Simon Harvey, MB BS (Hons), MD, FRACP

Causes, consequences and cures for uncontrolled epilepsy in children

Dr Simon Harvey is Director of the Children’s Epilepsy Program in the Department of Neurology at The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne. He is an honorary research fellow at the Florey Neuroscience Institutes, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and University of Melbourne. Dr Harvey is an active member and Past-President of the Epilepsy Society of Australia and has worked on ILAE Task Forces for Paediatric Epilepsy Surgery, Neuroimaging and Neurophysiology. Dr Harvey has trained many epileptologists from SE Asia, has helped in the establishment of epilepsy services in several SE Asian countries, and was Secretary of the ILAE Asian Epilepsy Academy and Commission on Asian and Oceanian Affairs. Dr Harvey’s clinical and research interests include childhood epilepsy, EEG, neuroimaging and epilepsy surgery, areas in which he has more than 100 publications in peer-reviewed journals.

Interview by Russell Dale


Simon, what made you get interested in epilepsy and epilepsy surgery?

Multiple factors I suspect. My first rotation in paediatrics was in neurology, and I looked after many epilepsy patients during that rotation, several of whom would have gone on to surgery. I started training in paediatric neurology when MRI had just arrived in Melbourne, so it was an exciting time for neuroimaging then. The ability to work out and then fix a clinical problem is something that I enjoy and epilepsy surgery offers within neurology. The satisfaction from curing a child of uncontrolled epilepsy and changing the course of life for the child and family is enormous. Finally, epilepsy is a strong discipline in Melbourne and there are plenty of opportunities to collaborate clinically and in research.


What research study that you have done are you most proud of?

I get involved in many areas of epilepsy research, and lead a few. The ones that I feel are most worthwhile are those that change a viewpoint or clinical practice, not just add to knowledge. For example, projects that led to being able to image previously occult epileptogenic lesions with MRI (eg. HS, FCD), to development of surgical treatments for hypothalamic hamartoma, to being able to image cortical functions with fMRI, and to recognition of generalized epileptic activity on EEG in children with focal lesions being irrelevant to epilepsy surgery.


If a trainee came to you asking for advice on doing research, what top tips would you give him/her?

Consider doing it before starting or after completing clinical neurology training, and doing it properly, as part of a higher degree with a good supervisor in a good institution. Then decide if you want to be a clinician doing a bit of research or a researcher doing a bit of clinical work, not both.


Do you think everyone should do a research degree as part of their training, or do you think it should be just for people who are interested?

Definitely not. Research should not get in the way of good clinical training for those who wish to be excellent clinicians.


You love music, what’s the best act you’ve ever seen?

Many memorable live performances including Ash, LCD Soundsystem, My Morning Jacket, Trail of Dead, F#@!buttons, Dirty Three, Mogwai, Arcade Fire, Flaming Lips, Beastie Boys, PJ Harvey, QOTSA, Sufjan Stevens, Wilco, NIN, Radiohead, Spiritualized. Many mediocre and some unmentionably bad performances.