The month of February is designated as a time to bring awareness and support to people diagnosed with a rare disease. More than 7,000 rare diseases impact the health of more than 300 million people globally, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). Gillette Children’s is known worldwide as a leader in caring for people who have a rare disease. During February, Gillette is highlighting members of our expert rare disease team.
Gillette pediatric neurologist, Tim Feyma, MD, has always been interested in trying to solve life’s biggest questions.
“When I was younger, I thought I would go into psychiatry,” Feyma says. “I was fascinated about what it takes to live your best life. What is the ideal existence of an individual?”
It took a rotation during his medical training at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison for Feyma to realize neuroscience was a place where he could work to help people live their best lives.
“My mentor in neuroscience was very inspirational,” Feyma recalls. “He was truly focused on helping patients become their best selves. That taught me a lot and inspires my work at Gillette.”
Feyma is motivated by a desire to help the patients in his care live a life as free as possible from pain and excess medical interventions.
“I want to help optimize function. There’s a lot we can do to make our patient’s lives better,” Feyma says. “Quality of life is the key. The team at Gillette is focused on crafting individualized treatment plans for each child, teen, and adult who needs our help.”
"We all want kids to live their best lives."
“The neurology team is part of a greater team of people at Gillette who really have a mission to help kids live their best lives,” Feyma says.
Neurology is a branch of medicine that studies and treats the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, and nerves.
Children with neurological conditions, such as epilepsy and seizures, brain injuries, neuromuscular conditions, and rare diseases often require medical testing and the services of several medical specialties.
“We have great resources for patients at Gillette,” Feyma says. “We can work with colleagues in various departments and we’re all here to put the puzzle pieces together. A child with neurological dysfunction needs nursing support, neurosurgeons, various therapists, testing, and other services. We have this all under one roof at Gillette.”
Feyma really enjoys this collaborative approach to care and he appreciates the expertise and ideas he gets from other Gillette providers.
The constant innovations of medicine
This focus on a collaborative approach extends to Feyma’s work in research. He often collaborates with colleagues at the University of Minnesota on potential treatments for complex conditions like cerebral palsy, dystonia, epilepsy, and Rett syndrome.
“This research means we will soon see more treatments for rare disease,” Feyma says. “Gene therapy will really change things. I really love the constant innovations of medicine and feel grateful to be a part of it.”
Feyma is the co-director of the Gillette Children’s Rett Syndrome Center of Excellence. He and co-director, complex care pediatrician, Arthur Beisang, MD, are proud of being recognized as a Rett Center of Excellence by the International Rett Syndrome Foundation.
“We have a devoted, stable crew that has worked together for more than 10 years,” Feyma says. “We have a focused expert efficiency in the interest of the patient and that’s what makes the program at Gillette different.”
Feyma is very enthusiastic about habilitative care. Habilitative care seeks to help patients develop skills of functions that they were incapable of doing on their own. Habilitation is focused on helping people become as independent as possible.
“Habilitative care really is my passion,” Feyma says. “It really is what makes my job worth it. It’s what our aim is at Gillette and it is what parents want for their children.”
Things you can't know until you're a parent
Feyma chuckles when he confesses, he’s “obsessed with being with my kids.” He’s the father of two school aged daughters and enjoys spending his time away from work cooking, working out, and reading with his children.
“I think I’ve always been an empathetic person,” Feyma says. “I was always compassionate but there are just some things you can’t know until you’re a parent. I truly believe that knowing how bad I feel when one of my kids is hurting makes me a better physician. Experience is the best teacher and when you’re a dad a whole world of new experiences are out there with lessons for you to learn.”