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How a brain scan led to a career in clinical neurophysiology

12 December 2018
Alison Szekely is monitoring our most sensitive nerves
Alison Szekely is an active neurophysiologist whose patients sprawl from western Sydney to the Blue Mountains. She works for NSW Health, in private practice and is involved in the clinical neurophysiology program at Sydney.
Alison Szekely with a patient

Alison Szekely with a patient

Alison was fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to come across clinical neurophysiology as a patient. In her first year of a Bachelor of Medical Science (majoring in anatomy and physiology), Alison suffered a number of episodes of convulsive syncope (fainting) and underwent an array of diagnostic procedures. The electroencephalograph (EEG) was the most memorable for Alison; her curiosity and passion for the field was instantaneous.

Since completing her studies in clinical neurophysiology in 2007, Alison has worked across various neurophysiology and research roles. Today, she is a senior neurophysiology scientist in the Western Sydney Local Health District where she manages a rapidly developing diagnostic department part-time.

Learning should be lifelong, and a greater focus should be placed on continuing professional development in all fields.

She also works in private practice performing both EEGs and nerve conduction studies. Alison also returned to Sydney Medical School in 2015 to the clinical neurophysiology program, this time as a course developer, lead clinical scientist and lecturer. The variety of these three roles keeps Alison mentally stimulated and intensely passionate about neurophysiology.

“Correct diagnosis and appropriate management of neurological disorders can not only improve the immediate health of the patient, but it is also important in psychological wellbeing and managing expectations of their illness – not only through identifying the correct treatment but also aiding in the identification of various support and rehabilitation options available.”

Alison highlights the importance of quality education in neurophysiology. Her department offer highest quality primarily diagnostic services which are pivotal in diagnosing and managing a range of neurological disorders such as epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.

The Sydney Medical School program gave Alison the confidence to utilise nerve conduction studies and electromyography to diagnose a range of disorders, including carpal tunnel syndrome, Guillain-Barré syndrome, motor neuron disease and other disorders of the peripheral nerves.

Her field of expertise also covers monitoring the spinal cord, brain and cranial nerves during risky theatre procedures. “Identification of a change in signals during the surgical procedure can prevent catastrophic permanent neurological injury,” Alison says.

alison in a sim lab

Alison Szekely in a neurophysiology simulation lab

Alison believes that Australian tertiary medical education is creating a highly effective healthcare system, but she states that “learning should be lifelong, and a greater focus should be placed on continuing professional development in all fields”.

The clinical neurophysiology program will allow you to develop your theoretical knowledge and practical skills. You will be able to apply your knowledge directly to your work in diagnostic and perioperative settings. Learn from experts like Alison and take advantage of the flexible study options available.  

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