Brain Surgeon to Share Inside Look at His Work

By Beal, Tom | AZ Daily Star, February 4, 2014 | Go to article overview

Brain Surgeon to Share Inside Look at His Work


Beal, Tom, AZ Daily Star


Brain surgeons need to cultivate two behavioral characteristics - - perseverance and equanimity of spirit, said Dr. G. Michael Lemole Jr.

Lemole, who will speak Monday about the evolution of neurosurgery as part of the University of Arizona's "The Evolving Brain" lecture series, said his presentation will not be a "Ph.D. science talk" about the brain.

He'll be talking about the nuts-and-bolts of invading it with medical instruments and how that skill has evolved.

It is an ancient practice, Lemole said -- 3,000 to 4,000 years old.

Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of surgical drilling, probably to remove tumors or relieve pressure in pre-Columbian Peru, in ancient Greece and by medical practitioners who traveled with Roman legions.

It is not that different from what is done today in his trauma center, he said, except that today's operations use better techniques and tools and are guided by imagery that allows neurosurgeons to more precisely guide their interventions. "Now we have MRIs and CAT scans to show us where to go."

Lemole, professor of neurosurgery and chief of staff at University of Arizona Medical Center, is a recognized expert in skull-base surgery and is best known in Tucson as the neurosurgeon who treated the brain injuries of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D- Ariz, after the Jan. 8, 2011, shootings.

He won't be talking about that in his Monday lecture for a couple reasons.

First, he said he takes no credit for Giffords' survival and recovery. "I can't claim credit for her outcome. She came to us in good condition."

Second, trauma surgery is not the arena in which his medical science advances, Lemole said. "Not a lot has changed in trauma surgery. It's still brute-force surgery."

Surgeons learn more from planned interventions, Lemole said. The perseverance and equanimity surgeons need to cultivate are important to those tasks, he said.

Surgeons know their actions can cause the death of patients, he said, and they need to deal with that, to persevere in their attempts, to learn from failure and to cultivate an equanimitous response. …

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