A Day in the Life of a VA Neurologist: Lynn Kataria, MD

When Lynn Kataria, MD, launched herself into medical school and her training as a neurologist, working for the Veteran’s Administration was not something she had seriously considered. Although her mother, a VA nurse for 30-some years, had told her it was a great system to work for, Kataria had never felt compelled or pressured to build her own career there. Things changed when she took her residency at Georgetown University Hospital, with rotations in the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC). After spending many months covering the VAMC inpatient ward while also seeing patients in the outpatient neurology clinic, Kataria was sold. Caring for the veterans deepened her interest in sleep disorders while prompting her to pursue related electives during her residency. Asleep fellowship at UNC Chapel Hill gave her even more experience, making her a solid candidate when the VAMC posted an opening in her specialty. Three months after completing her fellowship, Kataria returned to the Washington DC VAMC as attending physician in neurology and sleep medicine. That was in 2010, giving her what she calls “a jam-packed and exciting seven years” in the role.

Appreciating the singularity of VA patients

 To some degree, VA neurologists do what neurologists in any patient-centered system do: see and treat patients with neurologic conditions. Kataria notes that the variety of issues is as wide as it would be anywhere, but the issues themselves skew a little differently because of the patient population. “That’s one of the reasons I came here,” she says. “The VA neurology program is tremendous, and it serves the wide range of neurological disorders that affect veterans. I think it’s different in the VA system because of what our vets do and go through.” For example, while the program sees patients needing care for headaches, back pain, and epilepsy as any neurology clinic would, they have particular strengths in issues more prevalent in veterans than in the general population, such as spinal injuries. The Washington DC VAMC also has what Kataria defines as strong clinics for pain, sleep disorders, and multiple sclerosis.