Dr. Nagagopal Venna: Leading Rapidly Changing and Complex Field of Neurological Complication, Neuro-Immunology and Neuro-Infectious Diseases

Nagagopal Venna
- Advertisement -

BOSTON– Dr. Nagagopal Venna, MD is one of the nation’s leading experts on the complex field of neurological complications, neuro-immunology and neuro-infectious diseases. At Mass General Hospital, he heads the Division of Neuro-Immunology and Neuro-Infectious Diseases.

On Nov. 19, he will receive Heathcare Award at the annual New England Choice Awards 2022 at Hilton Woburn Hotel in Woburn, MA.

Dr. Venna is a distinguished neurologist in Boston and has completed over 20 years of service at the Massachusetts General Hospital, the flagship medical institution for Harvard Medical School and one of the best hospitals in the country. Prior to joining MGH, Dr. Venna was the director of Clinical Neurology in the Neurological Unit at Boston City Hospital for 18 years.

He is also the founder and director of the Fellowship in Advanced General and Autoimmune Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital where he practiced and trained several neurologists in the specialized field of Autoimmune Neurology for 10 years, providing advanced training to over 20 young neurologists.

His involvement in this rapidly changing and complex field of neurological complications and disabilities associated with HIV, started with some of the first cases of HIV-AIDS in the Boston area in the early 1980s while he was director of Clinical Neurology at the Neurological Unit of Boston City Hospital, which naturally lead to establishing the first HIV Neurology subspecialty clinic in association with an Infectious Diseases department at Massachusetts General Hospital 20 years ago.

Nagagopal Venna

Dr. Venna is an alum of Guntur Medical College in India, and did his post-graduate training and experience in Internal Medicine in Ireland leading to the Membership of the Royal Colleges of Physicians in Ireland and UK.

Here is a Q/A with Dr. Venna.

INDIA New England News: Who Inspired you the most and how?

Nagagopal Venna: As I reflect on this question, a few of my gurus come quickly to mind. At Guntur Medical College at beginning of my career, several stalwart physician- teachers inspired me over many years by their love of medicine, scrupulous attention to fundamental and timeless clinical skills for the practice of medicine and selfless devotion to train us in the science and art of medicine. Dean of our medical School Dr. DJ Reddy was uncommonly inspirational in impressing the sanctity and seriousness of our profession while many other extraordinary Professors guided us throughout the Medical School.

My love of Internal Medicine in post-graduate years in Ireland definitely was reinforced by Dr John Nash, FRCP (London) through his incisive and brilliant approach to broad field of medicine with remarkably forward-looking perspective.

The person who single-handedly inspired me and sculpted me in the love, wonder, exploration and dedication to the challenges and pleasures of Neurology and Neuroscience and who continues to be a beacon in this field is Dr Thomas Sabin, Chief of Neurology at the Neurological Unit of Boston City Hospital. His example was and is indispensable ongoing source of inspiration for me in the art of science of Neurology.

INE: What has been the secret of your success?

NV: Whatever success came to me along the way over the 40 years of Neurology practice in academic medical centers in Boston is attributable to my love of Neurology as a clinical science, combined with fascination with the unending and ever-expanding mysteries of the human nervous system, the mesmerizing elegance of clinical skills that enable us to glean so much about the normal and deranged workings of the brain, spinal cord and nerves, using embarrassingly simple tools at the bedside.

Do not underestimate a natural curiosity, and strive to learn always about the human nervous system from patients, teachers, colleagues and students and researcher scientists. Equally important are my good fortune to learn and work in an intellectual, open-minded milieu and to have supportive , encouraging and understanding family of my wife Usha and my sons Suraj and Praveen.

Willingness to be aware of and acknowledge areas of my ignorance and learn from mistakes and never embarrassed to say “I don’t know“ when that is indeed the case and always, say: I want to learn about it” intellectual attitude.

INE: When in doubt, what do you do?

NV: This is a searching question. My answer and practice are simple: admit what you don’t know openly and readily but seek answers from local, national and now days, global colleagues-experts , dig into vast universe of scientific literature, sometimes “sleeping over it and not least by contemplation as William Osler emphasized. Knowing what you do not know and admitting it and seeking answers are what I routinely practice. Recognize that uncertainty is everyday experience in Medicine as are incomplete knowledge and areas of darkness.

INE: One advice you will give to the person you love?

NV: Have passion for and work diligently at something that is intrinsically valuable- knowledge, service, innovation. Make life full and complete with family, friends, arts, literature and wonders all round us.

INE:  How do you look at failure?

NV: I do look at it as most of us do- inevitable in every aspect of life, personal and professional. Accept it but use it as stepping stone opportunity to success in the endeavor.

INE: Favorite Books?

NV: I love reading and cannot go to sleep without this since my school days. My interests are eclectic but biased to literature in English, thanks to our British influence. Curiously, I never managed to savor poetry unless someone analyses it for me.

Detective fiction: I am longstanding avid reader of Sherlock Holmes adventures thanks to genius of Arthur Conan Doyle. Partly because of Holmes’ methods are modelled after Scottish doctor Bell, indeed we instinctively utilize these methods in daily practice of Medicine.

Graham Greene’s novels have special attraction for the dark unusual themes.

I love the simple beauty of small town characters of RK Narayan and others in this genre of Indian themes by Indian writers in English, including Tagore.

I love many writers in my native language of Telugu. I wish the beauty of this language the richness of its literature are widely appreciated and translated world over- if so, many a Nobel prize in literature would long ago awarded to these authors.

INE: Your favorite quotes?

NV: It is hard to recall but I love the aphorisms of Oscar Wilde immensely and always.

INE: Top 3 favorite movies?

MV: Telugu (like almost every Telugu-speaking human) – Maya Bazar, Missamma

English Language: North by Northwest by Alfred Hitchcock

INE: How concerned or enthused you are by other people’s opinion?

NV: I will be dishonest if I say I am not concerned about others’ opinions: particularly true if I am in error. If I am not in error in my view, I respect contrary opinions without any rancor knowing this world can easily accommodate any number of different opinions but no need to agree with any that you don’t endorse

Praise and appreciation: of course like most of us, I like these experiences , for sure and often enthuse me to do better, almost always. However, over the years I have definitely developed and practice equanimity – whether criticism and praise come from patients, families, colleagues, students, friends. Again I owe this to one of the essays by my role model in medicine and life -Sir William Osler titled “ Aequanimitas.”

INE: What truly matters to you in the end?

NV: Interesting question that makes you think deeply. Having done quite well what I truly and innately loved through long years of learning and practicing medicine and particularly to do so in the amazing field of disorders of the most complex part of our being , that is the nervous system and having brought some understanding and relief and restoration of the ailing nervous system in many persons in different parts of the world .

Intimately and inseparably connected with this is the extraordinary opportunity I have had to teach, mentor and train generations of medical students, resident physicians and Fellows and faculty colleagues in the beauty and wonders and therapies of Neurology, all the while truly always learning and being curious and keeping the sense of wonder.

Equally important are that my wife, children and many friends including medical school classmates from decades ago, supported, encouraged me and took pleasure in my role and service all along.

To buy a ticket for the NECA awards gala, please click here.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here