Get to Know: Vascular Neurologist Nicole Chiota-McCollum, MD

At a Glance

  • Assistant Professor of Neurology and Associate Program Director for the UVA Neurology Residency Program
  • Medical Degree: Georgetown University
  • Residency: Mayo Clinic
  • Fellowship: University of Virginia Medical Center

It’s hard to predict which life experiences will shape careers. For Nicole Chiota-McCollum, MD, it was her grandmother’s stroke and time serving her country that led her to her current post at UVA Health System, which began in January this year.

Why did you decide to enter the military?

My family has a long history of service that inspired me to seek out that opportunity. I got a scholarship from the Air Force to attend medical school at Georgetown. Once my medical training was complete, I was stationed at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi on active duty for three years to repay my scholarship. It was a great experience; I loved taking care of active duty servicemen and women and their families.

What led you to pursue a fellowship in vascular neurology?

My grandmother had a stroke when I was 10 years old and it just stuck with me the rest of my life, throughout the rest of my adolescence and education. I entered medical school with an ardent interest in neurology. When I was stationed in Mississippi, I hadn’t decided on a sub-specialty in neurology, but it became clear that I missed caring for stroke patients.

As a vascular neurologist, what is your clinical focus?

Vascular neurology is a subspecialty of neurology practice focusing on disorders of the blood vessels within the nervous system. I treat patients with ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, transient ischemic attack (TIA), carotid artery disease, vascular malformations and other conditions of the blood vessels.

You’ve also been appointed the associate program director for the UVA Neurology Residency Program for the 2017-2018 school year. Why did you decide to make teaching such a big part of your career?

I first taught internal medicine residents at Kessler and found it very rewarding. But it struck me that even though perpetuating good practice and teaching future physicians how to care for patients is part of our mission, we receive no training in how to educate others. We have role models often, but we don’t get instruction on how to be an effective teacher.

That’s why I decided to go back to school to get my Masters of Education in Health Professions at Johns Hopkins. It has been a fantastic experience so far. It allows me to connect with clinician educators at all different levels of their careers dedicated to the idea of educating other providers. Studying adult learning principles, instructional strategies and how to assess students has elevated my teaching so that it’s more evidence-based. I have received a lot of support from my department to pursue this, which was integral to my decision to stay at UVA.

Will you also be involved in research at UVA?

I will be participating in various stroke trials at UVA, including the next phase of the iTREAT study and the ongoing SHINE (Stroke Hyperglycemia Insulin Network Effort) trial. I’ll also be doing educational research with the curricular innovations we are introducing next year, including a new tele-neurology curriculum for our residency program. Telemedicine is being touted as a solution to the growing access disparity, but we’re not likely to integrate this technology more widely unless we train future neurologists how to use it. This has been absent in residency programs until now.

How will you be partnering with referring providers to care for stroke patients?

As a Primary Stroke Center, we have an experienced team of stroke neurologists available 24/7 for emergent care, but we also have vascular neurologists available on an outpatient basis to provide consultative care in clinic for patients with complex cerebrovascular disease. A member of our team is always available to discuss patients with referring providers and ensure that patients throughout the region are receiving timely, high-quality stroke care.

Learn more about the UVA Stroke Center.