Neurologist Dr. Mackey: He Is The Brain Whisperer

Dr. Jason Mackey wants to be there for stroke patients going through a terrifying time. He wants to change the course of their prognosis

The sun is pouring into the IU Health Neuroscience Center where Jason Mackey sits talking about his complex medical love – the brain.

He gazes out the window, taking a moment to ponder why he fell for the field of neurology. It’s hard to explain, he says, what drew him to neurology – why he went on to specialize in stroke.

The technical answer for Dr. Mackey, a neurologist at IU Health, is that stroke was the perfect intersection of his two favorite fields.

In medical school, he fell in love with the acuity of emergency medicine. He also fell in love with the complexity of neurology.

Treating stroke is a perfect blend of the two.

But the more heartfelt answer, the more emotional answer, comes later – when Dr. Mackey starts talking about his patients.

“To be totally normal before and, in the next instant, they can’t see half of their world, can’t understand speech anymore, can’t speak themselves?” says Dr. Mackey. “Our brains are what makes us who we are. And to go from totally normal to different in a moment, that is devastating.”

Dr. Mackey wants to be there for those patients going through that terrifying time. He wants to change the course of their prognosis.

“Here’s a chance to help,” Dr. Mackey says. “And what a difference —  from losing the ability to walk or talk or, possibly, needing to go to a nursing home — to reverse that or reduce that.”

But it’s not just stroke. Dr. Mackey is there for patients brought into IU Health Methodist Hospital suffering from head trauma or having seizures or extreme headaches.

He will rush over to the hospital to evaluate the patient and see what course of treatment can be taken.

His job is to take care of acutely sick people. And a majority of those are stroke patients.

As one of 100 hospitals in the nation certified as a Comprehensive Stroke Center – and the only one in Indiana — Methodist sees more than 800 stroke patients a year. 

“A lot of people are coming in from all over,” Dr. Mackey says. “And, not surprisingly, the more people we can help the more people come to us.”

More With Dr. Mackey

Personal: He is married to Amy, a primary care physician, who he met in medical school. Together, they have three children, Luke, 10, Elise, 8, and Joshua, 7.

Growing up: Dr. Mackey was raised on a 100-acre farm in Brownsburg, the oldest of five boys. His first job was working in the fields of corn and soybeans, using a hoe to take out weeds. He graduated in 1997 as valedictorian of his class at Brownsburg High School.

Medical training: He received his undergraduate degree at Milligan College in Elizabethton, Tenn., and then attended medical school and completed his residency at Indiana University. Before coming to work at IU Health in 2011, Dr. Mackey landed a prestigious stroke fellowship at the University of Cincinnati.

Career highlight: Dr. Mackey is medical director of the soon-to-open Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit. The unit is one of fewer than 10 like it in the nation and will race to the scene of patients suffering from stroke to give life-saving treatments. Read more about it here.

— By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.

   Reach Benbow via email or on Twitter @danabenbow.