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New pediatric neurologists hail from Oak Grove, School of Medicine Class of 2015

Published on Monday, October 31, 2022

By: Annie Oeth, aoeth@umc.edu

Getting two new pediatric neurologists from the same School of Medicine graduating class and the same Mississippi hometown may sound unlikely.

“It’s unusual,” said Dr. Jay Thompson, “but here we are.”

Thompson and Dr. Joshua Cousin, who joined the Division of Pediatric Neurology this summer, both graduated from Oak Grove High. Thompson was in the Class of 2007, and Cousin was in the Class of 2008.

“We took different paths to end up at the same place,” Thompson said.

Both assistant professors find caring for patients at Children’s of Mississippi, the state’s only children’s hospital, fulfilling.

“It’s good to be home and caring for children in Mississippi,” said Cousin. “In pediatric neurology, care can mean children have the chance to reach their full potential. It can be life-changing.”

Oak Grove principal Helen Price was a counselor at the high school when Thompson and Cousin were students.

“It’s no surprise that they were both voted in Who’s Who as Most Intellectual of their graduating classes,” she said. “We are so proud of them, and seeing their success encourages us as educators who continue to pour ourselves into those who will hold our future, like these two young men.”

Andrea Clark, a humanities teacher at Oak Grove, said she’s proud her former students are caring for Mississippi patients.

“When I teach students as bright and dedicated as Jay and Josh were in high school, I always say a little prayer that they find a purpose that meets their potential and gives back to people,” she said. “I couldn't be prouder of both these two for making choices that have helped and will help so many people in Mississippi. Students like Jay and Josh are part of what makes teaching so rewarding.”

After Thompson earned a degree in chemistry from Millsaps College and Cousin graduated from William Carey University with a degree in biology, they started their medical studies at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, graduating in 2015.

From there, Cousins went to Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston and Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago for residencies, followed by a neurology fellowship at Texas Children’s Hospital.

Thompson completed a combined residency in pediatrics and child neurology at UMMC, where he also completed a neurophysiology fellowship.

Thompson and Cousin were inspired to become pediatric neurologists, in part, by the neurological conditions faced by close family members.

Cousin, whose brother has autism, wanted to specialize in pediatric neurology ”but I worried that I would see my brother in every patient interaction. I specialized in general pediatrics first and then neurology and loved it. Sometimes I do think of my brother when I see patients, but he’s an inspiration.”

Thompson, who has adult family members with neurologic disorders, started medical training with an interest in adult neurology, but found himself drawn to pediatric neurology after seeing children in the hospital and clinic.

Most patients of Cousin and Thompson have epilepsy. Cousin sees children whose seizures aren’t controlled by standard medical management and may require epilepsy surgery evaluation, ketogenic diet therapy or vagal nerve therapy.

Thompson specializes in pediatric epilepsy as well as intraoperative monitoring in surgery.

Pediatric neurological care is appreciated by Dora Keith of Flowood, whose son Ashton is a patient. “Dr. Thompson interacts with kids so well,” she said. “He’s caring and takes his job very seriously.”

The addition of Thompson and Cousin brings the Division of Pediatric Neurology to 11 physician specialists and four advanced practice providers, said Dr. Collette Parker, division chief.

“Dr. Thompson and Dr. Cousin joining our program means that we can bring a higher level of neurological care to our patients,” Parker said. “This growth in pediatric neurology allows Children’s of Mississippi to provide care to more children with seizures and epilepsy, especially seizures not controlled with medications, throughout our state.  With the help of these specially trained clinicians, we anticipate expanding our epilepsy monitoring unit and seizure surgery program for state-of-the-art treatment of complex patients.”

Dr. Mary Taylor, Suzan B. Thames Chair and professor of pediatrics, knows the value of coming home to provide care. The Natchez native earned her medical degree at UMMC and returned to the Medical Center in 2011 after residency and fellowship training in cardiology and critical care at Vanderbilt University and later helping create Vanderbilt’s pediatric cardiac critical care unit.

“Returning to your home state is meaningful,” Taylor said. “An important part of the Medical Center’s mission is to train physicians, and it is gratifying to see our UMMC graduates returning home to care for Mississippi’s children.”