2019 Top Doctor: Jeremy Payne

Editorial StaffMarch 21, 2019
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Photography by Steve Craft
Photography by Steve Craft


Med School/Year Graduated: University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2000

Years in Practice: 13

Beyond neurology, you specialize in vascular neurology and cerebrovascular disorders. What interests you most in those specialties?

We say that “neurologists learn their neuroanatomy one stroke at a time” and there’s no better sub-specialty for appreciating the brain’s organization. I also trained in internal medicine, and I get to use those skills in stroke prevention and medical management.

Neurologists are certified by the same board that certifies psychiatrists. Are the skills interchangeable to any extent?

Well, there are a few physicians who train in both specialties formally, and actually all neurologists are required to spend a little time learning psychiatry and vice versa. When we were first learning about the brain, in the 19th century, there wasn’t much of a distinction in the way we thought about the brain – we didn’t really understand much of it at all. The separation of the mind, which is psychiatry, from the brain itself, i.e. neurology, eventually evolved as we started to figure out some of these concepts that we now take for granted.  Eventually, and not any time soon, many of us hope that our understanding of the human brain and how it works will finally be so sophisticated that we’ll again no longer have to make that distinction.

You’re the program director at the University of Arizona College of Medicine’s Phoenix neurology residency. What excites you about the next generation of physicians?

In all areas of neurology, new techniques in genetics, molecular biology, advances in hardware and targeted medical therapies are poised to be able to directly address some of our cruelest disorders. I’m very excited to be training future neurologists to be able to thrive in our coming era of being able to effectively treat or even cure some of our complex diseases.

What is your favorite “brain food,” or dish that supports brain health? Either that you cook or order at a restaurant?

I can’t cook. The idea of having all the elements of a meal organized and ready at the same time, not to mention edible, is something I can’t manage. I’m also terrible at wrapping gifts, which I think may be a related brain issue. The science, though, is pretty compelling, like the Mediterranean diet, which has great data for reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s/dementia.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

I have two primary hobbies: photography and reef aquaria. Like a lot of amateur photographers, some of my best work is in the few minutes of patience my family has while we’re traveling and I insist we stop the car, or hike somewhere. I’ve had reef aquaria on and off since the ’90s – saltwater tanks with live corals. I’m fascinated by the biology of corals, and the idea of maintaining a complex ecosystem in my living room.

What are you watching on Netflix these days?

I’m not much of a Netflix watcher. But I am looking forward to Formula 1 again in March, and Game of Thrones in April.

“If I wasn’t a doctor, I’d be…”

A race car driver. Unfortunately, I was committed to the brain by the time I was 7, and not exposed to speed at an early enough age.

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