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Making the Rounds with Founding Dean Dr. Barbara Atkinson
 Issue 187 - March 19, 2019
Friends and colleagues,

Pediatric neurologists devote their careers to the welfare of children and advance our knowledge of the developing nervous system, perhaps the most complex biological system in nature. Unfortunately, studies show that the number of pediatric neurologists is estimated to be at least 20 percent below what the U.S. needs. At the UNLV School of Medicine, we are fortunate to have Dr. Rooman F. Ahad, who did her residency in pediatric neurology at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, as our division head of child neurology. In addition to working with children with autism spectrum disorder at the UNLV Medicine Ackerman Autism Center, she provides medical care at the UNLV Medicine Pediatrics Center for children with many issues, including Tourette Syndrome, cognitive and behavioral challenges, sleep problems and epilepsy. I think you will find Dr. Ahad's background fascinating. We are so fortunate to have her on our team transforming healthcare in Southern Nevada.
Barbara signature, first name only
Dr. Rooman Ahad, seen here in the the hallway of UNLV Pediatrics, also sees patients at the UNLV Medicine Ackerman Center for Autism
The citation in the curriculum vitae of Dr. Rooman Ahad, an assistant professor of pediatric neurology at the UNLV School of Medicine, jumps out at you.  

May 2000 -- Graduation with distinction from the Department of Sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago..

No, you don’t see too many medical doctors with an undergraduate degree in sociology. Nor do you talk with many MDs who have an obvious enthusiasm for the analytical study of human social relationships and institutions.  

“I loved learning about people,“ says Dr. Ahad, who also took all the necessary formal and natural science prerequisites to get into medical school at the University of Illinois. “The study of sociology gave me a sense of how people think and function...what their values are… doctors, we obviously care for people and their families and I think it’s helped me be culturally sensitive to who they are, what they’s helped me be a better physician.”

The more you talk with Dr. Ahad -- she is the only board-certified child neurologist in the state of Nevada with supplemental clinical fellowship training in the field of autism -- the more you come to understand why she was hungry for formal training in sociology, biology, chemistry, and math.

Born in Chicago, she is the youngest of four girls born to parents who immigrated from India to the United States in the 1960s. Her father was trained as a civil engineer, a profession where nearly every form of math is used at some point to do the job. Her mother was a preschool teacher. Friends of her family, which started off in a small apartment before graduating to a duplex,  were largely also new immigrants. The broken English she often heard as a child came from people who had moved to Chicago from as far away as Bangladesh, Poland, and Italy.

New immigrants, Dr. Ahad says, frequently visited her family home. “We all looked out for each other. Friends became family. My mother reminded me that it was a family immigrant friend that gave me my first bath when she wasn’t feeling well. They came to my wedding...if money was needed for a funeral, we all helped out. We still keep in touch...The coming together of cultures  fascinated me...I wanted to learn as much as I could about what makes people do what they do.”

Dr. Ahad’s older sisters all excelled in science in school. The second sister is also a doctor, a pediatrician. Her other sisters turned out to be a psychologist and chemical engineer.

“Education was very prized in our family,” says Dr. Ahad,  who notes that it seemed natural to follow in her sisters’ footsteps.  “I loved math and science...Getting a ‘B’ was not an option.”
“I would like to see more multidisciplinary clinics like that at the Ackerman Center, where children with disabilities can be evaluated by multiple clinicians at one time and the clinicians can come together to create a treatment plan."
It was in high school that the teenager who won the science fair in the city of Chicago -- she dealt with how fertilizer works on plants -- began to think about a career in medicine. “I wasn’t sure that’s what I wanted but I was intrigued by science, says Dr. Ahad, who also became her high school student body president.

While she may not have been sure that she wanted a career in medicine as she graduated with high honors from a small all-girls Catholic High School, she won a spot in a prized eight year program at the University of Illinois that led to a medical degree -- a program that allowed her to combine her love of social science along with her love of formal and natural science.  During her third year of medical school she took a year off from school to decide whether she really wanted to be a physician. She traveled to China, learning about the culture there, largely in small towns. And she also did research on Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease, at nearby Northwestern University. The time studying a disease that causes the death of neurons controlling voluntary muscles helped her realize that she truly wanted to become a doctor.

“I saw medicine as a way that I could really help people,” she says. “Helping others has always been important in my family.”

During her second year of medical school, while in a neuroanatomy course studying the brain, she realized that wanted to specialize in neurology. As a neurologist she could treat disorders that affect the brain, spinal cord and nerves. “At first I thought it would be in adult neurology but I realized after a couple rotations that I loved working with children more.”

Her neurology residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital convinced her she had made the right decision. There were, she says, brilliant people all wanting to find the best treatments for people. “It was an honor to be there. There was a kind of magic to the place.”

After her training at Johns Hopkins, she felt confident diagnosing, treating and managing conditions that include: seizures and epilepsy; autism; developmental disorders such as cerebral palsy; and disorders such as ADHD and Tourette Syndrome.

Because of the growing problem with autism, Dr. Ahad completed a fellowship at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, learning even more about the spectrum disorder which affects 1 in 59 children born in the United States.

In 2014 she joined the University of Nevada Reno School of Medicine. In 2017 she came to the UNLV School of Medicine. Active in teaching students and residents in the clinic setting, she has been involved in inner city free clinics providing healthcare to the underserved population as well as working with a teen mentorship program for students interested in the medical field.

Today, she largely spends her time at both the UNLV Medicine Center for Pediatrics and UNLV Medicine Ackerman Center for Autism.

The work done at the UNLV Medicine Ackerman Center for Autism makes her wish it could be replicated around the country.

“I would like to see more multidisciplinary clinics like that at the Ackerman Center, where children with disabilities can be evaluated by multiple clinicians at one time and the clinicians can come together to create a treatment plan. I think taking a multidisciplinary approach is the gold standard or the best way to diagnose children, especially if we have a complex child and the family is unsure of the diagnosis.”

To make an appointment with Dr. Ahad: (702) 660-UNLV
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According to a workforce survey in Neurology, the official journal of the American Academy of Neurology, there are less than 1,500 child neurologists in the United States.

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