Welcome To The Board – Dr. Sonika Agarwal
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Welcome To The Board – Dr. Sonika Agarwal

Initially educated and trained in India, Dr. Agarwal trained in child neurology at Baylor College of Medicine/Texas Children’s Hospital. Dr. Agarwal is currently an Assistant Professor of Neurology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). Dr. Agarwal has a dual expertise in Maternal Fetal Medicine and Fetal Neonatal Neurology.

She has authored several publications and has a special interest in medical education/mentoring. She has been honored with numerous awards including the Child Neurology Society Outstanding Junior Member Award (2016), Thomas Jefferson Faculty Teaching Award (2018), CHOP Neurology Resident Teaching Award (2020), and the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) 2020 A.B. Baker Teacher Recognition Award. She was an awardee of the AAN Transforming Leaders Program 2021 and is serving on national workgroups.

As an Associate Editor of JCN/Child Neurology Open, she has developed a series of podcasts in fetal neonatal neurology as a resource for families and medical professionals. Throughout her diverse career path Dr. Agarwal is committed to being an advocate for maternal, fetal, neonatal, and child brain health and strives to empower parents to partner in the care of their children as they blossom over the years.

She joined the Child Neurology Foundation’s Board in October 2021.

We asked Dr. Agarwal a few questions about her career and her interest in working with CNF for our latest “Getting To Know CNF” post.

Why did you become a child neurologist? 

My career journey from maternal fetal medicine in India to fetal and neonatal neurology in the United States has been an enthralling adventure! Both my parents are pediatricians and I finally ended up in child neurology guided by my destiny. Being a part of the child neurology community is very personal to me, and this endless passion and commitment comes from personal experiences of raising my son with cerebral palsy- experiences I can share with families as they care for their little ones with special neurodevelopmental challenges. 

The Guiding Star: The Journey of an International Physician From Maternal Fetal Medicine to Fetal Neonatal Neurology (nih.gov) 

What is your specialty/sub-specialty area? 

In my clinical practice which focuses on Fetal Neonatal Neurology, I bridge my experience to counsel and support families through an extremely stressful time of prenatal diagnosis of a brain disorder in their unborn child and help discuss the prognosis and long-term outcomes. My clinical practice also focuses on caring for critically ill newborns in the NICU (with perinatal brain injury, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy/HIE, stroke, seizures, structural brain abnormalities, genetic or metabolic disorders and other high-risk perinatal events), pediatric ICU and neurodevelopmental follow up in these infants. I also am an advocate for maternal, fetal and neonatal health and promoting interdisciplinary education based on the entire maternal-placental fetal triad and care across pregnancy to promote brain health and have a long-lasting impact in the origins of neurologic disorders across life span. 

Why did you want to join CNF’s BOD? 

While dedicating several years to academic medicine I have been a clinician and educator and an advocate for maternal-child health. I participated in large community initiatives in India partnering with global organizations such as WHO and UNICEF. As an awardee of the AAN Transforming Leadership Program in 2021, I was honored to be mentored by leaders in the field of neurology to participate in national workgroups and partner with the CNF on projects to develop resources for families. My career path and these collaborative initiatives resonated with the CNF’s vision and mission to help each child and each family attain their maximum potential by facilitating partnerships of medical professionals and other stakeholders. I am incredibly honored and thrilled to serve on the CNF BOD and work along the CNF in making a difference on a larger scale as part of national priorities and hopefully global efforts to support children with neurologic disorders.  

 What inspires you/provides you hope about the future of the Child Neurology field? 

 The field of Child Neurology is very dynamic and evolving rapidly. What we know, when we know and how much we know is changing, and there are newer neurodiagnostics, neurotherapeutics and multidisciplinary care programs to support children with neurologic disorders. As a CNF board member, I hope to make a greater impact nationally and globally in the lives of the children and families we serve.  

 What inspires you/provides hope when you think about children who are living with a neurologic condition? 

 As I have learnt from my personal experience of raising a child who was critically ill around the time of birth and grew up to have cerebral palsy, hope is a large component of the care package that supports a family. Kids with brain disorders often surprise us and  may overcome the diagnosis and challenges. As clinicians we need to understand the unique circumstances of each child and family, empower parents to partner with the multidisciplinary care teams and also focus on the strengths of the child while working on life-course challenges.  In my journey with these families I always say: “Every child is unique and will write their own story”! 

 Tell us about a hobby or something most wouldn’t know about you. 

 I love to bake and cook. While being a physician and educator is all what I wished to do since the time I learned to speak, I also dream of having a specialty bakery and café where I could train and employ people like my son who have special challenges.  And perhaps have an investor to fund a franchise of such supported community employment units so adults with neurodevelopmental differences may lead a full life! 

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