Several of our residents (names in red) have volunteered to answer your questions about residency at UVA and they are available to be contacted by email.
Nathaniel Beachy, M.D.
Indiana University School of Medicine
Welcome! I’m from Indianapolis, Indiana, and attended Indiana University for undergrad and medical school before moving to Charlottesville for residency. Charlottesville quickly became home for my wife and I, and we love the city and friendships we’ve made here! I enjoy playing in our intramural soccer team (Bell’s Balsy), running, hiking, and the great breweries in town. After finishing residency, I’ll enjoy another year at UVA doing a clinical neurophysiology fellowship.
Vanesa Botsford, M.D.
University of Wisconsin Medical School
Hello! I was born and raised near Madison, WI, and earned my medical degree from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. I chose Neurology after being impressed by the diagnostic acumen of the neurological exam and I continue to find it intellectually rewarding. I am currently pursuing a fellowship in Movement Disorders. I was immediately drawn to UVA’s residency program because of the down-to-earth personalities of the faculty and residents. I knew I could get top-notch training while enjoying a friendly, supportive atmosphere. My husband, also a born-and-bred Wisconsinite, and I are loving Charlottesville. It’s a beautiful city and we have taken full advantage of visiting the orchards, vineyards, and polo matches on the weekends. We rescued a sweet little beagle, Rosie, soon after arriving and enjoy taking her to explore nearby Shenandoah National Park. This is our first foray outside of the Midwest and we are thrilled to have landed in Charlottesville!
Madeline Cross, M.D.
University of Iowa College of Medicine
Hi! I’m a Minnesota native from Minnetonka, MN. I did my undergraduate at Illinois Wesleyan University then continued my tour of the Midwest and attended medical school at the University of Iowa. I came to UVA for residency because it had the perfect balance between academic rigor and a collegiate, supportive atmosphere. I found a fantastic group of colleagues who create a great environment to learn, work, and relax. The innumerable vineyards and hiking spots around Charlottesville have been a definite bonus of residency here. In my spare time I enjoy watching MN Wild hockey, cooking (enchiladas are the house specialty), skiing – both water and snow, binging on Netflix, animals of any kind, and camping. After graduating this year, I will be doing an epilepsy fellowship at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.
Philip Gastrell, M.D.
Duke University School of Medicine
Hello! I am a Virginia native and grew up in Fairfax, a suburb of Washington DC. I first came to Charlottesville as an undergraduate at UVA and it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the place (and with my wife, who I met as a volunteer on the local rescue squad). After college, I took a gap year studying animal models of autism at NIH before starting medical school at Duke. I had always been fascinated with the brain and was torn between whether to go into neurology or psychiatry. The time came to make a decision and I matched into psychiatry at Columbia University. It only took about 2 months to realize that my true passion was for neurology, and after a year in New York City, I was lucky enough to return to Charlottesville as a neurology resident at UVA. I have never looked back! I chose UVA’s program for the top-notch education I would receive here, but I have grown to love this program because of the incredible group of residents and faculty. I am honored to be a part of UVA Neurology and have opted to stay for a fellowship in epilepsy/EEG. In addition to epilepsy, I am passionate about medical education and plan to stay in academics throughout my career. Outside of work, I enjoy long distance running (Charlottesville is ideal), hiking, backpacking, folding origami, and spending time with my wife and our gang of pets: two young cats and an old hound dog.
Derek Pyland, M.D.
University of Arkansas College of Medicine
Hello! I was born, raised, and so far educated in the beautiful Natural State of Arkansas. I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Arkansas and medical school at UAMS in Little Rock. I fell in love with Neurology on the wards during my clerkship where I found the localization of the pathology intellectually rewarding. However, what really drew me to Neurology was the resilience of the patients who must bear when their own body or mind turns against them. I chose UVA because this is where I felt I would receive the best clinical training from enthusiastic faculty and a supportive group of co-residents who love what they did in and out of the hospital. My current career interests include outpatient Neurology, Headache Medicine, and LGBTQIA Health. I am applying for a Headache Fellowship position. When not at work, I enjoy baking desserts, hiking (>500miles in Virginia so far), hot yoga, photoshoots with my cat Captain Cuddles, and planning international vacations with my husband for when travel restrictions relax. I am proud to call Charlottesville home, you can’t beat the concentration of wineries and waterfalls.
Robin Ulep, M.B.B.S.
