PNA Spotlight: Dr. Nelson Oyesiku
This month the PNA Spotlight is focused on Dr. Nelson Oyesiku, Professor and Chair, Department of Neurological Surgery and Professor of Medicine (Endocrinology) at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. He previously served as Professor of Neurosurgery and Vice Chair of the Department of Neurosurgery at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Oyesiku studied medicine at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. He obtained an MSc in Occupational Medicine from the University of London, UK He earned his PhD in Neuroscience and did his residency at Emory University. He did an internship in general surgery at the University of Connecticut Hartford Hospital. He also did a fellowship in stereotactic radiosurgery at the University of Florida in 1998. He became board certified in 1998 by the American Board of Neurological Surgery. He had authored or co-authored dozens of published studies. Dr. Oyesiku is Editor-in-Chief of the journals Neurosurgery, Operative Neurosurgery and Neurosurgery Open. He is President of the International Society of Pituitary Surgeons. He was kind enough to answer some questions from the PNA. His answers follow.
What inspired you to choose your career path?
My Chairman during residency training was a renowned pituitary neurosurgeon and so I was exposed very early to patients with pituitary tumors and pituitary endocrinological diagnoses. I quicky became engaged in the care and surgery of these fascinating and challenging medical and surgical cases.
Furthermore, the field was and remains intellectually stimulating, as the discovery within the specialty was expanding with knowledge of causation, medical management and new surgical techniques and so I began a career long investigation into the science of these conditions.
I also enjoyed the fact that if you had great execution, you could alter the life trajectory of patients in a very profound, meaningful, and long-lasting way, whether it was the restoration of vision, the return of endocrine function to normal, or the elimination of serious medical risk factors that could lead to longstanding disability or untimely death.
What is the primary focus of your work/research?
There 3 main areas: surgical, molecular biological research, and clinical outcome and predictive modeling. In surgery, I have been primarily focused on the development and utilization of advanced 3D endoscopy for pituitary and skull base tumor surgical approaches for the removal of tumors. In molecular biological research, I have been engaged in the analysis of gene expression in specific pituitary tumors and how this controls tumor behavior. We have also used the knowledge derived from these studies to develop novel imaging techniques to identify tumors in vivo and we are working on methods to harness this knowledge for newer, targeted therapies. Lastly, using longitudinal clinical cohorts, we are analyzing the factors that determine outcomes.
What do you consider to be the future of your field?
It is very exciting to see new discoveries that will improve the lives of our patients. Some recent examples include the discovery of the USP8 mutation as an underlying factor in Cushing’s disease which has provided a better understanding of the root cause and may lead to better therapies in the future. I am also happy to see the development of a new oral preparation for acromegaly, after years when it was only available by injection, and safer surgical techniques for resecting tumors in hitherto difficult areas of the skull base and parasellar region.
What should patients know about your field? What deserves more recognition or awareness?
There is significant variation in the provision of skilled, specialized care for patients with pituitary diseases, and patients should carefully seek centers of excellence that can provide skilled, dedicated, multidisciplinary care. Most patients require either long-term care or surveillance and it is important that they establish care in the hands of a team that is committed to them for the long-term.
What would you like to convey about yourself to your patients?
The focus of my entire career is the care of patients with pituitary tumors and disorders. I am committed to maintaining this single-minded devotion for the rest of my career. I have recently moved from Emory University to take up a position as Chair of Neurosurgery at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, NC where we also have a dedicated pituitary center of excellence that will maintain our commitment and excellence in pituitary surgery and medicine.
Why did you get involved with the PNA and what is the extent of your involvement?
The PNA and I have in common a dedication and mission to improving the care and lives of patients with pituitary disorders and tumors and that is our common bond. I have collaborated with the PNA for decades in patient education, patient care, increasing awareness, medical advisory and providing support to patients and their families. I look forward to continuing our collaboration.