Elena Zapata-Arriaza

Name: Elena Zapata-Arriaza, MD
Hometown: Sevilla, Andalucía, Spain
Current Position: Interventional Neuroradiologist in the Radiology Department in Virgen del Rocio University Hospital; Stroke Neurologist Researcher in the Institute of Biomedical Research of Seville (IBiS)

Q: What made you interested in a career in stroke?

A: Near the end of my residency in neurology, there were fundamental changes in the acute treatment of ischemic stroke, which changed the paradigm of disease management, as well as the role of the neurologist in the stroke. The possibility of expanding the therapeutic options, whose indication depended on the combination of clinical-radiological knowledge, motivated me to focus more on the stroke, in which the neurologist became an active part of its outcome. Likewise, the wide variety of topics to investigate about stroke, together with the existence of quality researchers in my center who trusted me to develop studies on stroke-associated pneumonia, further boosted my interest in the field.

Q: What has been your career path into this field?

A: After finishing my residency in neurology, I worked as a fellow in neurovascular research for one year at the biomedical research institute in Seville. In that year, I started working on what would later be my doctoral thesis on stroke-associated pneumonia, which will be presented shortly. During that year, I learned skills necessary for the field of stroke research; however, when the clinic knocked on my door, I returned to work as a stroke neurologist at the Virgen del Rocio University Hospital in Sevilla. There I spent about another year, performing my duties in the stroke unit or vascular neurology consultations. However, I still lacked a step to reach in order to offer a comprehensive treatment of stroke patients. That is why, in 2016, I began to train in an interventional neuroradiology fellowship at the same hospital. During my training, I have not only dedicated myself to patients with ischemic stroke, I have also managed patients with subarachnoid hemorrhage, dural venous fistulas, or vascular malformations, expanding my knowledge in vascular neurology.

Currently, I have finished my fellowship and work as an interventional neuroradiologist, performing guards of this specialty in addition to vascular tele-neurology guards. Likewise, I have developed my research career in parallel, conducting multicenter studies, collaborating with centers of excellence, and publishing scientific papers focused on post-carotid angioplasty restenosis and stroke-associated pneumonia.

Q: Who is your stroke mentor or stroke hero?

A: I could not choose just one, because I am lucky to have three mentors: Dr. Joan Montaner, stroke neurologist and neurovascular researcher at the Virgin Macarena Hospital in Seville; and Dr. Francisco Moniche, stroke neurologist and neurovascular researcher, and Dr. Alejandro Gonzalez, interventional neuroradiologist and neurovascular researcher, both at the Virgin del Rocio Hospital in Seville.

Q: What is a piece of advice you would give to a trainee?

A: Given that I still have a lot to learn and improve, I think I would advise those trainees that the research comes from the clinic, that we should never forget it, and that in turn the research improves our way of treating patients. Getting the correct symbiosis between the two takes time, but starting a good clinical training during the residency will allow us to ask ourselves the necessary questions that need an answer through the investigation. All this without forgetting the power of social networks in science, which put us in contact with patients and colleagues, improving our work. Stroke Neurologist 2.0 is here.

Q: What is your favorite hobby or way of de-stressing?

A: Apart from spending time with family and friends, I love to travel, photography, jazz, and playing the ukulele, with which I could spend hours playing.

Q: What is a good book you read recently that you recommend? And what is your favorite place to travel to?

A: I’m not done yet, but the book “The Idiot” by Elif Batuman — it´s about a Turkish Harvard student who learns to become an adult. I find it’s reading fun and revealing.

To travel and disconnect, Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands.