"What's best for a child is what's best for me"

Dr Amith Keshave

A Passion For Paediatrics

(Article published in Life Healthcare magazine, written by Sam Brighton)

The work of a paediatric neurologist is steeped in delicate care and empathy. Dr Amith Keshave, who recently joined Life Entabeni Hospital in Durban, knows that it takes more than book smarts to be good at his job.

Paediatric neurologists “care for children that have disorders affecting the nervous system - the brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles” he explains.

We chat to Dr Keshave about the highlights and challenges of his profession, his passion and the emotional dynamics he faces in his job.

Q: What type of disorders do you help manage?

A: [Paediatric neurologists] see children that present with a range of disorders and assist with managing their complications. Typical disorders of the brain would be seizures, strokes, headaches, learning disabilities and behavioural disorders. We also manage diseases affecting the spinal cord - spinal muscular atrophy, polio, or disorders of the peripheral nerve like Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Furthermore, we work closely with neurosurgeons treating patients with nervous system tumours or children born with congenital defects, like that of the spine (spina bifida).

Q: What does an average work day look like for you?

A: At the beginning of the day, I see my inpatients, ensure they are well and parents are kept up to date on their children's progress. Thereafter I see patients at my practice. I strongly feel that we can uplift people through education, so every patient that I interact with doesn't leave my office until they feel they have been enlightened. The better patients understand what they are up against, the better they are equipped to deal with the condition and the complications.

Q: What drew you to paediatric neurology?

A: I’ve always wanted to do neurology, and at the time there were no training posts in neurology, so I took up my second passion of paediatrics. While rotating through the sub-specialities I was exposed to paediatric neurology and I felt like I had the best of both worlds.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

A: That's an easy one – the children! They don't know what a bad day is. I feel I have learnt more about medicine from the children that I have seen than any textbook will ever teach.

Q: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

A: Within the speciality [we see some] disabling diseases, so to break that news to parents and children is a challenge. However, in that also lies strengths; I have seen children give strength to parents rather than the other way around.

Q: As a paediatric neurologist, is it accurate to say that you often have two patients – the child and the parents. How do you handle this situation?

A: There are two patients and sometimes even more - grandparents, aunts and uncles all get involved. But the key is that they all want the same thing; what’s best for the child – which is what I want as well.

Q: What personality traits would you say help you to fulfil your role as a paediatric physician?

A: I believe my light-hearted, open, honest nature, as well as my keen sense to listen to patients and parents, are traits that have helped me thus far.

Meet Our Expert

Dr Amith Keshave attained his MBBCh at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2005 before completing his M.Med (Paeds Neuro) in 2015. One of his proudest achievements is the completion of his research topic on a rare epileptic syndrome found in infants, called West Syndrome.