The Department of Neurology is thrilled to announce that Myla Goldman, M.D., will soon bring her expertise to VCU as the new Chair of the Division of Multiple Sclerosis and General Neurology.
Coming to us from the University of Virginia Health System, Goldman said she’s always been drawn to the brain and chose to major in neuroscience as an undergraduate at Lehigh University. After graduating from Rush Medical College in 1999, she went on to complete a residency in neurology at UVA and a fellowship in clinical neuroimmunology at the Mellen Center for Multiple Sclerosis Treatment and Research at the Cleveland Clinic. When she returned to UVA as a faculty member in 2006, she was one of the only fellowship-trained MS neurologists in Virginia – something she wanted to remedy.
“Now more than ever, patients want to have someone with specialization in MS on their health care team,” Goldman said. “It’s become very subspecialized and very complicated. With these therapies that have a variety of safety and tolerance issues, you want somebody who’s really familiar with the current thinking in therapeutic decision-making.”
Goldman was instrumental in creating an MS fellowship at UVA, and she plans to use a five-year grant to establish a program that trains fellows in the care and management of MS here at VCU. The program’s first cycle will begin in July 2021. She also hopes to create opportunities for undergraduate students to engage in clinical research, an effort she prioritized at UVA.
“A lot of times when students are in their undergraduate years, they’re interested in research but don’t have a way to tap into clinical research,” she said. “If we can get young people excited about patient-centered research earlier in their education, we can start to build a more robust pipeline of people committed to clinical research.”
When Goldman began her own studies as a neurologist, she said, the field of study was on the brink of significant breakthroughs.
“It was a very exciting time, with all these new treatments emerging,” Goldman said. “There aren’t as many diseases where therapeutic options are available, and that was very appealing to me.”
And with those innovative new treatments comes what she considers the most rewarding element of being a physician: building relationships with patients, many of whom are diagnosed in their 30s or 40s and thus face decades living with MS.
“I love that my patients are very engaged in their care, so there is a lot of shared decision-making, a lot of collaborative engagement to create a path forward,” she said. “It’s wonderful that patients have more choices now than they’ve ever had in terms of their therapies.”
That’s also one of the most challenging aspects, though – patients must consider risks associated with long-term options and how best to sequence their treatments.
“We have these highly effective therapies, but some may have safety issues or risks associated with them that increase over someone’s lifetime,” she said. “Do we save those for later or use them early?”
Another challenge facing MS patients and physicians, she said, is a lack of access to care.
“That’s one thing that draws me to VCU. I want to create more space for patients to be seen closer to where they are,” Goldman said. “Here in Virginia we have patients that live in very rural environments, and there are not a lot of neurologists in certain areas of the state where they can get the care they need.”
Goldman also looks forward to collaborating with Unsong Oh, M.D., to expand the department’s MS research and patient care. Oh’s research is primarily lab-based, while Goldman’s is patient centered.
“The different aspects of our research allows for tremendous opportunities for synergy and development of a strong translational MS research program,” Goldman said.
Goldman will also serve as Vice Chair for Faculty Development, providing support and mentorship for her fellow faculty members in the Department of Neurology.
When she isn’t caring for patients, conducting research or guiding learners, Godman is spending time with her husband and their two kids. She and her family especially enjoy visiting museums and other historical sites and attending Broadway shows, and they’re excited to begin exploring the Richmond area when she arrives at VCU in November.