Mentoring Profile: Cynthia Comella, MD, Rush Medical College

April 26, 2018

The Rush Women Mentoring Program fosters professional development and a sense of community and collaboration among women faculty at Rush University. In this series, we highlight program mentors and mentees and learn more about how mentoring has impacted them.

Cynthia Comella, MD, professor in the departments of Neurosurgery and Neurological Sciences, Rush Medical College, joined rush in 1980.

Tell us about your background.

I am a professor in the departments of Neurosurgery and Neurological Sciences at Rush Medical College. I graduated from Smith College and the University of Cincinnati Medical College. I completed my training in neurology, movement disorders and sleep disorders at Rush University Medical Center. I am an active member of the Movement Disorders Society, for which I serve on the executive committee, the congress scientific programming committee and the continuing medical education committee. I am also chair of the education committee, secretary of the society,  chair of the publications oversight committee and chair of the leadership task force. I am an active member of the American Academy of Neurology, for which I serve on the science committee, the annual meeting subcommittee, the editorial board of Continuum and the board of directors of the AAN institute. I am also chair of the education committee.

My research on Parkinson’s disease includes evaluating new therapies and examining the effects of exercise. I have been active in dystonia research, working to develop new rating scales for dystonia and new applications for botulinum toxins. I chair the dystonia study group and serve on the steering committee of the Dystonia Coalition. I am the author or co-author of more than 165 articles, reviews, research papers, books and book chapters about various topics, including Parkinson’s disease, dystonia, sleep-related movement disorders, restless leg syndrome and botulinum toxin. I recently completed leadership training provided by the Sonoma Systems Leadership Challenge and leadership challenge facilitator training.

What inspired you to get into your field?

During my senior residency year in internal medicine, I did a neurology rotation with Christopher Goetz, MD, a movement disorders specialist, who reminded me of my love of neurology and neuroanatomy. This led to my second residency in neurology and subsequent training in movement disorders. I have loved this field ever since.

What excited you about your work at Rush?

I have greatly enjoyed the experience of being a clinician caring for patients, a researcher answering relevant clinical questions, an educator with the privilege of teaching younger physicians, medical students and the community, and a mentor to those who are interested in becoming movement disorder specialists.

What is your opinion of mentoring and sponsorship?

I believe that mentoring is essential to a successful career. Mentorship is the fostering of a career and career steps. I also feel that having a sponsor (or champion) who provides new opportunities within and beyond Rush is important in order to grow in the field. I have had both mentors and sponsors who have enhanced my career.

Do you have tips or advice you would recommend for someone looking to enter your field of work?

1. Be passionate about neurology. 2. Focus. 3. Find good mentorship. 4. Find out about the field.

What are your hobbies? How do you like to spend your free time?

I enjoy reading, cooking and horseback riding.