University of Queensland School of Medicine
Hello and welcome to UVA Neurology! I grew up in Baguio City, Philippines, before moving to New Jersey with my family. In college, I studied Biology (with a focus in Biotechnology) at Brown University before teaching high school Special Education in Newark, New Jersey, and teaching abroad in South Korea. I went back to medical school in Brisbane, Australia, graduating from the University of Queensland. I became drawn to Neurology during my clerkship where I discovered the most rewarding tool in the neurologist’s arsenal – communication – the eloquence of the neurologic history and exam, the partnerships and trust the neurologist built with their patients and families. When I came to UVA for an away rotation, I loved the supportive atmosphere and the camaraderie between the residents and the faculty. The UVA Neurology program was resident-focused and I knew that it would provide me the foundation to be a strong, clinical neurologist. I have also found amazing mentors that have encouraged my various interests in Vascular Neurology, healthcare disparities, and medical education. After residency, I will be pursuing Vascular Neurology Fellowship at Stanford. Outside of the hospital, Charlottesville is a beautiful place to live. Some of my favorites include exploring the Monticello Wine trail (33 local vineyards!) and taking in the sunsets at Carter Mountain Orchard (they have apple and peach picking too) with my fiancé and awesome co-residents.
Felipe Ayala, M.D.
Wright State University School of Medicine
Hello! I grew up in Queens, New York City. I went to undergrad at New York University, and then went to Southern Illinois University to complete a post-baccalaureate program and earn my Masters in Public Health. After finishing atSIU, I moved to Dayton, OH to complete medical school at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. I discovered my love for neurology when I was caring for a stroke patient who went for a thrombectomy procedure. To be able to see how these patients would improve after treatment was fascinating to me. I chose UVA because of how supportive the co-residents and faculty are. Aside from their enthusiasm to neurology, I also was able to appreciate their interests outside of the hospital. My current career interests are outreach programs (such as the Charlottesville free clinic), stroke, and interventional neuro-radiology. When I am not at work, I enjoy discovering new restaurants around Charlottesville and swimming when I have the chance to do so. I am also an avid super smash bros player. I also enjoy traveling with my girlfriend. Charlottesville has been our home and I am very proud to be at UVA.
Cole Crowson, M.D.
University of Alabama School of Medicine
Hello there! I hail from the birthplace of NASA as a native of Huntsville, Alabama, pursuing a rewarding education as an undergraduate at Wake Forest University, then a medical degree from The University of Alabama at Birmingham. I love Neurology because of the vast, rewarding patient population that neurologists work and build relationships with. One of the final frontiers in medicine, Neurology is experiencing a boom in novel therapeutic advances, granting thrilling new treatments to our patients. I chose UVA Neurology for the palpable camaraderie amongst the residents and zeal from the faculty, all of whom support your quality of life in and outside of the hospital. Presently, my career interests include central and peripheral neuro-immunology, sports neurology, and medical education with a plan to pursue academia. Any given day, you will easily find me planning my next hike on the Appalachian Trail, playing Tom Petty, keeping up with my retired greyhound, or scoping out new ice cream flavors I have yet to try. If not at work, I will be laughing with my co-residents at one of Charlottesville’s many charming wineries, a tubing adventure on the James River, or over a spirited game night. I am proud to train amongst such sincere, inspiring individuals here at UVA, and am constantly reminded of that joy when I drive by Shenandoah National Park on my daily commute.
Rebekka Hooks, M.D., M.Sc.
Semmelweis University Faculty of Medicine
Hello, my name is Bekka. I was born in Carson City, NV, and then my family whisked me off to crazy Las Vegas where I grew up. I went to University of Nevada, Reno where I majored in Neuroscience; during which I became fascinated by the complexity of the nervous system. I then took an 8 month gap to live the “Eat Pray Love” life in Italy, which made me fall in love with European life. I moved to Berlin, Germany to complete a masters in Medical Neurosciences and then completed medical school at Semmelweis University in Budapest, Hungary. What an adventure and an unforgettable experience! My next adventure was pursuing a residency and a place to call home. During my trips visiting residency programs I INSTANTLY fell in LOVE with UVA! What stood out to me the most was the camaraderie and the genuineness of the entire program from faculty to residents to staff. Even with only a handful of hours I had with the program I could tell UVA Neurology had a uniqueness to it unlike any other. UVA Neurology is now a family to me and I truly appreciate each day I get to work next to such outstanding individuals. On top of this being a great program, the city of Charlottesville has captured my heart. Don’t be fooled by Cville being a small city, there is a ton to do here. If you love the outdoors there is great hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding, running and cycling. More of a foodie, the restaurant scene is superb. All in a community compromised of amiable and kindhearted people. Now you might ask – what’s my next adventure? VASCULAR NEUROLOGY! Fellowship is around the corner and in the interim I plan on paddle boarding until the weather stops me and traveling to more exotic places (once able to again). Bottom-line it’s an excellent program in a wonderful city. We look forward to meeting you!
