On March 30, the nation will celebrate Doctor’s Day, recognizing the dedication and contributions physicians have to their patients and the community. In honor of that event, Nexus introduces Courtney Toomey, M.D., a PM&R physician at Nexus Children’s Hospital – Houston.
How long have you been a physician?
I graduated medical school in 2008 from Virginia Commonwealth University. I then completed my residency through Sinai Hospital in Baltimore with work being done at Kennedy Krieger Pediatric Rehabilitation Center at John’s Hopkins. After completing Chief Residency, I moved to Texas and started work at Nexus Children’s Hospital in June 2013. I have had the privilege of working with our pediatric rehabilitation patients (most of them severe brain injury) for almost five years.
Explain your role at Nexus Children’s Hospital – Houston.
I am an in-house Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation physician (PM&R). I evaluate and manage many rehabilitation patients, including poly-trauma, spinal cord injury, and brain injury. We are fortunate to have many interdisciplinary members on our team, including physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, respiratory therapists, case managers, dieticians, psychologists, and nurses.
I lead the interdisciplinary team goals in order to maximize a patient’s functional independence, while managing medical issues and preventing secondary complications. It is very rewarding when the team is able to move a patient from a comatose state to performing neurocognitive evaluations and assisting families with school re-entry.
What inspired you to work with pediatric patients?
I have always been called to work with patients that are very young or very old as these are the patients that really need advocacy. Children have the potential of a long life, and the rewards of helping these children and their families are immeasurable. We enjoy providing good medical care and lying the foundation for the road that they must now travel for the patients and families to continue to have as prosperous a life as possible that drives us. Life can be a marathon, and we want to pass the baton well to these people who have recently been through something very traumatic.
What is something everything should know about brain injury/pediatric brain injury?
Brain injury can be debilitating. I would not wish a severe brain injury onto my worst enemy. But, the vast majority of severe brain injuries will see some level of recovery. Depending on the injury, many patients can lead independent lives. Others may require assistance from their family for the remainder of their life. Many of these patients’ parents were told that their children would not survive, so it is wonderful when they can see their children progress. There are of course the rare cases where we get little progress, but it is less often than one might think.
I think it is important to realize that when a brain injury happens to a young child, we need to keep in mind that their brain was not fully developed when the injury occurred. These patients will continue to improve because they are developing as any child would. Some deficits may be more apparent, unfortunately, as societal expectations change when children age into adulthood. Their development may overall be slower as a result of a severe brain injury. Potential issues caused by this are individualized based on patient and injury.
What advancements are being made that changes how patients with ABI or TBI are being treated and/or rehabilitated?
Many researchers are frequently considering the neuropharmacology of certain medications. For example, Dr. Cassidy, CEO/CMO and Founder of Nexus Health Systems, has introduced into our facilities the use of a sleep medication to help people awaken from Disorders of Consciousness. The use of the drug in this manner was first noted in 1999 when a physician gave this type of medication to a restless near coma patient who was thought to be having issues with sleep regulation when paradoxically the patient awoke for a couple of hours for the first time in years. This advancement it now well documented in today’s medical literature.
What is the best part about working at Nexus Children’s Hospital – Houston?
The best part of working at Nexus Children’s Hospital by far is making such significant contribution to our patients’ long-term outcomes. In year’s past, we have had track records of being 15% better than the national average on improving function with severe brain injury patients. As a team, we know that we are making a difference for these children.