Meryim Poursheykhi, MD – Faculty Spotlight

While a Texas native originally, Dr. Meryim Poursheykhi spent half of her life in Germany before returning to Texas for residency. One of her main priorities in her career is teaching, and working with the residents at an academic medical center provides many opportunities for continued learning, as well as sharing knowledge. When not on service, Dr. Poursheykhi enjoys exploring the waterfalls in Middle Tennessee and international travel.

Tell us about your background.

I’m originally from Houston, Texas, and spent the first half of my life there. Then I moved to Germany with my family and spent the second half of my life in Germany. I moved back to Houston in 2018 for residency; for various reasons, the United States was the right fit for me to complete my training. I did my residency at Houston Methodist Hospital. After that I came here to Vanderbilt.

What initially drew you to neurology? 

I distinctly remember when my fascination with neurology began. In my fourth semester of medical school, I had my first week of neurology. The department chair gave a lecture on stroke. He explained how different symptoms localize to certain parts of the brain. Learning that the brain is a map of different functions was really fascinating. From that time on, it was clear that neurology was going to be my passion, and that has just continued to grow over time. 

What are some of the elements of inpatient neurology that have made it a career choice for you? 

I really love inpatient work. I appreciate the acuity and variety of the cases that come in through the ER. It’s exciting to be the first person to see a complicated case that hasn’t been evaluated yet in the outpatient clinic. I enjoy the challenge of finding the right diagnosis and initiating a treatment plan. I also like the speed with which tests are performed and answers can be obtained in the hospital setting. Another benefit to the inpatient side is getting to work on cases in a multidisciplinary team with other specialties and departments. It’s a fast pace that keeps me on my toes, and there are a lot of opportunities for learning. It’s exciting. 

Who have been some important mentors or sources of inspiration for you in your career thus far? 

The mentors who have shaped me the most were those teachers and leaders that set the highest standards and truly cared about making a difference. One teacher I’ll always remember was my high school German and Philosophy teacher. He was strict, and it was a lot of work to meet his expectations, but that made the hard effort and lessons learned all the more worth it. I had a similar experience with a faculty member in my training program who consistently encouraged me to be the best physician I can be, and I'm grateful for that. 

How do you like to spend your free time? What interests and hobbies do you enjoy outside of work?

With my schedule I have one week on and one week off. I love traveling and frequently take trips–both domestic and international–during my off-weeks. I’m also very passionate about hiking, so it’s great to be able to do much of that around Nashville, especially with lots of waterfalls around. My favorite nearby waterfall is Burgess Falls. Last year, I went on a kayaking trip to the bottom of the falls, and it was amazing. Hiking and waterfalls are a huge highlight for me and one of the big draws in moving to Nashville. 

Also photography is something with which I want to gain more experience. I’m looking into getting a drone and a professional camera. It’s a work in progress.

What have been some of your recent travel highlights?

Hiking through Costa Rica, spending a day with an indigenous tribe in Panama, exploring the streets and canals of Venice, learning how to surf in Australia. Japan was a very interesting cultural experience and also where I went snorkeling for the first time.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Teaching and sharing the knowledge that I’ve acquired so far is really important to me. It has always been a priority for me and was one of the reasons I wanted to work at an academic center. I was awarded the resident teaching award last year, which was a huge honor. It’s been really fun to work with the residents, so it was a privilege to see that the appreciation is mutual.