Eugene L. Scharf, M.D.
What attracted you to neurology?
I entered medicine because it was the perfect blend of service to others, intellectual challenge, personal stability, lifelong learning and creative opportunity. Within medicine, I chose neurology for several reasons.
First, the organ system is simply fascinating. What other organ system tries to understand itself? The fact that actions, sensations, thoughts, intelligence and ultimately consciousness are encoded in a biological tissue with electrical activity is profound to me.
Second, the nervous system is objective and measurable with the technology of our current time. Therefore, it is open to hypothesis-driven science and the creation of knowledge. With steady progress, the field is unlocking secrets about our biology and function that are clinically applicable.
Third, many times neurological patients come with thick medical charts, frustration and no diagnosis. I do enjoy the methodical and time-consuming process of making this diagnosis and, yes, treatment too. Then, as a complement to the deliberate and meticulous process of diagnostic neurology, there is acute neurology, where time is brain.
Finally, diseases of the nervous system are extremely disabling and cause much suffering. As I want to help people, neurology is a field with many opportunities to reduce the suffering of others. As a correlate to this point, neurology is a field that needs preventive and restorative treatments. A worthy lifelong challenge!
What attracted you to Mayo Clinic for residency training?
I came to Mayo as a visiting medical student in October of my fourth year of medical school. After that month, I knew that this program was a very good fit for my training. There is an academic collegiality at this institution that is very appealing. Everywhere, there was talk of collaboration on this project or that one.
The Mayo neurology staff I interacted with had their feet on the ground and were pleasant and approachable. Institutional pride was widely apparent. The residents I witnessed were properly challenged and growing as young physicians. I was hungry for the attention and training they received.
Furthermore, I wanted to train at an institution where I would want to be treated if I were a patient. Whether or not I stay at Mayo, I wanted this institution to leave its mark.
What makes the Mayo Clinic Adult Neurology Residency unique?
For training in clinical neurology, I feel this is among the top tier of neurology programs. Please consider these several factors about Mayo neurology training.
First, I considered the system in which I would learn the practice of neurology. Mayo Clinic in its entirety is a single group practice. Staff are salaried, which nullifies the conflicts of interest inherent with money and medicine. Industry affiliations are transparent. This fosters collegiality, collaboration and truthfulness.
Within this system, the Mayo Department of Neurology is a very large department by comparison and home to many staff neurologists with diverse clinical interests. Many of the staff are thought leaders in their respective fields. Many of the senior staff neurologists take active interest in developing trainees. Everyone is approachable. Many staff have been with the department for decades — such institutional memory! This exposure is priceless. Professionalism is highly regarded and evident throughout the department.
For residents, benefits abound. This program makes a deep investment into each one of us. The program provides resources for resident academic productivity, such as a media department for poster production, an on-call statistician, a personal librarian — it goes on! There are even small exploratory grants awarded by the Neurology Research Committee. American Academy of Neurology membership is provided.
A didactic curriculum in clinical neurology, neuroanatomy, neuroradiology and neuroscience is offered side by side with clinical training. Elective time is ample as well. In fact, Mayo has a pathway through devoting elective time that allows residents to become certified to independently practice electromyography by completion of residency.
Autoimmune neurology has a very strong presence in this institution. Through this influence, autoimmune causes of neurological disease are an added dimension to my differential diagnosis.
What is living in Rochester, Minn., like for you?
I have lived in larger cities prior to moving to Rochester. By comparison, taxes are extremely low; crime is very, very low; property values are extremely reasonable (and stable); and the standard of living on resident pay is high. My wife and I are homeowners.
The day-to-day living of Rochester is very undemanding. My daily commute is less than five minutes. Parking is provided free of charge. Traffic is unheard of. Congestion is a word heard only during hospital rounds.
Rochester is an extremely friendly town with a multitude of young families. Bike trails crisscross the city. The ratio of parks to Starbucks is much greater than one. All parking in the city is free after 5 p.m. and free on the weekends. Child care is extremely affordable. In these ways, life here is incomparable to the bigger cities. But as my wife is also a resident and we have one young son, my time outside the hospital has already been apportioned.
Residency is a routine, and the day-to-day ease of living has already independently contributed to the quality of my training. If you will be bringing a family with you into your training, I strongly urge you to consider our location in Rochester to be advantageous when choosing a residency program.
What does your future look like right now?
So far, so good. I have developed a great many interests in neurology in a short time. I can already say I will have trouble deciding on a single aspect of neurology. That said, two interests that I am currently developing are neuroregeneration and neuroimaging.