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UVa's Dr. Howard Goodkin named 1st VP of American Epilepsy Society

Dr. Howard Goodkin, a pediatric neurologist at the University of Virginia, has moved up in the echelon medical professionals and scientific investigators dedicated to preventing, treating and curing of epilepsy.

Earlier this month, Goodkin was named first vice president of the nonprofit American Epilepsy Society.

The society’s executive branch follows a presidential line, so Goodkin’s path to leadership began a year ago when the AES nominating committee appointed him second vice president. His term as first vice president began after the society’s annual meeting on Dec. 1 in Orlando, Florida. He will serve as first vice president for a year before rising to president in 2025.

“I hope to guide the society forward in a number of areas,” Goodkin told The Daily Progress. “I’ve been working towards developing a summer research internship program for historically underrepresented minorities in research and introducing them to epilepsy research. I hope to move the society forward in advocacy for all things epilepsy — epilepsy research and better care for patients.”

His appointment is only the latest accolade for the chair of UVa’s Department of Neurology and the director of the pediatric neurology division in the school’s Department of Pediatrics.

“Dr. Goodkin is a world-renowned expert on epilepsy who works with several national organizations, including the American Epilepsy Society, to improve our understanding of and care for patients with epilepsy across Virginia and around the world,” UVa Health spokesman Eric Swensen told The Daily Progress. “We’re excited to see him receive this well-deserved recognition.”

Goodkin has been a member of several committees over the course of his 20 years with the AES, including the Scientific Program, Continuing Medical Education and the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force. Over his next few years in office, Goodkin said he is hoping to expand on his epilepsy fellowship curriculum and summer research internship program for undergraduate students of color. The program launched in 2022 and recently graduated its second cohort.

The society created a grant that allows for six labs across the country to hire an intern who expresses interest in studying epilepsy. With a $10,000 stipend, those interns have the resources and support to launch their own research projects that are featured at the society’s annual meeting in December. The students are also awarded complimentary membership into the American Epilepsy Society.

“I do think [the internship program has] been successful,” said Goodkin. “People are already applying to medical school and graduate school and getting accepted, so we think we’re having a positive impact.”

While his recent focus has been on the internship program, Goodkin said that one of his proudest accomplishments was a research project he conducted with UVa colleague Dr. Jaideep Kapur. They worked to understand what is occurring at a cellular level when an individual experiences “a neurological emergency” called status epilepticus, a prolonged seizure that often results in permanent brain damage or death. The two researchers were asked to present their findings as the Lennox & Lombroso lecturers in 2018, an annual talk given by a top researcher in the field of epilepsy. Goodkin is also one of the founding members of the pediatric Status Epilepticus Research group.

Goodkin received his undergraduate degree at Washington University in St. Louis before moving on to St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital for his medical degree and pediatric neurological residency. He said he was first drawn to the field of pediatric neurology due to his fascination with the brain and melded that with his love for children.

“Epilepsy to me represents one of the major areas of pediatric neurological illness,” said Goodkin. “Therefore, I decided to spend my time helping those families that are burdened with epilepsy.”

This passion attracted him to UVa’s Neurology Department in 2002, which, along with “great colleagues like Dr. Kapur,” has kept him there ever since.

Despite the daunting, difficult nature of his work, Goodkin said he enjoys the everyday connections he gets to make with those he’s dedicated his life to helping.

“It’s my time with my patients, it’s just doing what I do daily. I just enjoy my job; it’s not work for me,” said Goodkin. “Of course, there’s days that feel like work, but overall, I’ve had a wonderful opportunity to become part of people’s families and help them navigate this world. I truly have had an opportunity to work in all aspects of my job at a local, regional and national level.”


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