PNA Spotlight: Yair Gozal, MD, PhD
In December our PNA Spotlight focuses on Dr. Yair Gozal, an esteemed neurosurgeon at Mayfield Brain & Spine in Cincinnati, Ohio. Dr. Gozal earned his undergraduate degree at Case Western Reserve University. He earned his doctorate and then a medical degree from the Emory University School of Medicine. He went on to do a residency in neurosurgery at the University of Cincinnati and a fellowship in skull base and open cerebrovascular neurosurgery at the University of Utah. Dr. Gozal answered a series of questions from the PNA; his answers follow.
What inspired you to choose your career path?
My fascination with the brain, coupled with the aspiration to translate my passion into definitive care for patients, has been the driving force in my decision to pursue a career in neurosurgery. The brain is an intriguing and tremendously complex organ. I felt that the ability to perform surgery in this part of the body would be a privilege rewarded with nearly daily intellectual and physical challenges. And while the complexity of our surgical procedures was certainly a factor in choosing to become a neurosurgeon, I knew that the opportunity to care for these resilient patients would motivate me to get out of bed each morning for years to come.
What is the primary focus of your work/research?
Although I perform a wide array of neurosurgical procedures, my primary interest, and the focus of my training, has been on complex cranial surgery. This includes a variety of brain tumors, including pituitary lesions, that arise in important and difficult to reach areas, such as the base of the skull. Removing these tumors requires a mastery of microsurgical principles as well as an exquisite understanding of three-dimensional anatomy. In my practice, I hope to contribute to the ongoing efforts to improve outcomes for patients with these tumors, and to have the opportunity to add to the rich history of excellence in the realm of skull base surgery at the Mayfield Clinic.
What do you consider to be the future of your field?
Innovation in complex cranial surgery over the past several decades has relied heavily on advancements in both medical technology and surgical techniques. The development of the microscope with its natural progression to endoscopy is a prime example of how technology can revolutionize treatment, making surgery faster and safer for patients. I think that in the coming years, the emphasis on the use of technology in the operating rooms will continue to build with the goal of developing progressively less invasive surgical approaches.
What should patients know about your field/what deserves more recognition/awareness?
One of the aspects of complex cranial surgery that is not well disseminated is the importance of establishing extremely specialized multidisciplinary surgical teams. As a neurosurgeon, I often rely on colleagues in other specialties, such as ENT, ophthalmology, or plastic surgery, to help design and execute the ideal surgical plans for tumor removal. This is perhaps best seen in the treatment of pituitary tumors where the contribution of a skull base rhinologist is often critical in improving tumor exposure and reconstructing the surgical defect after the tumor has been removed. We also work with endocrinologists, neuroanesthesiologists, other subspecialists, and talented nurses and advanced practice providers to make every aspect of pituitary surgery safe for patients. In my practice, I feel very fortunate to work with an experienced surgical team made up of incredibly talented colleagues who are all focused on caring for patients and obtaining outstanding surgical outcomes.
What would you like to convey about yourself to your patients?
It is important to me that patients understand that they are the primary reason I enjoy treating pituitary tumors. I feel that it is a privilege to care for people during an extremely challenging time. Also, since pituitary lesions are generally benign, I have the opportunity to form long lasting close relationships with my patients, both before treatment and after as we monitor for any evidence of recurrence over the years.
Why did you get involved with the PNA and what is the extent of your involvement?
I became involved with the PNA because I feel that it is an incredible resource and source of support for patients regarding all aspects of pituitary care. Given how common pituitary tumors are in the general population, I see the importance of the PNA’s focus on educating patients regarding their condition and helping them find dedicated specialists that can assuage their concerns.