MS Research Fellow, UAMS
Dr. Mehaffey is from Beebe, Arkansas, and earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. When she was in the 11th grade, her older sister was diagnosed with MS, a disease of the brain and spinal cord that can affect movement, balance, sensation and reasoning. The cause is unknown, but researchers suspect it is autoimmune related.
“It became clear very early on after my sister’s diagnosis that there weren’t a lot of neurologists in Arkansas who can help MS patients,” Mehaffey said. “My family and I immediately had a steep learning curve. I have always liked science, and I had thought I might teach, but my sister’s diagnosis made the decision for me: I was going to become a neurologist.”
Mehaffey said her personal experience of her sister’s MS has not only given her drive, it has made her a more empathetic physician.
“I think it helps me to connect with patients,” Mehaffey said. “I at least partially understand what they’re feeling, and it wasn’t too long ago that I was sitting on their side of the exam room, so I can remember the kinds of questions I had and the kind of information that they likely need to know.”
While a longtime mentee to UAMS' Dr. Lee Archer, Mehaffey’s fellowship training in neuroimmunology began in July 2016 and will wrap up in June 2017. A fellowship gives physicians advanced medical training in a sub-specialty that goes beyond their residency specialty training. After completing the fellowship, Mehaffey will be able to – independently, without Archer’s supervision – treat MS and neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders, which have similar symptoms to MS but require different treatments.
After completing the fellowship, Mehaffey will be director of the MS Clinic at UAMS and work one day a week at the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System.
“We already have the start of a comprehensive MS center, but I’d like to make it even better,” Mehaffey said. “I want patients to be able to come in for an appointment and see everyone they need to see in one visit – me, a physical therapist – whatever they need.”