Q: Tell us about yourself?
A: I love my patients and treat them like my own family. I grew up in Augusta, Georgia, played tennis at a national level and was blessed to be able to join Harvard University. I loved to help others, so I focused my energies on a medical career like my mom who is also a neurologist. I joined the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine for medical school, and then went back to Harvard University for my neurology residency at Mass General/Brigham and Women’s hospital. I finally decided to join my husband in Iowa City after 13 years of long distance, where I did my fellowship and received a Muscular Dystrophy Association clinical training grant to study driving ability in those with CMT1A. I wanted to be close to home, so I moved from Iowa City to the University of Florida in Gainesville, FL.
Q: Why did you choose CMT as your focus of study and research?
A: I was always interested in peripheral neuropathy and was blessed to team up with a superb mentor, Dr. Michael Shy at the University of Iowa. I learned so much and realized that despite all my previous training, the first time I truly learned about CMT was in Iowa City, where I realized how rare and under-recognized CMT was, which is why I have chosen to study it.
Q: Why is CMT your passion?
A: For many reasons! I love finding new genes and mutations that cause peripheral neuropathies. Genetics is a new field of neurology, in which “idiopathic neuropathies” can now be explained by genetic mutations. Finding these genes will help us formulate treatments in the future. The scientific correlation between a genetic mutation and its clinical manifestations is fascinating to me. There is a lot to achieve in scientific knowledge and treatments in those with CMT. Also, CMT involves the most wonderful, kind and intelligent people I have ever met. I enjoy helping and treating patients and their families who have CMT.
Q: Tell us what patients will experience when they come to the HNF Center of Excellence (COE) at the University of Florida?
A: Patients will come to the UF and have a world class experience with an amazing facility, in-depth physician evaluation and opportunities to get other therapies that they need. They will also be involved in research studies including ones which will enhance neuromuscular physiology knowledge and driving studies.
Q: What are the benefits of a patient being evaluated at one of HNF’s Centers of Excellence?
A: The benefits are many including a clinical research evaluation, evaluation for pain, evaluation for potential enrollment in a treatment trial, latest therapeutic advice, physical therapy evaluation, occupational therapy evaluation, genetic testing, podiatry consult, orthopedic surgery, and orthotics evaluation.
Q: What other doctors will patients be able to see when they visit the COE?
A: Pain physician, podiatrist, orthopedic surgeon, social worker, physical therapist, occupational therapist, research evaluation, and orthotist as needed.
Q: What kind of success stories have you seen so far with CMT patients?
A: The most important success stories involve patients getting a diagnosis that they have CMT and families finding out what genetic mutation is in their family. This is important for their kids and grandkids. Many patients are relieved to get a diagnosis—they knew something was wrong with them but didn’t know what. It takes some experience and skill to recognize that a patient has a hereditary neuropathy.
On follow up visits, patients are excited to show off their ankle-foot orthotics or that a slight adjustment in their pain medication, stretching, or exercise regimen helped them. The diagnosis and visit give many patients the peace of mind that they’ve needed after years of searching or waiting for a diagnosis or a genetic cause. Some patients who are dealing with pain are overjoyed after visiting our pain specialist to help with the pain management. Other patients are excited to get involved with our research studies.
Q: How can patients make an appointment at the center?
A: Patients can call the access center at 352-294-5000 and specifically request for a visit with Dr. Nivedita Jerath in the CMT clinic; no referral is necessary for an appointment with Dr. Jerath and multiple family members are welcome. Patients can also email Dr. Jerath at [email protected] if they need to communicate with her for any reason.