Adam Hartman, MD – Faculty Spotlight

As the director of the teleneurology program, Dr. Adam Hartman manages the clinical and business needs of this emerging technology, ultimately with the goal of opening up care to large patient populations who otherwise would not have access. As an educator, he finds inspiration in the trainees he works with and remains close with several of his own mentors from his residency and fellowship programs. In his free time, Dr. Hartman and his husband like to keep busy, and particularly like hiking and exploring the outdoors with their dog. 

Tell us about your background.

I was born and raised in Austin, Texas, and lived there through high school. I played in my high school band. I once got to perform at the Austin City Limits Music Festival with the band. I went to Rice University in Houston for undergrad from 2009-2012. I graduated from there and went straight to medical school at University of Texas at Galveston, the John Sealy School of Medicine. I did two years of traditional medical school coursework there in Galveston. I then did most of my two years of rotations at a hospital back home in Austin. After medical school, I came to Vanderbilt for residency for four years, and was chief resident my fourth year. I went to the University of Colorado in Denver for a stroke fellowship, then spent one year on faculty at Duke University before coming back here to Vanderbilt. 

What about Vanderbilt attracted you back? 

There was definitely familiarity in coming back here. I still had several friends from residency who were established here, so that made things easier. My husband’s family lives nearby, and since we are actively pursuing the adoption process, we thought it would be good to have family around. Professionally, my biggest focus is teaching, and coming back to Vanderbilt has allowed me to continue teaching and working with residents; plus taking over for the teleneurology program is a big step and learning opportunity.

What are some of the aspects of teleneurology that you enjoy? Are there any unique challenges? 

Telehealth in general is kind of the next Wild West in medicine. It was getting started and then COVID really ramped it up, but we’re not exactly sure where it’s going or what the best next steps are. Neurology is one of the first specialties that has really been able to embrace and utilize telehealth. The biggest goal is providing access to care for huge populations that would otherwise not be able to get specialized care, and I think we do a pretty good job at that. 

As far as challenges, of course there’s always technological challenges! Teleneurology also just runs differently as a business. Since I don’t have a business background I’ve had to learn that part of it. There is also a growing demand. As a program, we are trying to figure out how to reach these populations who deserve care, but with the limited resources we have. So it’s a balance between delivering care and business, and figuring out how those things come together in a nontraditional clinical format. 

What initially attracted you to medicine and ultimately neurology? 

Medicine aligned naturally with the way my mind works, so I think that was helpful. I went to college thinking I would go on to medical school. Then I stopped thinking med school and searched around, but eventually came back to the idea of med school. The question was always whether I was looking at med school because others told me I should or because I wanted to do it. The process of looking around at other things helped me confirm that it was actually what I wanted to do. 

I settled on neurology ultimately because I liked the complexity and puzzles of the patients in neurology that I didn’t see in other specialties all the time. There is so much new and unknown information in neurology, so there is much to learn. I thought during the course of my career, it would probably be revolutionized. Neurology seemed to have the biggest potential for discovery, growth, and change, which I found to be attractive. 

Who have been some important mentors or role models for you along the way, professionally and/or otherwise?

My dad was someone who jumped around in careers a lot because people were always recruiting him to new endeavors, which he would then do extremely well. He was unique because his generation typically stayed in one career. Seeing that growing up was a good model for me—whatever he wanted to do, he would go do it and would do it successfully. 

In terms of my career, Dr. Riebau has always been a huge mentor, both in residency and now. Dr. Zimmerman has also been a mentor and friend my entire time at Vanderbilt which has been really great. My fellowship group at the University of Colorado, and really the entire department, was fantastic and supportive. I still talk to them at conferences, and we collaborate particularly on the teleneurology program since we’re all trying to figure out the best way forward. 

How do you like to spend your free time?

My husband and I don’t like to be at home. We are always out—trying new restaurants, festivals around Nashville, etc. We really like being outdoors, going hiking with our dog, doing stand-up paddle boards, and things like that. We are very bad at relaxing, even on vacation we don’t like to relax. We’re about to go on our honeymoon, which will be a multi-day hiking adventure in the Colorado Rockies. 

What kind of media do you like to take in?

I was a political science major, so I’m a news and politics person. I do lots of reading of articles from various sources throughout the day. I’m very much a current events person. 

Where do you seek and find inspiration?

Professionally, since my biggest focus is education, I mostly find inspiration from the trainees. Helping educate and inspire the next generation is where I really find a lot of satisfaction from my work. 

In daily life, I find inspiration in the people around me. My husband is not in medicine. He went back to school and got his Master’s, so looking at where he started in his career and where he is now is very inspiring. My dad is still doing lots of things—he’s currently working for Texas A&M. So we talk about what he and I are doing. He has more of a business background than I do, so it’s great that I can lean on him for that kind of thing.