Reviewed by: Dave Clarke, MD
Written by: Lauryn Feil
Where you are from and how you grow up can greatly influence the trajectory of the rest of your life. It’s a part of who you are and it helps put the rest of life’s experiences into perspective. For Dave Clarke, MD, UT Health Austin epileptologist and Director of the Comprehensive Pediatric Epilepsy Program at Dell Children’s, his origin and background influence his work every day.
“I am from Antigua, a small island in the Caribbean that is about 108 square miles and had a population of about 80,000 people,” says Dr. Clarke. “After high school I took a year and a half off and decided to teach because I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do, but I always knew I wanted to work with kids. But when the time came to transition to university, I decided I wanted to pursue medicine, specifically pediatrics.”
Living on an island with a smaller population can often result in limited resources, particularly in the specialized medical care. And while many people dedicate their lives to improving access to resources in other countries, Dr. Clarke’s passion really hits home. “Coming from an island like Antigua that doesn’t have advanced neurological care, I knew early on in my career that I wanted to make an impact globally and foster collaboration between the United States and the Caribbean islands and other countries.”
Dr. Clarke received his medical degree at the University of the West Indies in Mona, Jamaica. He completed his first two years of pediatric training at Overlook Hospital, then an affiliate of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, Summit, New Jersey. He completed pediatric neurology training at the University of Michigan Medical Center and neurophysiology training (epilepsy and sleep) at the Hospital for Sick Children at the University of Toronto in Canada.
Throughout his education, he was initially interested in studying the brain components of sickle cell disease and potential recovery, and decided to focus on neurology, but after his first rotations as a resident he ended up finding his true calling almost immediately. “I was interested in studying how sickle cell affects the brain, but my first rotations at the University of Michigan were in pediatric epilepsy and then I just decided, that was it,” says Dr. Clarke.
Dr. Clarke always emphasizes the important of a team to deliver the best care possible to every single patient. “I find epilepsy very interesting; looking at a two dimensional EEG and then configuring it to the three dimensional brain to try and tease out where the seizures are originating from is fascinating,” says Dr. Clarke. “But what I also enjoy is the fact that to treat epilepsy, you have to collaborate, you have to have a team because it can affect other components of a child’s health, things that I can’t treat.”
The team the comprises the Comprehensive Pediatric Epilepsy Center includes more than 20 experts, including epileptologists, neurosurgeons, nurse practitioners, ketogenic diet specialists, neuropsychologists, neuroscientists, neuroradiologists, social workers and more. Each brings their own perspective and specialization to the program to ensure children receive holistic care to treat every aspect of their condition and vastly improve their quality of life.
Dr. Clarke is a fellow of the American Epilepsy Society, an elected member of the North American Commission of the International League Against Epilepsy and past president of the Epilepsy Society of the Caribbean. Members of his team also participate in global outreach. He sincerely believes this is the only way to reach and care for all children with epilepsy. “When it comes to our team’s goals, I always say the sky is the limit. We are working every day to enhance care, research transformative technologies and treatments and improve access to families across Texas and across the world,” says Dr. Clarke.