Honoring Neurosurgery and the Neurosurgeons Who Make Up This Profession

It weighs three pounds, has 100 billion cells and is responsible for almost all human behavior. It’s the brain, one of the body’s biggest organs.

And while the brain is only part of what neurosurgeons engage and work with (they also work with the spine), dealing with this most notoriously complex organ of the body is the first association that comes to mind.

Every year, the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) observes Neurosurgery Awareness during the month of August. In the past, Neurosurgery Awareness Month has focused on causes and prevention of traumatic brain injury (TBI), back pain, injury prevention and other neurological safety topics.

In 2015, the focus of the AANS Neurosurgery Awareness Month is aimed at the neurosurgeons themselves. Throughout August, the AANS will disseminate materials that look at the men and women involved in neurosurgical practice, forming a broader picture of those who have committed their lives to this most elite practice.

To celebrate this month and join in the focus of this campaign, we aspire to shed a light on the field of neurosurgery, the profession of the talented and dedicated neurosurgeons at Advanced Neurosurgery Associates (ANA).

What is a Neurosurgeon?

A neurosurgeon is a medical specialist who treats diseases and conditions affecting the nervous system, which includes the brain, the spine and spinal cord, and the peripheral nerves. Neurosurgeons provide non-operative and surgical treatment, depending on the nature of the injury or illness, to patients of all ages. At ANA, our experts deal extensively with both the pediatric and adult populations.

While a neurosurgeon’s primary responsibility entails performing surgery to resolve issues regarding the nervous system, the role also requires assessing and diagnosing patients. This is complicated by the fact that many of them are admitted to a hospital with unpredictable emergency situations, which means a neurosurgeon has no opportunity for any pre-scheduling or preparation.

While elective surgery for various conditions is an aspect of the profession, unexpected emergency surgery (say for an aneurysm) is also part of the job. And in addition to the daily tasks, these unscheduled emergencies compromise a substantial portion of neurosurgery.

Today, neurosurgery represents one of the most successful and prestigious specialties. It continues to lead the way in research, education and advances in surgical technologies, which serve all areas of medicine.

Notably, however, the field of neurosurgery is still rare for women. While ANA is privileged to have on staff Dr. Allison Rathmann, who has been mentored by Dr. Arno Fried, the founder of ANA, the field is still underrepresented by women. A mere 10 percent of neurosurgery residents in 2010 were women, compared with nearly half of all medical residents. Read more about Dr. Rathmann as a woman in her field.

Compassion and Communication

While dealing with both patients and their families in what can be an incredibly emotional and trying field, a neurosurgeon must bring to bear skills in both compassion and communication. In addition, neurosurgery requires extensive teamwork (and thus communication skills) with other medical professionals. Both of these aspects are a hallmark and an emphasis of ANA. In addition to the team of experts relied upon within treatment, a neurosurgeon must also communicate with trauma doctors in the emergency room as well as neurologists and oncologists. Communication may also extend to physical therapists and patients’ family doctors.

Neurosurgeons are also responsible for staying updated on a constantly changing medical field, which includes such aspects as research and clinical trials. Whether through medical conferences or other networking, this requires collaboration with peers, specifically other doctors and scientists.

Education and Training

Neurosurgeons have one of the longest training periods of any medical specialty. The years of training are necessary because of the complexity of the nervous system. The advanced training also enables neurosurgeons to use some of the most sophisticated techniques in medicine. Few medical specialties come close to neurosurgery in terms of technological advances. Neurosurgeons use three-dimensional brain imaging, incision-free stereotactic neurosurgery, operating microscopes and other cutting-edge
techniques to treat patients.
The education and training to become a neurosurgeon includes the completion of:

• Four years of pre-medical education at a college or university
• Four years of medical school resulting in an MD or DO degree
• One year internship in general surgery
• Five to seven years in a neurosurgery residency program
• A potential fellowship after residency to specialize in a particular area
• Continuing education — annual meetings, conferences, scientific journals, research — to keep up with advances made in the complex field of neurosurgery

About Advanced Neurosurgery Associates (ANA)

Advanced Neurosurgery Associates (ANA) provides world-class care for a comprehensive range of neurological conditions for adults, children, their caregivers and families. ANA combines compassion with the latest research and technology in neurological medicine in providing the most effective, state-of-the-art treatment available. Renowned locally, nationally and globally, ANA provides an unparalleled level of expertise in the field of adult and pediatric neurosurgery.