Kevin Kessler, M.D.
Indiana University School of Medicine
Hey there! I was born and raised in the northwest corner of Indiana in a small town called Crown Point. I completed my undergraduate degree at Indiana University where I watched every basketball game I could. I then completed medical school at Indiana University primarily at the Fort Wayne campus with some time spent in Indianapolis. The more I learned about Neurology and the people that are drawn to the field, the more passionate I became. A large portion of my curiosity was also driven by a strong family history of neurological disease. I knew that UVA was going to be a great place to do training as soon as I interviewed here, but what really sold me were the people. I truly felt they went above and beyond to help my wife (Family Medicine) and I couples match successfully into our respective programs. My areas of interest include cognitive/behavioral neurology as well as vascular neurology. Outside of work I enjoy playing board games with my wife (yes we are those people…), exploring different breweries, and going disc golfing when the weather allows.
Rohit Kuruvilla, M.D.
University of Texas Medical School at Houston
Hi! My name is Rohit Kuruvilla and was born and raised in Houston, Texas, except for a small stint in 2000-2002 when I lived in India. I went to undergrad at Vanderbilt University and returned to Houston for medical school at McGovern Medical School (UT-Houston). My wife and I were super excited when we matched to UVA because the residents and faculty are so outgoing and friendly. It doesn’t hurt that Charlottesville is an amazing city with tons to do, great restaurants, nestled in the Shenandoah national park. My interest in medicine is primarily related to Global Health and have been on medical mission trips to Kenya, Honduras, and India.I enjoy hiking and swimming with my new puppy (Charlie), fishing, and visiting the local vineyards and breweries.
Morgan Stephan, M.D.
Loma Linda University School of Medicine
Hi I’m Morgan Stephan! I’m originally from Washington state Enumclaw at the base of Mt. Rainier before I moved across the mountains to attend Walla Walla University for undergrad. I went to medical school at Loma Linda University in California and then decided to move across the country to UVA after couples matching with my partner, Stephen Tan (PM&R). When I’m not in the hospital, you’ll usually find me either watching cooking shows on Netflix with our two cats, playing beach volleyball or hanging out with my co-residents (who are easily the number one reason I chose UVA)! My non-academic goals are to visit all of the wineries on the Monticello wine trail, keep my plant babies alive through winter and try not to spend all my food allowance at Higher Grounds this year… in no particular order. After residency, I’m considering a fellowship in neurophysiology to become a better neurohospitalist. I can’t wait to meet you!
Nathan DeTurk, M.D., M.B.A.
Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine
Hi! I’m from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a little city about an hour north of Philadelphia. I spent almost half my life as a Penn State student getting a degree in biomedical engineering, followed by the dual degree MD/MBA program offered at Penn State in Hershey, PA. It really does smell like chocolate, you can even smell it right outside the hospital. As you could guess by the business degree I’m very interested in health policy, primarily the function of large healthcare networks. I hope to utilize this knowledge of health economics later in my career by combining it with my passion for medicine to improve the function of health systems. First and foremost, I’m very excited to be here at UVA to begin my career as a neurologist – the faculty and residents are among the best in the country when it comes to charisma and experience. I wholeheartedly believe this is the best place for me to learn the fundamentals of neurology regardless of my specialty, which is likely to be cognitive neurology. That said, Charlottesville is also a wonderful place to live; the beautiful hiking, great restaurants, and outstanding wineries make it an easy place to call home. My free time is often spent enjoying the outdoors, usually going for a trail run most days of the week if the weather is nice or getting out to snowboard in the nearby mountains on a snowy day off.
Alexander Elias, M.D., M.Sc.
Indiana University School of Medicine
Hi all! I was born in Muscatine, Iowa, but really grew up in Indiana, having moved there when I was five years old and staying there until moving out to Virginia for residency. I studied chemistry at Indiana University in Bloomington, IN for undergrad and then went to the IU School of Medicine in Indianapolis, IN for med school. I am not quite sure yet which area of Neurology I am most interested in and am excited to spend my PGY-2 year exploring the different options, although Epilepsy and MS are two areas that have interested me thus far. I love teaching and hope to remain in an academic setting with a heavy emphasis on medical education in the future. Outside of medicine, I enjoy spending my time with other people, whether family or friends, and I’ve been extremely lucky to develop meaningful relationships with so many people in the one short year that I’ve lived in Charlottesville. I generally like to run to clear my mind, check out new restaurants or breweries, hit up a hike and maybe a winery afterward, and sometimes it’s nice to just lay in my bed and watch Netflix. I’m also an avid sports fan with particular emphasis on the Green Bay Packers and Indiana Hoosiers. Honestly, what drew me to UVA was a gut feeling about the overall vibes of the city and the program. When I visited Charlottesville for my residency interview, I could feel the supportive culture of the Neurology Program at UVA and was taken aback by the incredible camaraderie among the residents, and I knew during that short time that I would be very happy here. I can safely say that UVA has only exceeded those expectations, and I am so happy I made the leap out of my comfort zone to move out here for residency!
