PNA Spotlight: Dr. Mario Zuccarello

 

mario zuccarelloThis month the PNA Spotlight focuses on Dr. Mario Zuccarello, director of the Brain Tumor Center at the University of Cincinnati Gardner Neuroscience Institute. He is also a Professor of Neurosurgery and John M. Tew Chair in surgical neuro-oncology in the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Cincinnati. Dr. Zuccarello earned his MD from the University of Padova, Italy where he did his residency. He completed research fellowships at the University of Iowa and at the University of Virginia. He did his clinical training at the University of Cincinnati. He joined the faculty at the University of Cincinnati in 1990, and he was the Chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery until 2017. Dr. Zuccarello was kind enough to answer a series of questions from the PNA. His answers follow.

What inspired you to choose your career path?

Early experiences with my father’s illness gave me my first exposure to medicine. As I started medical school, I became deeply interested in the anatomy and physiology of the brain. This led to my discovery of neuroscience and to the realization that the best way I could get to know brain function was to become a neurosurgeon. After I became a neurosurgery resident, I understood that neurosurgery required my entire dedication and commitment. I was fortunate to learn from mentors who taught me the importance of knowledge of surgical neuroanatomy to perform surgery accurately and safely. I still have the pleasure of learning and perfecting new surgical techniques, and continue to carry this message to my trainees.

What is the primary focus of your work/research?

My primary clinical focus is the treatment of patients with pituitary tumors, skull base tumors, and complex cerebrovascular disease. My clinical practice also includes a full range of minimally-invasive approaches, in addition to complex open skull base and brain surgery.
My research interests involve the study of surgical neuroanatomy and the application of innovative techniques in the operating room. My goal is to improve surgical safety and effectiveness. I am particularly interested in the development of keyhole approaches, and in the use of an endoscope during those procedures with the goal of improving surgical exposure, decreasing morbidity, decreasing the average hospital stay, and ultimately improving the outcome.

What do you consider to be the future of your field?

The field of pituitary tumor management is the perfect example of the future of medicine. A multidisciplinary approach with the creation of centers of excellence will provide a comprehensive assessment and the selection of the best and most effective medical and/or surgical treatment. The use of current endoscopes, including 3-D endoscopes, has made pituitary surgery less invasive and more effective. So, I am sure that in the future we will have better visualization tools which will make other kinds of surgery even less invasive and more effective. In addition, I am confident that in the future higher quality images will be capable of identifying even smaller tumors, and more effective medical treatment will be developed.

What should patients know about your field/what deserves more recognition/awareness?

The treatment of patient with pituitary tumors requires a team-based approach. Patients have to find the best team – one that offers all treatment modalities to treat their disease. All members of the team play a very important role, including the neurosurgeon, endocrinologist, ENT, neuro-ophthalmologist, radiation therapist, neuroradiologist, and neuropathologist. All members have to be committed to collaboration in order to obtain the best outcome.

What would you like to convey about yourself to your patients?

Patients, and in particular neurosurgical patients, put their life in our hands. I have dedicated my life to becoming the best possible surgeon for my patients. I am committed to provide my patients with the best and most compassionate care, to provide all the information needed to make the decisions that are best for them.

Why did you get involved with the PNA and what is the extent of your involvement?

The PNA provides a knowledgeable and highly reliable resource to educate patients and family members about pituitary adenomas. I want to make my contribution to PNA so that our patients can continue to receive proper, updated education and counseling.

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