Jonathan Duskin, MD is wrapping up his third year of residency, and he’s joining the McCance Center’s Cerebrovascular Health Research Program; he’s passionate about brain health, wellness and work-life balance. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average workweek for Americans including part time workers is 34.7. In contrast, medical residency is often thought of as a grueling rite of passage. For residents, the rules laid out since 2003 by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education in the United States limit the workweek to 80 hours. But long shifts, and tired residents, are still part of the culture of residencies everywhere.

To counteract this culture, the Mass General Brigham Neurology Residency Program is committed to wellness, with work-life balance being key. Dr. Duskin, along with four other third-year residents, have been elected to serve as Neurology Chief Residents for the 2022-2023 academic year. He intends to ensure that the experience for the first- and second-year residents is the best it can be.

Dr. Duskin first became interested in Alzheimer’s Disease and the brain during high school, when his grandmother was diagnosed with the disease. He went on to study neuroscience and philosophy during his undergrad years at Boston University, and during college participated in neuroimaging research at Brigham and Women’s.

The McCance Center is pleased to congratulate Dr. Duskin on being elected Chief Resident, and to welcome him to the McCance Center clinical-research platform to work under the mentorship of Alessandro Biffi, MD.

Tell us a little about your background – how did you get to Mass General Brigham?

I'm from Staten Island. I came to Boston for my undergraduate degree at Boston University, and stayed there for medical school via a pathway program.

As I approached graduation, and was applying to residency programs, I knew I was passionate about patient care, as well as the opportunity to do research and put it into practice. My previous exposure to patients in neuro-intensive care settings had illustrated the opportunity to improve the recovery path for patients following hemorrhagic stroke. The Mass General Brigham residency program appealed to me because of its strength in these areas.

Can you tell us a little about your next step, with the Cerebrovascular Health Research Program with Dr. Biffi?

I came into residency with the idea that I was interested in cerebrovascular disease, neuro-intensive care, dementia and cognitive impairment. The last two years working at Mass General Brigham have confirmed that interest. As I was looking for my next move, I hoped to be able to explore how to combine my love for both cognitive neurology and neurocritical care and to pursue a better understanding of the relationship between the cerebrovasculature and neurodegeneration.

Until I discovered the McCance Center, I wasn’t aware that there were programs that could let me blend these two areas I’m passionate about.

We’ve learned that you were recently awarded a prestigious R25 training grant from NIH. Congratulations! What’s the significance of this award?

Thank you! The purpose of the grant is to develop a novel clinical tool to predict cognitive outcomes after hemorrhagic stroke. The significance of this grant will be that it advances the McCance Center's mission to create new, innovative instruments to quantify brain health for clinical care delivery purposes.

For a while I’ve been very interested in how what happens in the ICU contributes to long-term cognitive outcomes. Working with Dr. Biffi and Jonathan Rosand, MD, MSc, is an opportunity to build on the body of research that indicates that these areas are very much interrelated. I’m excited about where this research is going to go.

Congratulations on being elected by your peers as a Chief Resident. What do you see as your greatest opportunity, in this new role?

It’s a huge honor to be elected by my peers, the people I’m with day to day, especially those residents who are junior to me. In this role, I hope to be someone they can talk to when they have questions, and a big appeal for me is to be someone who can advocate for them.

I’m very passionate about wellness and work-life balance. This year I’ve been co-leader of our residency's Wellness Committee and we’ve explored some new things – I stepped out of role to teach a Mediterranean diet-themed cooking class to my co-residents where I taught them how to make my Seafood Fra Diavolo.

Figuring out how to optimize people’s wellness during residency – scheduling, for example – is probably the biggest opportunity. I’m looking forward to the chance to coach and help them work through things that are challenging. Along with my co-chief residents, we hope to ensure everyone has a positive experience, and that the opportunity is as enjoyable and rewarding as possible.

You’re an advocate for work-life balance for yourself and others – how do you spend your time outside of work?

I really enjoy sports - going to games with my fiancée when the Knicks or Yankees are in town, and playing basketball and tennis; I spend time hiking, and even cooking when I have time.

Have you given any thought to switching your loyalty to the Celtics, the Red Sox and the Patriots, now that you’ve been in Boston so long?

I have to admit I still root for all the New York teams, despite moving my life here. I don’t think that’s going to change!