Dr. Diana Alsbrook is a Vascular Neurology Fellow at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and serves as the Resident Representative on the Memphis Medical Society Board of Directors.
Dr. Alsbrook is the recipient of the only award given by the Memphis Medical Society, the Beyond Call award, for her dedicated service to the organization and organized medicine. Dr. Alsbrook was awarded the Beyond Call award at the 2023 President’s Gala this past weekend.
We are grateful for all of our members, but we are especially grateful for those leading the organization, and the future of medicine.
An interview with Dr. Diana Alsbrook
Tell us about yourself – Your family, activities, interests, career goals, and more.
“I grew up in Frayser in Memphis, TN with my parents and older sister. My dad went to nursing school when I was younger, and has worked at Baptist Memorial Hospital in multiple roles for over 40 years and is currently an OR nurse. My mom used to work in administration at a church in town. My older sister is a teacher and basketball coach and lives in Bayfield, CO (30 minutes outside of Durango) with her husband and 3 kids. I now live in Cordova with my 2 dogs! Caymen is a 12.5 year old shephard mix who I rescued when I lived in Alabama when he was 6 months old. Coji is a 4 year old Husky mix who I rescued for my birthday 2 years ago! They are the absolute best, and there is never a dull moment at home. I have wanted to be a doctor since I was little, before I truly knew what it meant. I would tell my dad I wanted to be a “research doctor” modeling the people I had encountered growing up hearing about St. Jude, and being the dad he is, he told me I could be anything I wanted to be. As I got older, I took a detour from medicine and studied aerospace and mechanical engineering at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and worked on the Blackhawk helicopter as an avionics engineering intern while I was in college. During my last semester of my junior year, I took a course where we studied the mechanical engineering of medical devices and while my engineering colleagues spent time with the engineers on the trips we would take to facilities, I was more interested in talking to the patients. So I finished my engineering degree, shocked my parents by not taking a very very good job offer and applying to medical school instead. And I wouldn’t change that decision for anything. I started medical school thinking I would be a surgeon, since my dad works in the OR and that’s all I knew. As I started clerkships, I realized that is not where I fit best, and fell in love with the physical exam, pathology and patient population in neurology. The brain has so many unknowns, and I wanted to be part of making this field better. In training, I obviously spend the majority of my time doing clinical work, but I have a passion for research and want that to be a part of my career as well. I am finishing up vascular neurology (stroke) fellowship and then will be completing neurocritical care fellowship in Baltimore, MD. In the future, I would love to be faculty in a dedicated neurotrauma unit and I think Memphis has the perfect opportunity to create that here. I also plan on doing neurocritical care and vascular neurology, and I have a passion for bringing neurologic care to rural and underserved areas with telestroke and teleneurology. In my ABUNDANT free time, lol, I am classically trained in piano and took lessons from a young age and currently work with a fantastic teacher who has a dual PhD in education and piano, and I have an absolute blast learning from him. It has been a great part of self care during training! I also enjoy scriptwriting, which I have done since I was in middle school, and have written over 30 full movie scripts. I do this for fun and as an expressive and creative outlet, and even my parents have never read them! I played basketball since the age of 5 and played competitive and then in college. I am a HUGE sports fan and can talk about Cardinals and Redbirds baseball, Tennessee college football, Blues hockey and the Atlanta Falcons as much as someone will listen! Over the years, I have also become a Grizzlies fan!”
When did you start practicing / how long have you been a physician?
“I graduated from UTHSC College of Medicine in 2018 and started internship at that time. I finished my 4 year neurology residency last year in June 2022 and started vascular neurology fellowship, which I will complete in June of this year!”
How long have you been practicing in Memphis? Are you a native Memphian?
“I have done all of my medical training in Memphis at UTHSC. I grew up in Frayser, part of North Memphis and I have live in Memphis the majority of my life outside of the 5 years I spent in Hunstville, AL for college and directly following undergrad.”
What (if any) organizations are you part of?
“Multiple! Obviously Memphis Medical Society and TMA! I also am a very active member of the Neurocritical Care Society and the American Academy of Neurology! I was inducted into AOA as a resident. I am involved in a number of other societies, but these I am most active in.”
What makes you want to be part of organized medicine? Community engagement, education, advocacy, etc.
“Policy and advocacy is something I became very interested in during college and that has only grown since being involved in the healthcare system. Health policy and advocacy specifically is so important to me. When I decided to become a physician, I told myself that I would be my patient’s biggest advocate. We sometimes have to advocate for the people we take care who don’t have the ability or the voice to advocate for themselves. I started out in medical school with Students for a National Health Program, and participated in multiple community events where we educated about the current healthcare system, it’s pros and cons and how to navigate it. Because if we don’t know how to navigate it, and our patients don’t know how to navigate it, we cannot make it better. I have spent time on the hill, both in Nashville and in Washington DC talking to policymakers about the things that are important for my colleagues, for my patients, and for our healthcare system. And when people ask me why, I tell them that if we do not TRY to make this system better to the best of our ability, we cannot have an expectation that someone is going to fix it for us.”
Do you have any words of wisdom to share with aspiring physicians/young physicians?
“Number one. Find your why. Write it down and look at it on those days where it may be hard to remember it. I have posted a quote multiple times close to July 1 and it says “Every job is a self portrait of the person who does it, autograph your work with excellence”. The journey is long and hard and exhausting, but it is worth it. There will be days where you feel like you are not smart enough, know that you are, reach out for help, and keep going. There will be people that tell you that you’re not good enough, show up and respectfully prove them wrong. My biggest piece of advice is, show up. Wherever you are, really be there. Be fully present at work, and fully present at home. Life doesn’t stop outside of the hospital. And my last piece of advice: when you want something, go for it. Ask for the committee position, apply for that grant or scholarship or award. The worst answer you will get is no. The best answer you will get could change the course of your career.”
Share a story or testimonial.
“When I was an intern, I took care of a patient who I built an almost immediate rapport with. While they were there, I would spend any spare moment discussing the plan with the patient and family. After we discharged her, she later came back when I was off service and the attending called me because the family asked to talk, and I went up to the hospital to see them. I could tell she wasn’t doing well. A while later I received a phone call, and it was the family asking me to speak at the patient’s funeral. I still have the funeral program thanking me for taking care of her. I keep it to remind myself on the difficult days, that when we sometimes think we are just doing our jobs, taking care of people at their most vulnerable moments is an absolute privilege and while I may often take it for granted, it’s not taken for granted by the people and families we care for.”
Have you seen a Project Access West Tennessee patient?
“Yes, multiple and I absolutely recommend everyone to do so if you have the opportunity!”
If you’re interested in Dr. Alsbrook’s professional journey, you can view her CV here.