Courtney Huval, M.D.
Louisiana State University School of Medicine – Shreveport
My name is Courtney. I am from Louisiana and went to undergrad in my home town at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and medical school at LSU Medical School in Shreveport. Outside of medicine, I enjoy spending time outdoors whether that is gardening, hiking, swimming or relaxing on a beach. Virginia is a great place for any and all outdoor activities and that was one of the biggest attractions I had to the area. I also love animals and have two fur babies, Charlie and Oscar. My husband and I enjoy playing video games together, but he has to carry the team due to my amateur skills. When I was searching for residencies, above all else I prioritized a welcoming community that fostered learning and compassionate patient care. UVA Neurology couples this with a strong educational experience in all aspects of Neurology. I still remember the warm feeling I left with on my interview day and I am reminded often how lucky I am to train here.
Jacob Perlman, M.D.
New York Medical College
Hi, I’m Jake! I’m originally from the Jersey Shore, about 10 minutes from the house where Snooki and the squad partied up (sorry GTL crew, not a fan). I went to medical school at New York Medical College just north of NYC. Neurology excites and energizes me because it allows me to work to help folks overcome pathology that too often impairs their sense of self. I have my sights set on academic general neurology, and will likely pursue a fellowship in Epilepsy/Neurophysiology. I love teaching and get ample practice with our enthusiastic medical students and interns who constantly rotate through. When not localizing lesions, I’m jamming out on my electric drum kit. I’m a music snob who loves Progressive rock, Grunge, and Alternative Metal. I’m also into tennis, cycling, and splashing around in the rivers running along the trails of the nearby national and state parks. I uprooted from the Northeast to come to Charlottesville because UVA gives me the opportunity to train in a highly renowned academic center that is not buried in the concrete and crowds of the big city. As a Jewish boy from NJ/NY, I am proud to call this amazing group of neurologists my mishpocheh (Yiddish for family). It’s incredible how such an attitude of curiosity and warmth can permeate through every single resident and attending. We all constantly work to elevate each other and these relationships add to the joy of doing what we love. I truly couldn’t imagine a better environment in which to train.
Nicholas Swingle, M.D.
University of Nebraska College of Medicine
I grew up in different places throughout the Southeast and Midwest, but I suppose I consider either Charlotte, NC, or Des Moines, IA, to be my hometown. I studied Biomedical Engineering at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, where my interest in medicine became focused on neurology by experiences with bioelectric research. I then completed medical school at University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, NE, where I started to develop my interest in epilepsy. I chose to train at UVA because I was excited to join such a supportive academic community. My career interests include epilepsy/neurophysiology, medical education, and biomedical devices. Outside the hospital, I like to improvise on the piano, play board and card games with my wife, Mia, and play tug of war with my dog, Wendy.
Brianna Bagalkotkar, M.D.
University of Virginia School of Medicine
Hi there! I was born and raised a couple hours from Charlottesville in the Hampton Roads area. I came to UVA for college in 2012 and haven’t left since! (#triplehoo) It was clear to me that the residents at UVA were a tight-knit group of friends that loved what they did, which is why I ultimately chose to stay. I am so happy to get to be co-workers with the people who made me fall in love with the field in the first place. Although I just started intern year, I am currently most drawn to the field of autoimmune neurology with its weird pathology and unique patient population. Outside of medicine, some of my favorite things to do include hosting dinner parties, taking my pup (Miko) on new trails, caring for my ever-growing family of houseplants, getting way too invested in games of Codenames (or any board game), and cooking/eating foods so spicy that I almost definitely have Barrett’s esophagus. Charlottesville has a surprisingly great selection of restaurants and Asian/international grocery stores for its size, which certainly makes my little half-Indian heart happy. There’s a little something for everybody here, and I’m proud to call this place my home.
Kristina Key Cain, M.D.
