Dr. Kristen Park and her colleagues at Children’s Hospital of Colorado have seen a remarkable concentration of patients diagnosed with KCNQ2-related epilepsy, making Denver a perfect place to get parents and medical professionals together. The Jack Pribaz Foundation, and I’m sure the entire KCNQ2 community, is grateful to Dr. Park and the Children’s Hospital of Colorado for opening their doors and welcoming us all to the Denver Summit, which is coming up soon on September 18 and 19.
We can’t wait! To tide us over until then, we continue our Meet the Experts series with a brief introduction to the gracious Dr. Park.Q.Can you tell us a little bit about your background? A.I grew up in Baltimore Maryland and attended University of North Carolina for undergraduate studies – go Tarheels! My interest in Neurology grew out of college studies in biologic Psychology. Prior to medical school, I worked for the Epilepsy Association of Maryland and thus began my journey into this field. I went to medical school at the Mayo Clinic, residency at Penn and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), and epilepsy fellowship at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago. I currently practice at the Children’s Hospital of Colorado where I have been for the last 6 years. Q.How did you first get interested in studying epilepsy and the KCNQ2 mutation? A.Epilepsy is an incredibly heterogeneous disorder with many different causes and manifestations making it interesting to study. It also means that there is no single answer to all the problems and questions such that many minds are needed for research. In children, genetics is playing a bigger and bigger part of our understanding of epilepsy. I have started to work in our Neurogenetics clinic trying to diagnose children with severe and complex neurologic syndromes. This exposed me to many new aspects of epilepsy and challenged me to understand them from a more scientific perspective. After this, it was my patients and their families who piloted the boat. They reached out to Ed Cooper and helped me connect with him so that as additional patients were diagnosed, he could study genetic mutations and we could pool our experiences with treatment. Q.What are the biggest challenges you face in your work? A.The biggest challenge for me is seeing children suffer with epilepsy and all its comorbidities without having effective means to treat all of them. There are also insufficient resources for families in the community and the healthcare system – long wait times for appointments, limited mental health services, overburdened developmental disability services, insurance hassles, etc. Q.What inspires or drives you as a researcher? A.I am driven by the possibility of personalized medicine. The potential to obtain a specific diagnosis for each patient with epilepsy and target treatment to the fundamental cause of seizures to create better outcomes and prognoses. This is where I feel medicine is heading and it makes for exciting research.