PNA Spotlight: Dr. Shaan M. Raza
Dr. Shaan M Raza is a faculty member in the Department of Neurosurgery with a joint appointment in the Department of Head and Neck Surgery at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. His clinical interests include the surgical management of soft tissue and bony malignancies of the skull base using open, endoscopic and minimally-invasive techniques. Dr. Raza received his medical degree from The Johns Hopkins University. He subsequently completed his residency in neurosurgery at The Johns Hopkins Hospital during which he also completed a two year NIH-funded clinical and research fellowship in neurosurgical oncology. In addition to his neurosurgical training at Johns Hopkins, Dr. Raza has completed fellowships in skull base surgery at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and endoscopic endonasal skull base surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College – New York Presbyterian Hospital. Dr. Raza is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2014 Resident Clinical Research Award from the North American Skull Base Society. He is an active clinician – researcher with his academic efforts focused on multimodality treatment paradigms and surgical management of skull base malignancies. He has published over forty peer-reviewed publications, written twenty book chapters, and edited one neurosurgical textbook. Dr. Raza also currently serves as Co-Chair of the Research Committee for the North American Skull Base Society. Dr. Raza was kind enough to answer some questions for PNA, here are his answers.
What inspired you to choose your career path?
To help others is to answer the highest calling in life. As a surgeon, it is rewarding and fulfilling to care for patients suffering from serious medical conditions. I specifically chose to be a Neurosurgeon because this has allowed me to use my technical skills to overcome surgical challenges in order to help patients. The subspecialty I have chosen, Skull Base Surgery, requires not only the highest level of technical expertise, but also the use of the latest detailed knowledge of anatomy and physiology in order to improve patients’ survival and quality of life. I enjoy working closely with many other specialties in Medicine, including Endocrinology, Radiation Oncology, Ophthalmology and Medical Oncology.
What is the primary focus of your work/research?
I focus primarily on complex pituitary and skull base pathology using the wide spectrum of surgical techniques. I am fortunate to work at an institution that is highly regarded in many different specialties. As a result, I treat many patients seeking innovative therapeutic options for their tumors that have recurred after initial treatment. My research interests have two primary goals: to refine currently available endoscopic endonasal surgical techniques and to identify molecular markers that can be used to guide treatment decisions for difficult-to-treat tumors.
What do you consider to be the future of your field?
From the technological standpoint, the development of endoscopic skull base techniques has undoubtedly advanced outcomes for patients with pituitary pathology. In the years to come, improvements in surgical instrumentation and the development of robotic systems will allow us to accomplish even more through the nasal cavity using endoscopes. The development of intraoperative molecular markers will also help improve the extent of resection for invasive tumors. In parallel to these technological developments, the application of evidence-based guidelines and value-based health care will help generate data to guide decision-making in tough clinical scenarios (i.e. management of recurrent pituitary adenomas).
What should patients know about your field/what deserves more recognition/awareness?
Neurosurgery has become an increasingly subspecialized field as a result of surgical advancements and an increased appreciation for multidisciplinary treatments. It is important for a patient to seek out a surgeon who has experience and expertise in the most up-to-date surgical techniques. The surgeon must be skilled in a wide spectrum of surgical approaches, particularly expanded endoscopic approaches, in order to provide the best possible care. It is also extremely important to make sure the surgeon has the best possible partners in the patient’s care, including dedicated Endocrinologists and Radiation Oncologists.
What would you like to convey about yourself to your patients?
I consider it a tremendous honor when patients place their trust and faith in my surgical skill and decision-making. As a surgeon, I feel a deep responsibility to ensure that, if I am performing surgery, that it is being done for the right reasons and that I am providing the best technical operation to achieve the best possible outcome.
Why did you get involved with the PNA and what is the extent of your involvement?
The Pituitary Network offers a valuable set of resources and support systems for patients. If I were a patient, nothing would be more valuable to me than sharing advice and recommendations from other patients who have successfully beaten the same disease. The PNA allows for patients to make connections with other patients and, in doing so, gain access to specialists that they might not otherwise be exposed to.