I, Jeffrey Gross MD, am commonly asked what it takes by those I mentor, “what does it take to become a Neurosurgeon?”. The answer is easy, “A lot!”. Below, I will go over my experiences with you on my journey to becoming a Neurosurgeon.
A neurosurgeon, also known as a neurological surgeon is a specially trained physician who diagnoses and treats problems involving the nervous system and its coverings, the nerves, movement disorders, and pain disorders. The nervous system
The central nervous system includes the brain and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system contains the nerves that stem to and from the central nervous systems all the way out to their end targets, like muscles and sensory receptors in the skin. A primitive nervous system called the autonomic system is included and deals with sympathetic and parasympathetic “automatic” activities of the body, such as heart rate.
What Schooling Does a Neurosurgeon Take?
Neurosurgeons study for many years to understand these complex nervous systems including their anatomy, physiology, and what can go wrong with them (pathology). Neurosurgeons learn to interpret various test to diagnose problems of the nervous systems.
They then learn how to treat the problems, including the use of medications, therapies, and even surgery. Also important is the care of a patient in the hospital and in the office setting.
Jeffrey Gross MD Discusses Training as a Neurosurgeon
Training to be a neurosurgeon is a long road, and includes an undergraduate degree (4 years), a medical degree (4 years), and at least a residency in neurosurgery (at least 7 years). In the US, there are about 130 new neurosurgeons completing training each year. Thus, there are not many!
The 7 year residency is one of the longest of any specialty. Neurosurgeons can go on to do fellowships (usually a year in length) in an even more detailed sub-specialty, like pediatric neurosurgery, spinal neurosurgery, functional neurosurgery, neurosurgical oncology, etc. During residency training, neurosurgeons must rotate through and understand how imaging is performed and how to interpret those films, including x-rays, CT scans, MRI scans, etc.
It is important to note that imaging is a modern component of neurosurgical diagnosis, but does not replace a good history and physical examination. Doctors do not treat the films, as good ones treat the patients, using the films as a helpful guide, when they are helpful (imaging does not always assist with the diagnosis). Be that as it may, neurosurgeons are highly trained medical individuals.
Neurosurgery residents also rotate through the departments of neurology and critical care (ICU). They learn the importance and limitations of electrodiagnostic tests (such as “EMG” and “NCV” among others). They learn how to make “clinically correlated” diagnoses, which best explain all of the symptom, exam findings, and test results.
During the long residency, neurosurgeons act as apprentices to senior professors and gain a practical knowledge of hands-on training in how to care for patients. Many sleepless nights, handling patient care in the neuro-ICU and emergency room help a neurosurgery resident develop the patience and responsibility required of his/her field.
How a Neurosurgeon Receives Certification
Once trained, a neurosurgeon may sit for the boards. These are offered by the American Board of Neurological Surgery, and represent a higher certification of qualification. In the field of neurosurgery, to achieve this higher level, one must complete a residency in good standing. Then the Surgeon must receive a recommendation from one’s professor chairperson, complete a written examination, demonstrate successful patient care outcomes in the first few years of practice, and then be asked to sit for the oral board examination, usually a few years after leaving residency.
These stringent requirements are different than most other fields, where board certification occurs when one is leaving residency, such as orthopedics.
Neurosurgeon or Orthopedic?
Orthopedics and neurosurgery are sometimes overlapping fields in that both specialties may treat spinal disorders. Most orthopedic residencies are two years shorter than neurosurgery, and contain only a limited proportion of spinal care. Neurosurgery residencies are typically heavily weighted towards spine and brain care. In addition, a spine fellowship trained neurological surgeon is therefore the most highly trained spine expert in all the medical fields.
Therefore, when you meet your neurosurgeon, you are meeting one of the most-trained medical professionals in the country.
Jeffrey Gross MD is a board certified Neurosurgeon and part of the Spine Fellowship. His practices are located in Henderson NV and Newport Beach CA. As a Neurosurgeon, Jeffrey Gross MD has moved his practice into virtual so that he can advise patients on whether or not surgery is the right option. If you are interested in Virtual Second Opinions Before