University of Virginia School of Medicine
Hello! My name is Kristina and I’m a current PGY-1 originally from Panama City, Panama. Growing up, I moved a total of 16 times and lived in Germany for several years, finally settling in Virginia for college. I am a proud triple wahoo, having completed both undergrad and medical school at UVA. I’m primarily interested in pursuing a fellowship in Behavioral/Cognitive neurology and am interested in both clinical and basic research. I’m a proud Latina and grew up speaking Spanish and am passionate about improving communication and providing quality care to Spanish-speaking patients. Outside of the hospital, I enjoy hiking with my husband and dog Cali, barefoot running, jamming to reggaeton, keeping up with the latest in astronomy, and reading science fiction. I chose to stay at UVA for residency because Charlottesville has become my new home over the past few years. I love that I can easily escape the hustle and bustle of hospital life and go hiking or skygazing in the mountains whenever I want.
Valerie Casuccio, M.D.
West Virginia University School of Medicine
Hey! I grew up outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, (Let’s go Bucs/Pens!). I went to the University of Pittsburgh for undergrad, where I got my first taste of Neurology as a neuroscience major. Country roads took me to West Virginia University for medical school. I was one of those weird people who came into medical school knowing exactly what I wanted to do, and I never really looked back. I think there’s a huge stigma against Neurology because people assume that you can’t do anything for your patients, but this isn’t the case anymore! It’s such an exciting time to be a part of this specialty, and I can’t wait to see where we go from here. At this point, I’m not sure what kind of Neurologist I’ll be. If I’m not in the hospital, you can find me laying by my pool reading, recreating recipes that I’ve seen on the Food Network, or on my Nintendo Switch. When Covid-19 calms down, I look forward to checking out the live music scene in Charlottesville and seeking out the spin class with the best playlist. I picked UVA for residency because I felt that I would be pushed to be the best physician that I can be while being supported by those around me. It has been such a welcoming environment that has made the transition from medical school to intern year so much easier.
Donna Petko, M.D.
Creighton University School of Medicine
Hello! I was born in Ukraine and raised in New Jersey and then New Mexico. I completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Denver and medical school at Creighton in Omaha, Nebraska. I chose Neurology because I love a good puzzle and mystery and wanted a field where I could work closely with patients. I chose UVA because I was searching for a place where I would receive excellent clinical training and also thrive in an environment surrounded by a supportive work culture, excellent faculty, and friendly residents. My current interests include Movement disorders, Multiple Sclerosis, and epilepsy. During my time off, I enjoy being outside and love exploring new hikes and trails, reading, drawing, exploring new restaurants, and hopefully traveling again soon. I’ve also fallen in love with Charlottesville – it’s a definite perk training in a place surrounded by so many beautiful spots to explore.
Matthew Rumschlag, M.D.
Western Michigan University School of Medicine
Hello! I lived in Michigan my whole life (until residency). I grew up in Rochester Hills, and I went to the University of Michigan for undergrad and Western Michigan University for medical school. I studied Neuroscience and German in college and I was especially fascinated by my neurobiology courses. This led me to do neuroscience research about the genetics of drug abuse. During medical school I found Neurology to be an exciting field, with many medical advances on the horizon. I felt the faulty and residents at UVA were fun and supportive, and I thought Charlottesville was beautiful. There are so many places to hike, numerous vineyards and great food. As far as my current career interests, I am still undecided about inpatient/outpatient Neurology and I have not decided what sub-specialty to pursue yet. I am interested in research and teaching, and there are so many different paths one can take in Neurology. There are many interesting sub-specialties, and possibly new ones on the horizon. Outside of medicine I enjoy soccer, hiking, brewing beer, cooking, board games, video games and traveling.
Darayus Toorkey, M.D.
Thomas Jefferson University Sidney Kimmel Medical College
Hi there! While born in Milwaukee, I called South Jersey my home growing up. After a decade in Los Angeles first for undergrad at USC and then subsequently work in marketing research, I couldn’t hold back the desire to go to med school. This brought me right back east to Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. During this time neurology went from, “one thing I’m sure I don’t want to do” to “the thing I absolutely most wanted to do.” The mystique of the brain, the unique pathology, and the importance of the clinician-patient relationship made for a field I just couldn’t pass up! I chose UVA simply because it was where I was most comfortable. The staff immediately have made me feel so welcome and are constantly working to make sure residents have the opportunity to grow, while never feeling unsupported. I was (and continue to be) amazed at how proficient the residents were at running the team. I found it easy to fall in love with Charlottesville, even though I’d consider myself a big city person. I love having easy access to the mountains for hiking on off days and swinging by the myriad of wineries and breweries on my way back. It feels like there’s something for everybody here which makes it feel like your own hidden gem!