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Understanding the brain and its functions is an everlasting puzzle, but providers like Behnaz Esmaeili, MD, embrace the task each day.

As a board-certified neurologist, Esmaeili aims to improve the quality of life of patients with epilepsy and seizures, and her success is evident through positive patient interactions and contributions to multiple publications.

Get to know more about her and her work. 

When did you first know you wanted to be a doctor? 

I realized I wanted to be a doctor when I was 15 years old. I was moved by how caring physicians can help patients and their families live with chronic and sometimes incurable diseases. 

I’ve been practicing medicine for eight years, including residency and fellowship. 

Why did you choose to specialize in neurology and epilepsy? 

The brain is fascinatingly complex, and there is still so much we have yet to learn about it. Advances in epilepsy research and clinical care have excellent prospects for improving the lives of people living with seizures. 

Can you tell us about the Regional Epilepsy Center and your work there? 

At the Regional Epilepsy Center, a multidisciplinary team of specialists work together to provide comprehensive, individualized care to patients with epilepsy. I work as part of a team in inpatient and outpatient settings, with a focus on improving outcomes and quality of life for people living with seizures. 

I am also an assistant professor of Neurology at the School of Medicine. I spend a significant part of my clinical time teaching medical students, residents and fellows in the epilepsy monitoring unit and the outpatient clinics.

What are your clinical or research interests?

My clinical interests include using medications, surgery and neurostimulation to care for patients with epilepsy. About 30% of patients with epilepsy will develop drug-resistant epilepsy and require alternative treatments such as epilepsy surgery or neurostimulation to reduce seizure burden. I also have a clinical interest in providing specialized care to women of childbearing age with epilepsy, especially during pregnancy.  

My main area of research focuses on understanding the mechanisms behind sudden unexpected death in epilepsy, which is the leading cause of epilepsy-related death, preferentially affecting young people. I study abnormal patterns of brain electrical activity and autonomic dysfunction after seizures to better understand the pathophysiology of these occurrences.   

I’m also interested in the use of wearable devices to improve epilepsy-related health outcomes and to personalize medical care for people with epilepsy. 

What attracted you to UW Medicine? 

UW Medicine has a world-renowned program in epilepsy, and Seattle is a great city in which to live. I’ve been here just over two years. 

What are you looking forward to? 

My favorite time of year is always spring.  There are many beautiful plants to look at and some amazing hikes in the area.