The Thrill of the Chase
For Dr. Michael Charlet, diagnosing a neurological problem is like solving a puzzle. “Sometimes neurology is detective work,” he says. “You need to be able to tease out a patient’s history to figure out the right course of action. What medications are they on? What has changed in their routine? What does a typical day look like? How much sleep are they getting? A detail that may seem trivial to the patient can help me cement a diagnosis.”
After spending much of his career in Houma, general neurologist Dr. Charlet is back in his hometown at University Hospital in New Orleans. During the 23 years he’s been practicing medicine, many advances have occurred in the field of neurology. However, Dr. Charlet holds some of the same basic tenants today that he did when he first became a physician.
“I try to treat all my patients with kindness and dignity,” he says. “I’m the guy who’s been in the trenches for all these years doing a little bit of everything. I see myself as a facilitator. I want patients to feel like they can trust me to assess them, know what to do, get them to the right procedures. It’s a comforting feeling for me to walk into an exam room and help relieve a
patient’s anxiety about their condition — to reassure them that they’re getting the right care. If there’s a problem, I can point them in the right direction and get them where they need to be.”
Getting the right care is a topic Dr. Charlet is familiar with on a personal level. In his first year of medical school, his sister was diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia, a rare and hereditary neurological diseases that causes progressive unsteadiness and weakness. “She wasn’t happy with the way her doctor presented her condition and that resonated with me,” Dr. Charlet says. “I knew if I ever had to deliver bad news, I’d have to do so with compassion and respect.”
Over the last two decades, both he and his wife have been hospitalized and under a doctor’s care for various conditions. “Being a patient myself has helped me become a better doctor,” he says. “I understand and empathize what patients are going through when I send them in for a test or procedure.”
And from a medical perspective, Dr. Charlet understands exactly how his migraine patients feel, having suffered such headaches himself since he was in medical school. “It’s not uncommon for me to tell a patient, ‘Yes, in fact I do know what you’re going through,’ then I show them my pocket of medicine for my migraines,” he says. Migraines can strike at any time and anywhere.
“Going on vacation, changing your diet or rest habits, all of these can bring on a migraine,” he adds. “It’s happened to me. I have a personal understanding of a disease that I commonly treat.”
On why he became a physician: “As a 9-year-old boy, I wanted to feel needed when I got older, and I wondered what I could do to make that happen,” Dr. Charlet says. “I started excelling in school and decided to become a family doctor. It wasn’t until I was a fourth year medical student that I discovered neurology. I liked the thrill of the chase, looking at patients’ patterns and history, and making sense of it.”
On his three wishes for healthcare: “To make medication more affordable; dedicate more money to the research and development of effective drugs; and make electronic patient records easier to access,” he says. “I’m often evaluating patients with very limited records. My hope is that we can get to a point where physicians have seamless access to each other’s records.”
On being back in New Orleans: “I grew up in Metairie — I’m a Rummel Raider — and I’m thrilled to be back and part of my community,” he says. “I adore the city and its culture, exploring new restaurants, going to Jazz Fest … and I love trying to figure out where my patients grew up by their accents.”
Michael Charlet, M.D.
LSU Healthcare Network
2025 Gravier St., 5th Floor
New Orleans, LA 70112
University: Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge
Medical School: Louisiana State University of Medicine at New Orleans
Residency: Louisiana State University of Medicine at New Orleans/Neurology
Fellowship: Louisiana State University of Medicine at New Orleans/Neurology
Board Certification: Neurology