Current Fellows

Derek Holder, MD

When did you first become interested in Neurology?
I became interested in Neurology as a child when one of my grandparents was diagnosed with a movement disorder. There was a dramatic change with just the addition of medication under the guidance of a neurologist, which began my interest in the field.

How did you become interested in Vascular Neurology?
The more time I spent studying and learning neurology in the field, the more I realized that emergency treatments and prevention-based education in the clinic were the pace with which I was most comfortable. I also was fascinated at some of the pharmacology and interventional techniques that could essentially turn back time in regards to deficits when patients were properly screened and offered cutting-edge therapies.

What attracted you to Washington University for Fellowship Training?
I was an undergraduate at Washington University in St. Louis where I studied cognitive psychology. I worked on a research project with psychology, psychiatry and neuroimaging specialists and was pleased with the degree of collaboration between the different groups, and also with the dedication to advancing science within the university community. On my search for a fellowship, I was happy to hear of the extensive vascular neurology faculty and their diverse research interests and backgrounds (including emergency medicine specialists in stroke), which strengthened my interest in the program. I am also a Missourian by birth, and am excited to be closer to my family, who live in nearby Columbia.

What are your research interests?
I am most interested in quality improvement in medicine, including computer-based algorithms to improve patient value and quality care as well as post-stroke psychiatric changes including abulia, annhedonia, and avolition. I am interested in how these can be accurately measured and how symptoms can be improved using neuropsychologic intervention.

In what direction is your future headed?
I hope to work in an environment where I can spend most of my time treating stroke patients inside the hospital, possibly as a stroke director or neurohospitalist. I would also be interested in conducting clinical research on post-stroke psychiatric changes, as well as holding primary, secondary, and tertiary preventative health clinics, and possibly working with hospital administration on implementing and promoting Quality Improvement Initiatives.

What is one fun fact about yourself?
I’ve been fortunate to study three foreign languages, two while at Washington University as an undergraduate including Swedish, Mandarin, and French. I enjoy international travel and attempting to use my linguistic skills, although I quickly learned that classroom language classes feature conversations that are much slower than the vernacular. Reading and speaking is certainly easier than listening for me.


Christian J. Burrell, M.D.

When did you first become interested in Neurology?
My interest in Neurology initially stemmed from the experience of losing my father to an aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage early in my undergraduate education. Experiencing firsthand the tragedy of losing a loved one to a devastating neurological disease reinforced my ambition to pursue a career in medicine. During medical school, Neuroanatomy courses and clinical Neurology rotations further cemented my interest in Neurology.

How did you become interested in Vascular Neurology?
Early in Neurology residency training, I was drawn to the patient population affected by stroke. These patients may go from asymptomatic to permanently debilitated within hours. The Vascular Neurologist has the unique opportunity to intervene during this narrow therapeutic window to prevent irreversible brain injury and improve patient outcomes. The rewards for both the patient and the clinician during these high stakes moments are invaluable.

What attracted you to Washington University for Fellowship Training?
Washington University offers an ideal training program for those interested in Vascular Neurology. The readily available expertise, participation in clinical trials, diverse patient population and patient volume create the learning environment necessary to produce well-rounded Vascular Neurologists.

What are your research interests?
Broadly, my research interest focuses of identifying and eliminating disparities in stroke care. These disparities include geographic, racial, and socioeconomic factors. More specifically, I am interested in utilizing individualized or precision medicine to identify novel prevention and treatment modalities in acute stroke and stroke recovery, particularly in patient populations more likely to suffer from stroke and less likely to have good clinical outcomes following stroke.

In what direction is your future headed?
Upon completion of the Vascular Neurology Fellowship at Washington University, I plan to pursue a Vascular Neurology position, though I am undecided on location. My wife is currently taking a break in her graduate education in psychology to help care for our newborn son. After completion of this fellowship, my wife and I will explore options for concurrent continuation of her education and employment as a Vascular Neurologist for myself.

What is one fun fact about yourself?
I am an avid comic book collector, video game enthusiast, and rock climber. The latter of which led me to compete twice on American Ninja Warrior. Unfortunately, both attempts ended sooner than I had hoped.