Dr. Uzma Samadani, Neurosurgeon and Founder of Oculogica
Published on Aug 31, 2016. Updated on Invalid date.
Dr. Uzma Samadani is a neurosurgeon and founder of Oculogica, a company focused on developing an eye-tracking technology that could help detect concussions and other brain injuries accurately and with detail. In 2010, Dr. Samadani was researching whether vagus nerve stimulation could improve the outcomes of severe traumatic brain injuries. During this process, she discovered that eye tracking could be used while the patients watched TV or a video in order to determine the severity of the brain injury. She observed that the more severe the brain injury the harder time patients had following objects on a screen.
Currently, Dr. Samadani serves as the Associate Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Minnesota. She also is the Chief of Neurosurgery at the New York Harbor Health Care System, a member of the Executive Board of the American Association of Neurological Surgeons Trauma Section, and is President-Elect of Women in Neurosurgery.
How did you decide on a career in medicine?
I always knew I wanted to be a doctor for as long as I knew I wanted to be anything. I wanted to take care of people and make them better from a very young age. My father was a physician so that definitely influenced me. Breaking my leg and having my appendix out were two definitive childhood experiences that made me appreciate doctors very much.
What does an “average” day look like for you?
I do elective cases as well as trauma. My days are split between clinical work and research and vary depending on whether or not there is a lot of trauma. On a super busy day I might do six cases. More normal would be 2 or 3 cases. I typically operate on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and some Fridays and do research on Mondays and Thursdays.
What issues do you currently face and are trying to solve?
My laboratory is very focused on developing and testing diagnostics for brain injury so that we can treat it better. I am not happy with telling someone they have a “concussion.” I want to be able to say what is actually wrong and let them know what the treatments are available.
How widespread has your eye-tracking technology become? Where do you see it going in the future?
We have eye tracked about 6500 patients at 5 different university centers and are setting up tracking at several others. We are currently focused on FDA clearance. Once eye tracking is FDA cleared as a diagnostic for concussion I believe it will change the way it is diagnosed and defined in much the same way as EEG has changed the field of epilepsy.
What advice do you have for students aiming to get involved in your field?
When choosing a career focus on what motivates you and gives you satisfaction. I feel as if I have the highest job satisfaction of anyone I know because I help people at the worst moment of their lives – the day they or someone they love has a neurosurgical emergency.