they as individuals are what make the difference. Everyone brings their own perspectives to the team and that is very important. 

What have been some of your funniest or most memorable moments with your colleagues so far? 
I feel like we laugh about something every day! With the residents we sometimes do coffee rounds and sit outside and talk about things that aren’t neurology or medicine; that’s always a nice thing to do in the middle of your work day. 

How do you spend a free weekend in Nashville? 
I have a whole list of restaurants I’m supposed to try that people have given me. My husband and I are foodies so we like to try different types of cuisine. We have two dogs—Bella and Axon. We like to go to the park with our dogs, walk around, and relax. Tennessee is very green and pretty.

What are your other hobbies?
I like to read and do a little meditation. We like to eat. Spend time with our dogs. We like to take a boat out on the weekend and go to different lakes, which are very beautiful around here. Mostly we love to travel when we get the chance. We had a trip to Asia planned before COVID hit, so that will be our next big thing.

What’s been your favorite travel destination so far? 
I want to say it was Greece (which is fun because you can go to the beach and relax), but honestly it was Norway. We went on a cruise around the Norway coast up to the Arctic Circle to see the Northern Lights. At first I was very skeptical, but it was so beautiful. We went sledding with reindeer. At one point, though, we got stuck in a snowstorm. A guide handed us this trench shovel and told us to start digging a hole and stay there until the storm passed, but then afterwards we saw the Northern Lights. So it was really gorgeous once we survived! I just like exploring different cultures and getting to know the people.

What are you currently reading/watching/listening to? 
I’m reading Quiet. It’s about introverts and learning to interact with different personalities. I'm also watching Star Wars again.

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